Spotlight on Other Communities: the Pathans of India and Afghanistan
Could a lost Jewish tribe be at the roots of Afghanistan’s Taliban? Some researchers say yes, and it’s just one of the fascinating – and perhaps inflammatory – stories we include in the “Other Communities” section of the Shavei Israel website, dedicated to Jewish groups we report on but with whom we are not actively involved. In this case, the Taliban are descended from a tribe known as the Pathans, or Pashtuns. They number some 15 million people in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and some parts of Iran.
But at least one group of Pathans is also referred to as the “Bani-Israel” and claims descent from the biblical tribe of Ephraim. Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi has set about proving this connection – going so far as to set up a project to analyze Pathan DNA. The Pathans themselves do not identify themselves as Jewish or claim the right of return under Israeli immigration law, but there are some remarkable similarities to Jewish custom, including lighting candles on the Sabbath, keeping long sidelocks, wearing shawls that resemble the tallit, circumcision on the eighth day after birth, and the custom of Levirate marriage. Some Pathans even wear a small box similar to Jewish tefillin (phylacteries).
To learn more about the Pathans, visit the community’s page on our website.