The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria

Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria The Ibo Benei Yisrael Jews of Nigeria

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Rev. 3

The Ibo Benei-Yisrael of Nigeria, sometimes addressed as "Igbo," are an Ibo ethnic group whom descended from the southern and westward migrations of both ancient Hebrew and later Israeli peoples from the Middle East into Africa. In more modern times the ancestral homeland of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael is in the Southeast and Western regions of Nigeria. The area where a majority of Ibo dwells straddles the River Niger, which divides the River and the Anambra States. Nigeria operates on a federal structure, of 36 states and the capital Abuja. The overall Ibo populations are normally found in the states of: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Rivers State, Delta State, and Imo.

Fig. 1: Map of post Biafran War states of Nigeria The oral traditions of the Ibo maintain that their presence has been in what is termed "Iboland" for over 1500 years. The same oral histories also state that their ancestors were migrants from ancient Israel, possibly beginning with the Semitic migrations from Northern Arabia into Eastern Africa around 500 BCE. According to the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) the Israeli patriarch Ya`aqov ben-Yitzhhaq (Jacob son of Isaac), had twelve sons whose descendents became the 12 tribes of Israel whom inherited the land of Canaan. There are several tribes of Israel, which according to

The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16, 2003.

The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 2 of 13 Rev. It is said that Ozubulu then went on to have 4 sons of his own who settled into other parts of the region. Anambra State descended. and Igbariam. from whom the Egbema Ugwuta clan in Imo State and the Ohaji Egbema clan in Rivers State descended. Ogbunike. in Delta State. These sons being: Amakwa. 2: Biblical division of the 12 Tribes of Israel in the land of Canaan The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. married a woman from Oji. [5] It theorized by some that this is the possible lineage of the Amichi. • • Fig. Ichi. 2003. it is said that a descendent of the tribe of Zevulun named Zevulunu. from whom a clan in Neni. and from this union was born Ozubulu ben-Zebulunu. who was the 8th son of the Israeli patriarch Ya`aqov (Jacob). [4] According to the Torah Jacob claimed both Menashsheh and his brother Ephrayim as his own sons. These Ibo ethnic groups are comprised of the following 3 lineage types: • Benei Gath: Ibos said to have descended from tribe of Gath ben-Ya`aqov. Awkuzu. who was one of the grandsons of Ya`aqov (Jacob) through his 11th son Yoseph (Joseph). Benei Menashsheh: Ibos whom it is theorized may be descendents of the tribe of Meneshsheh benYoseph. Nnewi-Ichi clans. According to tradition. Benei Zevulun: Ibos said to have descended from the tribe of Zevulun ben-Ya`aqov. Oreri. [3] This lineage comprises of the Ubulu Okiti. who was the 5th son of Ya`aqov (Jacob). Nteje. on the advice of an certain Levite. . Umuleri. whom descended from the tribe of Judah. [2] The clans said to come from this lineage comprise of the Aguleri. Ubulu Ukwu. and Egbema. Enugwu Ikwu. [1] This lineage is traced though Gath's son Eri ben-Gath. 3 various elders fathered the Ibo clan structure within the Ibo populace as it exists today. who settled in Ubulu Ihejiofor.

