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'Lost Tribes1 of Israel' in Africa? Some Observations On Judaising Movements in Africa, With Specific Reference To the Lemba in Southern Africa2

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Judaism' is often adapted by groups who embrace it, then these groups are not accepted by Judaism proper. It is embraced for identity and identification (such as by the Falashas of Ethiopia). This embrace was encouraged mainly by European comparativists, often missionaries, who imposed a Jewish identity on indigenous peoples (for example the Zulu, the 'Hottentots', and the Dutch Boers), by religious shifts caused by ideological change, or simply because of a fascination with Judaism. That the Lemba have Jewish' traditions which correspond both in rite and tradition is noteworthy; there may even be genetic links with specific groups in Israel. Lemba Jewishness' resembles a syncretising pluralism, a Jewishness which they embraced to ward off the risk of losing their unique character through cultural diffusion. Lemba identity is accepted by some Jews. Final establishment of such an identity, however, remains elusive. A qualitative study of Lemba Jewish (or rather Israelite) identity underlies this article. Similarities between the ancient Israelites and African tribes should not be neglected. This phenomenon may contain an indispensable key for interpretation.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Old Testament University of South Africa PO Box 392, Pretoria, 0003 Republic of South Africa


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