Friday, March 11, 2011

The Lost Tribe of Gad Part III

Cultural Evidences Linking the Igbo to Gad
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr

A good detective in stiffing out the truth must pay close attention to body language and culture of a people; this also may give away a person’s origins. For example, Germans often uncovered American spies by the way they counted on their fingers, where the use of the thumb comes in.

By they way people act you can usually guess with fair accuracy where they may come from for example:

“Yes Ma’am, Thank you Miss.” Cultural protocol of the Southern U.S.

People of Oriental and Asian cultures often bow to greet one another.

Some cultures like some Middle Easter and European cultures will kiss the cheek and embrace. These same cultures may spit when disgusted at someone or something.

Some cultures in the Orient and in Canada require people remove their shoes at the door upon entering their home.

In 1789 Olauda Equiano, an Igbo and former slave who lived in London said in his autobiography that the Igbos were one of the lost tribes of Israel and cited the many identical cultural similarities between them and the Jews.

Missionaries when they came to Nigeria were dumbfounded to discover when they came to evangelize the Igbo People that the Igbo’s practiced many Hebraic/Jewish customs which they could not have learned from anyone else, it had to come from ancient practice of their people from antiquity; for they had no Bibles and met no one with a Bible until the missionaries came along.

They found that the Igbo’s practiced:

·        Eating of animals that meet the Biblically clean requirements as well as the complete draining of blood from the animal as well as other laws concerning Kashrut
·        The use of ritual washings like unto the mikvah
·        Washing of Hand before and after meals
·        Has a concept of clean and unclean, acceptable and abominable or taboo
·        Animal sacrifice like unto the Levitical sacrificial system
·        Believe in a Supreme, All-Powerful Deity (Chukwu) above all other deities
·        Circumcision on the 8th day as well as had the naming ceremony of the 8 day old child
·        Giving names that bear the name or title of G-d within it
·        Separation of menstruating women
·        Adah or Ada the name of the second woman mentioned in the Bible after Eve/Chavah (Gen. 4:19-20) and is also the title used to address the first born daughters of Igbo families
·        The keeping a lunar calendar
·        Shemita and Jubilee years: The annulment of debt and servitude every seven and fifty years
·        Burying their dead facing East, the direction of Jerusalem and the Promised Land
·        Burying their dead as quickly as possible
·        Sitting Shiva (seven day mourning period where one sits on low stools, remains unkempt and shave their head in grief)
·        Belief in a resurrection
·        Send the body’s home of Igbos who die outside of Igboland to be buried, like Joseph and Jacob desiring not to be buried in a pagan or foreign land
·        Lengthy funeral ceremonies such as found in Gen. 50:1-3
·        Preference of Inheritance and leadership was given to the first born and passed down through the fathers
·        Sung prior too and carried a type of Ark into battle when they went to war
·        Hospitality like unto the traditions and legends know of Abraham Offering water, meal and lodging to travelers
·        Converse and deliberate among men and leaders like that of Rabbi’s and students in a Yeshiva
·        Levirate type marriages, brothers marrying deceased brothers wives to carry on the brothers name
·        Marriage negotiations (Onye-aka-ebe) between families, like unto the story of Isaac and Rebecca
·        Polygamy
·        A type of, “Cities of Refuge,” where an Igbo who has committed a crime can seek refuge in his mother’s natal home, known in Igbo as, “Ikunne”
·        The concept of Sanctuary, similar to the Igbo Osu caste concept where a victim of violence may flee to the altar (alusi) for divine protection (I Kings 2:28-30)
·        Shunning of those who willingly break Igbo laws
·        Shunning of those who marry outside of the Igbo people
·        Laws against sexual perversion, incest and the like, they had to marry among their people but outside their immediate tribal clan
·        Justice and punishment for certain crimes followed the lines of,  “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”
·        A rule of Torah (Law) was developed and was passed down by Eri
·        No jails or penal system
·        Rite of passage into adulthood
·        Governance of the people by a conglomerate of tribal elders and judges prior to the institution of kingship dynasties
·        The coronation of the Kings have rituals and customs that closely remember that of the coronation of Kings of Judah and Israel
·        Symbolic attire and accessories of the Kings and Elders closely resembled that of Kings and Tribal leaders of Judah and Israel

These among many other Jewish laws and customs were found to be kept by the Igbo people and sadly, the Christian missionaries forced them to abandon many of these Hebraic practices because though they resembled Biblical worship of G-d, they believed many have been done away with due to the advent of Messiah and they believed they practiced these customs unto pagan gods and as such should be abandoned. The Igbo’s are slowly beginning to return to the pre-missionary practices, desiring to return to their Hebraic roots.