identify the Biblical Tarshish with Carthage. [6] The most likely scenario is that the ancestors of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael were made up of familiar clans of Israelis and Judaens whom. and very often the Aramaic Targum on the Prophets. 17. where. xxvii. Shab. 32b. v.000 Jewish slaves were settled throughout Carthage by the Roman emperor Titus. Rabbi Akiba. 14. and Jerome (on Ezek." p. "African land. in the broader sense. Tosef. who also know the legend of the Beni Musa ("Sons of Moses"). vii. [7] Africa is thus identified with it even more closely (Tamid. 1).The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 3 of 13 Rev. xxiii. It is believed that these settlements may have been in existence as early as the kingdoms of David and Solomon. 2003. Africa. Egypt and Tunisia. 15). Kenya. for various reasons. R. Tunisia whom were said to have left Judah and settled in North Africa before and after the destruction of the 1 st and 2 nd Temples in Jerusalem. The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. who traveled in Africa. Methods of Hebrew and Jewish Migrations into the Maghreb (West) According to most accounts. Tan. The probable basis of this legend must be sought in the actual existence of the Beta Yisrael (Jews of Ethiopia) in Africa. Deut. Epstein. Egypt. 298." is evidently the same as Carthage). when 30. there are three possible methods from which their Jewish ancestry arrived within West Africa. 2) Through trade and travel of North African Jews within the West African Kingdoms of Mali. "Eldad ha-Dani." i. Ethiopia. in "Bikkure ha-'Ittim. 94a).). Bo.. was taught by Jews. though a Christian. as well as during the Assyrian invasion of northern Israel in 722 BCE and the Babylonian captivity of Judah in 586 BCE in the Punic-Carthaginian age." iv. which was the birthplace of a number of rabbis mentioned in the Talmud (compare above the identification with Tunis). agree with the Jews in placing their land in Africa (compare Bacher. who.. The Septuagint (Isa. and especially Sanh. is clearly indicated where mention is made of the Ten Tribes having been driven into exile by the Assyrians and having journeyed into Africa (Mek. These communities were augmented by subsequent arrivals of Jews after the destruction of the 2 nd Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. . on one occasion made use of an African word (Rapoport. " Ag. Songhai. 3 It is also more than possible that certain Ibo Benei-Yisrael families may be descendents of Levitical (Levite Priests) migrants from Jerban. and the Sudan. 1823). 3) Through Jews traveling with Kel Tamasheq (Tuareg) trade caravans from various parts of Northeast Africa into West Africa. and the parallel passage. the earliest Israeli settlements in Africa were in places such as Ethiopia. [8] In terms of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael. specifically Nigeria. The Arabs. 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. 25. 1) Through early Hebrew and later Israeli migrations west from the Arabian Peninsula. Connected with this is the idea that the river Sambation is in Africa. 70. and Kanem-Bornu.

" [9] According to Nahum Slouschz's book. Mali. In this local tradition is in agreement with certain historical indications. According to various accounts from explorers of the region. It is believed that the first migration of Semitic peoples into the region was prior to 202 BCE with the appearance of iron working civilizations. 3 Fig. Page 30. lived in Carthage ever since the foundation of the city. Asher and Zevulun. . 2003. is somewhat of a mystery. the most notable of which was the Nok. by Colin McEvedy: " The technology [iron working] had presumably spread from Egypt via Nubia and the Sahel corridor: spread from North Africa seems less likely (for a lack of trans-Saharan communication at this time) and independent local invention improbable (the timing fits the transmission hypothesis too well)." [10] Slouschz further wrote: "We have seen that in all probability there were in Carthage and its dependencies large numbers of Jews. Ghana and Kanem-Bornu empires.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 4 of 13 Rev. several of the rulers of the Songhai empire were of Jewish origin. whom followed the Phoenicians into Africa. while the manners and customs of the Jews of Tunis still give evidence of their ancient origin. until Askia Muhammad came to power and in 1492 decreed that all Jews either convert to Islam or leave the region. [12] The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. Travels in North Africa ." [11] In later centuries ancient Israelis and Jews are believed to have settled in Western Africa during the height of the Songhai. page 211. 3: Migration Routes of ancient Israelis into Africa The exact arrival date of the first Israeli ancestors of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael. "Inscriptions indicate that certain tribes of Israel. There is not the slightest doubt that the Jew was persisted in these parts from the Roman epoch to our times. from the Middle East into West Africa. According to "The Penguin Atlas of African History".

had migrated from their Palestinian home so as not to take part in the civil war at the time of Yeroboam's secession. Naphtali. They knew nothing of the Mishna nor the Talmud. were with them." He further detailed that his tribe. . and were residing in the land of Havilah beyond the Rivers of Ethiopia. these had joined them in the times of Sennacherib. Dan.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 5 of 13 Rev. [13] The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. 2003. They had an entire body of Scriptures barring Ester and Lamentations. 3 Fig. Eldad exhibited a ritual dealing mostly with the rules pertaining to the killing of animals for food. Gath and Asher. as well as other West African Jews. may be descendents of a people described by the 9 th Century Jewish traveler Eldad ben-Mahli (also known as Eldad the Danite) who related the location of several of the "Lost Tribes of Israel. Three other tribes. 4: Map of historical African kingdoms It is also more than possible that the Ibo Benei-Yisrael. but they had a Talmud of their own in which all the laws were cited in the name of Yehoshua ben-Nun (Joshua son of Nun) as he had received them at the hands of Mosheh (Moses).

