The Jewish Genealogy Association
By Gerard Xavier
Translation by David PRESBURGER-HAUSER
Southern Africa hosts many populations, among which the ethnic group of the Lembas. Numbering about 70,000, they are present in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.
While speaking Bantu languages and being either Roman Catholics or Muslims, they call themselves Jews, worship one single God and observe religious practices similar to Judaism: ban consumption of pork, fish without scales and other "unclean " animals, slaughter meat according to kashrus, not mixing meat and dairy; their boys are circumcised on the eighth day, women must undergo a purification ritual during their menstrual period and after delivery, they bury their deceased lying with the head facing North, observe a weekly rest and celebrate the first day of the new moon by shaving the head; out-of-tribe marriages are extremely controlled, and a Star of David is engraved on their tombstones.
According to their oral tradition, the Lembas had left Judea, like many Jews at the time of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, 2,500 years ago. They would have settled in Sena (Sanaw in the Hadhramaut valley, Yemen), before splitting into two groups: one (the Falashas) went north and settled in Ethiopia, while the other (the Lembas) traveled to the South and landed on the East African coast.
The Lembas are also nicknamed the "Jews of Kruger," as the former president of the Transvaal Paul Kruger (1825-1904) was the first to identify "Jewish traits" in their culture.
Tudor Parfitt, Director of the University of London’s School of Oriental
and African Studies , has done research on the Lembas for the past twenty
years. He has written several books and produced a documentary in 2000
on the subject: “Lost Tribes of Israel”.
Karl Skorecki of the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa, a specialist in population genetics, undertook a study of DNA samples collected from COHEN males, members of the Hebrew clergy and supposedly descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. He thus revealed a mutation in the Y chromosome widespread among Cohanim, constituting a "genetic marker" in approximately 80% of the Cohanim assembled for the ritual prayer on the Temple Wall plaza who got tested (45% of Ashkenazi and 56% of Sephardic COHEN have this marking), compared with 5% within the Israeli population sample used to compare.
Assisted by the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, the Centre for anthropological genetics at the University of London and the University of Tucson, Skorecki extended the screening to the Lembas. This same feature is found, especially in the Bouba clan (the priests): the mark rate is 54%, compared with 9% for the average male population of the Lembas. If this is obviously not an ultimate proof of the «Israelite» affiliation of this tribe, those various clues place the Lembas among the putative members of the Lost Tribes of Israel.