I recently read an article in Israel National News (www.israelnationalnews.com) that told of a tribe found in southern Africa that had Jewish traditions and ceremonies. The Lemba tribe of Zimbabwe and South Africa set aside one day a week as holy (as Jews do the Sabbath), they circumcise their boys (as do the Jews), they celebrate the New Moon (as did the Jews when they had a Temple), they slaughter their meat in a ritual manner which includes removing all blood (like Kosher food), they abstain from eating pork (as do the Jews), and many of the men wear yarmulkas (the small cap worn today by many Jews). And the tradition of the tribe is to inscribe a Star of David on the tombstone of the dead.
There are about 80,000 of the Lemba tribe, and they are divided into twelve families (like the twelve sons of Israel). The leading family is the Buba, who are the priestly family. The Buba have the same DNA classification as do the Jewish Cohanim, or descendants of the priestly tribe of Levites.
The ability to trace DNA has improved to such an extent that scientists know that the Buba clan of the Lemba have a descendant who lived in the Middle East slightly over 3000 years ago. This would have been about the time of Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron were Levites, and Aaron’s sons began the priestly line, or Cohanim.
According to Lemba tradition, the Buba clan led them out of Israel about 2500 years ago. That would have been about the time of the Babylonian Captivity. To this day the prayer language of the Lemba is a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic.
The most prized and holiest object of the Lemba is the ngoma lungundu, “the drum that thunders.” It is a wooden replica of the Ark of the Covenant. This replica was used when the tribe went into battle, and as a result, has been repaired and rebuilt many times.
The dispersion of the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah has led to many amazing discoveries. Hebrew inscriptions have been found on ancient stones in Japan! Are there Japanese Jews? We are not surprised that there are Ethiopian Jews because we have read in the Book of Acts of the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by Phillip. Recently, descendants of the Tribe of Manasseh were discovered in India! The Ethiopian Jews and the Indian Israelites have been returning to the Land of Israel in recent years.
The Lemba have not returned to Israel, because while their traditions and heritage are clearly Jewish, the Lemba are Christians and Muslims.
I pray that all Muslims would turn and worship the One true God of Heaven. But the Day is coming when all Christians will be gathered in the Lord’s Kingdom. How I look forward to that Day when all our Brothers and Sisters, whether African, Asian, European, or indigenous Australian or American, will gather around the Throne, and Praise His name!