This dye. 2003. Jews have migrated from region to region in Africa based upon three factors: 1) Persecution. and 3) Freedom to practice Torah.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 6 of 13 Rev. may have existed from as early as the reign of King David and the use of the term Tarshish in the Tanakh. Picture # 2: Ibo synagogue service in Abuja. During times of Islamic persecution. Jews traveled all over Northern and Western Africa for the purpose of establishing trade connections. . and Morocco served as the core population centers of the Jewish periphery in Africa. 2) Trade. could also describe the Ivory Coast of West Africa. Nigeria This route may have been established in part because of the need in ancient Israel to produce the tekhelet dye used for the tztzith (fringes) of Jewish garments. Tunisia. was at one time very prominent in the Mediterranean and according to some accounts on the shores The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. made from a gland of the Hillazon fish. Jewish communities in locations such as Egypt. Ethiopia. Hebrew Bible. with West Africa. and also during times of relative calm. According to Biblical and Talmudic sources this trade route. 3 Picture # 1: Iddao Ishaak descendents of Berber Jews forced to convert to Islam Historically.

[14] In 2 nd Kings chapter 10 verse 22 there is also a description of a three year voyage undertaken during the reign of King Solomon that was said to have returned from a portion of Tarshish with gold. and Greeks alike against the Arab invasions until her defeat at the hands of the Arab commander Hassan Ibn Numan. Records of these communities however do exist within the Timbuktu. 3 of West Africa. The Ibo dominate the eastern and some southern regions. including the Ibo Benei-Yisrael. . No doubt that some sought refuge south and south east toward the forest. El Kahina was able to lead North-African Jews. The records of such are some three hundred years later than the destruction of the independent Jewish enclaves of Qamnurya or Naghira. which has documents of the presence of several Jewish families in West Africa dating from before the Muslim arrival in the 1300's CE. the Jews of West Africa also suffered at the hands of various nobles in the Islamic ruling parties. sold into slavery. and peacocks. which took power in the 1300 to 1400's. The most notable of which was the Jewish Berber Queen Kahina Dahiyah Bint Thabitah ibn Tifan. 2003. the west by the Yoruba and the north by the Hausa/Fulani. Incursions of Christian missionaries may have also played a role in the decline of the distinct Jewish written element in the region. these communities. and Kush. and the 16th century historian and traveler Leon Africanus wrote accounts of peoples whom they termed as "Jewish Negroes" in the Western Sudan. These three major groups were brought together via European efforts to divide Africa among themselves. in 1492 after destroying the Jewish enclaves in the Tuat. Due to these and other pressures the Ibo Benei-Yisrael along with other West African Jewish communities lost whatever written documents such as Torah. Such is the case of Al-Maghili whom tolled the death knell of Sahara and savanna Jewry when. and the Yoruba. exiled. Christians. in the 11th and 12th century. Mali he convinced potentates throughout the Western Sudan and the founder of Songhai to banish Jews from the empire's cities. apes. As with other Jewish communities in Moslem controlled lands. Various accounts record that Jews were instrumental in fighting with and often times leading the coalitions of peoples who unified to fight off the Islamic invasions. The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. which were often used in ancient times to describe all peoples whom at the time some chroniclers were calling "Negro/Negroid" in the various regions of Africa. Berbers. Early maps made by these explorers often depicted the "Sudan" and "Ethiopia" as lands from as far-east as modern day Ethiopia to as far west as modern day Nigeria and Cameroon. the famous 12th century geographer Al-Idrisi. Ethiopia. in the area of modern day Senegal. [15] During these times many of the Jews in Northern and Western Africa were forced to covert to Islam. the Hausa/Fulani. The Ibo Benei-Yisrael within Nigerian History Modern day Nigeria is a federation of states segregated by 3 major ethnic groups: the Ibo (Igbo). Arab chroniclers of West Africa such as the 13th century historian Ibn Khaldun. This similar to the way the "Africa" is used to describe the continent. Yet. Mali Islamic library. Looking at maps from the period we find similar use of the terms Tarshish. Believed to have been a descendent of the Israeli priestly class. to this day were able to maintain at the least a knowledge of their Israeli origin and in some cases continue to practice their traditions in secret. known as El Kahina. and other written traditions that may have existed. or massacred.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 7 of 13 Rev. ivory. The decline of the Jewish communities of the Africa-Maghreb (West Africa) most likely began with the influx of Muslim invaders into North Africa starting in 640 CE and later into West Africa in the 1300's and 1400's CE.

