The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association
February 16, 2003.
The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria
Page 3 of 13
Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria
It is also more than possible that certain Ibo Benei-Yisrael families may be descendents ofLevitical
migrants from Jerban, Tunisia whom were said to have left Judah and settled inNorth Africa before and after the destruction of the 1
Temples in Jerusalem.
The most likelyscenario is that the ancestors of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael were made up of familiar clans of Israelis and Judaens whom, for various reasons, left Israel before and during the Assyrian and Babylonian sieges.This would explain how their oral tradition contains the specific tribes these clans originated from.
Methods of Hebrew and Jewish Migrations into the Maghreb (West)
According to most accounts, the earliest Israeli settlements in Africa were in places such asEthiopia, Egypt and Tunisia. It is believed that these settlements may have been in existence as early asthe kingdoms of David and Solomon, as well as during the Assyrian invasion of northern Israel in 722BCE and the Babylonian captivity of Judah in 586 BCE in the Punic-Carthaginian age. These communitieswere augmented by subsequent arrivals of Jews after the destruction of the 2
Jerusalem Temple in 70CE, when 30,000 Jewish slaves were settled throughout Carthage by the Roman emperor Titus.
Africa is thus identified with it even more closely (Tamid, 32
, and the parallel passage, where,"African land," is evidently the same as Carthage). The Septuagint (Isa. xxiii. 1), and Jerome (on Ezek.xxvii.), who, though a Christian, was taught by Jews, and very often the Aramaic Targum on theProphets, identify the Biblical Tarshish with Carthage, which was the birthplace of a number of rabbismentioned in the Talmud (compare above the identification with Tunis). Africa, in the broader sense, isclearly indicated where mention is made of the Ten Tribes having been driven into exile by the Assyriansand having journeyed into Africa
(Mek., Bo, 17; Tosef., Shab. vii. 25; Deut. R. v. 14; and especially Sanh. 94a)
.Connected with this is the idea that the river Sambation is in Africa. The Arabs, who also knowthe legend of the Beni Musa ("Sons of Moses"), agree with the Jews in placing their land in
Africa (compareBacher, "Ag. Tan." i. 298; Epstein, "Eldad ha-Dani," p. 15)
. The probable basis of this legend must be soughtin the actual existence of the Beta Yisrael (Jews of Ethiopia) in Africa. Rabbi Akiba, who traveled inAfrica, on one occasion made use of an African word (Rapoport, in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim," iv. 70, 1823).
In terms of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael, there are three possible methods from which their Jewishancestry arrived within West Africa, specifically Nigeria.1)
Through early Hebrew and later Israeli migrations west from the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Ethiopia,Kenya, and the Sudan.2)
Through trade and travel of North African Jews within the West African Kingdoms of Mali, Songhai,and Kanem-Bornu.3)
Through Jews traveling with Kel Tamasheq (Tuareg) trade caravans from various parts of NortheastAfrica into West Africa.