leave the place with haste as it is uninhabitable. the Ibos alone faced Britain. Nigeria The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. 3 Mounting ethnic tensions between these groups caused the Biafrans . and certain Arab States.the Ibos and other minority ethnic groups . refined petrol using the crudest home made implements. “If you visit anyplace and fail to see an Ibo there. The current Ibo population is estimated to be between 30 . A brief rendition of the character and behavior of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael and Ibo in general is that of.Biafra war (1966 to 1970). which sent military personal to the region. Britain. . The Ibos forged armored cars from sedans." A true and popular saying in Nigeria is. "a habitual wanderer. a trader. [16] Fig. 2003. all these while under a blockade enforced by Nigeria. Russia. 5: Map of current day Nigeria The Ibo Benei-Yisrael as with other Jews have had to fight persecution as was seen during the unfortunate Nigeria . when abandoned by all.in the southern-eastern region to fight for their independence from the federation only 6 years after Nigeria gained it independence from British rule in 1960.” Picture #3: Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jewish family of the Ozubulu clan. Russia and the rest of greater Nigeria for more than 2 years.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 8 of 13 Rev. made rockets.40 million worldwide. but his heart is always in Iboland.

they built a synagogue. Most Ibos profess a belief system about which a partial description of can be found in the writings of Olaudah Equiano titled. has for some Ibo been fused with Christianity due to the push of missionaries into West Africa. Yet. 3 There are two theories in regard to the Jewish heritage of the Ibos. When missionaries first made their way into West Africa the Ozubulu clan of the Ibo BeneiYisrael resisted the Christian religion and most never converted. even though for a lack of better terms they called it a "Traditional Church. "Interesting Narratives of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa the African. Picture #4: Ibo women from a University acting troupe The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. 2003. The second theory is that Ibo society may have been already established before Jewish migrations into the region. In the Ozubulu region. In recent years. the moniker by which they were called by outsiders was corrupted from Ivri to Ibo or Igbo. as described by Olaudah Equiano. This theory goes on to state that as Jews made their way into West Africa that they intermingled with certain Ibo ethnic groups and thus only certain Ibo families have Jewish descent while others may have converted or were influenced by the Jewish presence in the society. . 1789. and is now causing a ripple effect within the local Ibo Benei-Yisrael communities.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Religious Practices and the Return to the Israeli Way Page 9 of 13 Rev. a number of Ozubulu descendents are modernizing the very ancient form of the Israeli faith that their ancestors once practiced. This system. which is believed to be the core of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jewish heritage." This move took place with no outside influence. there is a minority that still cling on to the older purer version." This belief system is believed to be that of an early form of the Israeli faith before and during the early stages of when the people of Israel settled in Canaan. One theory states that as early Ivrim (Hebrews) migrated into Nigeria.

the prohibition of un-kosher animals for consumption. This of course was another result of the loss of the written Torah from within the Ibo Benei-Yisrael community.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 10 of 13 Rev. A few of these customs still in practice are: circumcision of sons on the eighth day of life. not cross breading animals or plants. 31 noted: “The Ibo country lies within the recognized Negro belt. believed to be descended from ancient Levites due to their Levitical practices. the Ibo Benei-Yisrael people have maintained the customs and traditions of ancient Israel in an oral form. immersion for uncleanness. . 2003.000 years it was not until recently that some were able to make the more distinct connection to exactly why they were to be performed. This is suggested in the underlying ideas concerning sacrifice and The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. ‘Among the Ibos of Nigeria". are distinguished within the community by donning red head coverings which only they can wear. separation of women during the menstrual cycle. and some Moroccan Jews certain Ibo Benei-Yisrael elders. 3 Picture #5: Ilona family in Ozubulu. Basden in his book. and the people bear the main characteristics of that stock… There are certain customs which rather point to Levitic influence at a more or less remote period. Though.T. p. for many Ibo Benei-Yisrael these practices have existed in their society for more than 1. the celebration of Yom Kippur and Sukkoth. Similar to the Samaritans in Israel. According to G. Nigeria Even to this day Ibo Benei-Yisrael practices are still in line with the commands given in the Torah. and Passover just to name a few. Even with the loss of the written record.

a town about 30 kilometres from Onitsha by a team of researchers led by Professor Thurstan Shaw (1970) of the University of Ibadan. The language also bears several interesting parallels with Hebrew idioms. Nigeria Recent archaeological discoveries in Igboukwu. Picture #7: Ibo Kohein wearing traditional read head-covering wrapped in a linen fringed garment According to various accounts there is a very significant concentration of the descendents of Eri. Like the mentioned teams of archaeologists. On this Alaezi (1998) comments. 2003. a fact-finding team of Israelis from King Solomon Sephardic Federation made yet another significant discovery on the origin of the Ibos in 1997. Anambra State. 3 in the practice of circumcision. .” [17] Picture # 6: Men of the Beith Keneseth Siyahh Yisrael Synagogue in Abuja. seem to suggest a lot more facts about the relationship between the Ibos and the Jews of old than was hitherto imagined.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 11 of 13 Rev. the fifth son of Gad (see Genesis 46:16) live in Aguleri. Recently a very important discovery of clear evidence of Jewish ancestral origin of the Maghrebi Ibos was made in the domain of the The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16.

Written by Remy Ilona The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria P. Currently there are thriving Maghrebi Ibo communities in places like Tel Aviv-Israel. one for each of the names of the sons of Israel. Chapter 30:20 [4] Ibed. by Ken Blady. southeastern Nigeria. It is the hope of this community of Jews that one-day they will be officially recognized under the Jewish Law of Return in Israel and abroad. Further research is also being performed in and outside of Nigeria to give a more clear and concise account of the Jewish origins of the Ibo Benei-Yisrael. pages 224 .com References [1] Genesis 30:11 [2] Ibed.O. There are currently more than 26 Ibo and non-Ibo Synagogues within Nigeria performing normal Shabbat (Sabbath) services and that number is growing. Chapter 48:5 [6] Jewish Communities in Exotic Places. With the current resurgence of Jewish practice amongst Ibo men and women desiring to return to the international Israeli and Jewish community. the United States and other places in the world. 88th 3B New York. Box 11505 Garki-Abuja. Samuel Krauss and Joseph Jacobs. Chapter 30:23-24. each engraved like a seal with the name of the twelve tribes. 2003. Page 335 [8] The Jewish Encyclopedia. also chapter 48 [5] Ibed. Page 336 [7] Ibed. the Maghrebi Ibo society is still a growing one with Hebrew and Torah study once again becoming more of the norm. “There were twelve stones. 3 traditional ruler of Aguleri at the instance of an Israeli team on a fact-finding mission in December 1997.com Edited by Ahab Eliyah The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of New York 514 E. Chapter 46:16 [3] Ibed. by Colin McEvedy. Page 30 The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16. On the stone discovered in Aguleri engraved in a form of ancient Hebrew is the name ‘Gad’ in reminding one of the writing in Exodus 39:14. What is believed to be one of the “memorial onyx stones" for the sons of Israel as HaShem commanded Moses (see Exodus 39:7) was discovered and identified as such by the team leader from the King Solomon Sephardic Federation.228 [9] The Penguin Atlas of African History .” There are also accounts of DNA testing which found the Kohen DNA marker within members of both Ibo and Yoruba peoples. Nigeria 011-234-8044103026 rcilona2000@yahoo. . New York 10128 (917) 432-0836 ahabeliyah@yahoo.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 12 of 13 Rev.

p. Danny Ben-Gigi.T.msu. The Timbuktu Association for the Friendship with the Jewish World. page 86 [14] History of the Jewish People. . Philadelphia. 1927. 31 Figures Figure #1: Courtesy of the ICE Case Studies site (http://www.htm) [17] Among the Ibos of Nigeria.edu/ted/ice/biafra.edu/curriculum/lm7/stu_7aactivitythree. by G. Page 271 [13] First Steps in Hebrew Prayer.edu/ted/ice/biafra. Basden.html) The information in this document is copy written by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association © February 16.american. 3 [10] Manifesto of Zakhor. by Ken Blady. by Dr.The Ibo Benei-Yisrael Jews of Nigeria Produced by the Ibo Benei-Yisrael Association of Nigeria Page 13 of 13 Rev.american. page 230 [12] Ibed.com) Figure #3: Courtesy of the Black Jews of Israel: Dimona Negev Community Figure #4: Courtesy of "Exploring Africa" (http://exploringafrica. Page 294 [16] ICE Case Studies: The Biafran War (http://www. presented by Rick Gold for Kulanu. by Nahum Slouschz. by Margolis and Marx pages 278-279 written 1927 [15] Jewish Communities in Exotic Places . [11] Travels in North Africa .matrix. 2003.the-samaritans.htm ) Figure #2: Courtesy of the Samaritans of Israel (http://www.

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