One Igbo man named Avraham (seen below with his wife and I), a Cantor of the Natsari Jewish community in Nigeria said,

“In a nutshell, every law as stated in the Torah was being practiced by our forefathers before the advent of Christianity. Except that our fathers went into idol worship, but they still kept the tradition as was handed over to them by their forefathers.”

And should not the idolatry too be seen as possible evidence of their connection to Gad and Israel because did not all Israel have a problem with Idolatry when one reads the Tanak!?

Another unique cultural fact is that the 7th day Sabbath was not observed by the Igbos until the 1940’s promoted by a revelation given to an Igbo man named De Okeke from Akwa-ete presently known as Abia State in Southeast Nigeria. Prior to this the Igbos observed a 4 of 8 day rest believed to have been adopted from the apostasy of Jeroboam. But such a Sabbath was nonetheless observed by an abstaining from work and commerce.

The Igbo also have always believed that they came to Nigeria from someplace else and are not indigenous to Nigeria. They have been often seen by other tribes in Nigeria as strangers in the land and outsiders because though they looked like them, their customs and cultural practices were strange and foreign to the ways of people that were indigenous to Nigeria.

“The idiosyncary that distinguish the other Hebrews in the Diaspora are also boldly visible on the character of the Igbo, their brethren in Nigeria. These apply to their culture, work ethic, value system, vocabularies, social institutions and traditional religion.” – Biblical Evidence Confirming the Hebrew Origin of the Igbo People, by Uchechukwu Ikenayibe Ch. 2, pg. 15

Culturally world wide Jews are known as enterprisers and business minded, so much so that many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories claim Jews run Hollywood and the Banking system. Gani Fawehinmi, Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights activist said, “The Igbos, by their contribution to the economic development of this country are otherwise called the JEWS of this country.”

Many Jews are famous personalities and entertainers of all sorts in Hollywood and Nigeria is considered the Hollywood of Africa. Many African American Entertainers and Personalities are of Igbo descent; Rev. TD Jakes, Sammy Davis Jr., Ice Cube, Kobe Bryant, Vivica A. Fox, Blair Underwood, Gabrielle Union, Nia Long, Brandy Norwood, Johnny Gill, Whitney Huston, Keisha Night-Pulliam (Rudy from Cosby show), Tempest Bledso (Vanessa from Cosby show), Anita Baker, Missy Elliot, Forest Whitaker, Queen Latifah, American Idol contestant Chikezi, NFL’s Nnamdi Asomugha, NBA’s Emeka Okafo, author Nnedi Okorafor, among many, many others.

Parts of Nigeria such as Nnewi are known for its automotive and computer savvy-ness and is called the “Japan of Nigeria.” And it is an Igbo American man, Philip Emeagwalu who is credited to have created the internet.

Another culturally consideration is the Igbo predisposition to Abrahamic religions. The Igbos have been called, The Gospel Tribe of Nigeria” because the Igbo attraction to G-d and religion moreso then any other tribe in Africa. They are considered the easiest people evangelized by missionaries. The majority of religious institutions in Nigeria are mostly made up of Igbos. Atheism is regarded as a strange philosophy or worldview among the Igbo.

Culturally it also must be noted the parallel histories of the Jews and Igbos/Hebrews of Nigeria how they have been scattered world wide and where ever they go they are considered strangers and are persecuted by the indigenous peoples they find themselves around.

Israel was taken into slavery by Egypt and the Igbos one of the first of the African peoples to be taken into slavery by the white men of the west. An old slave trading advertisement read, “To be sold…. Fine Heeboes.” There were some Igbo slaves so tenacious and uncontrollable that they were put onto separate boats to Haiti and Jamaica to be exiled. Haiti still has a proverb that says, “The Igbo has hung Himself,” meaning one would rather die than to be forced into doing something. They have the folklore song called “Ibu Lele.” And anything of value is referred to as, “Ibu.” They have a place called Ibo Beach. In Jamaica they have a place called Ibu Town.  Ebo Landing is located in St. Simons Georgia (1850’s) is known for a slave ship landing on its shores and the Igbo slaves refused to disembark, but rather fell over board in their chains and drown. They would rather die than to be slaves. They believed their souls would fly back to Igboland to rest. Some accounts say they actually made it to shore and conspired a suicide pact and ran into the water and drown. Why would they do this? Maybe because they knew of the slavery of their ancestors in Egypt and refused to allow history to repeat itself?

Jews underwent the infamous persecution of the Jews during the many pogroms and holocaust of World War II. Igbo underwent a type of holocaust during the Nigerian Biafran War (6th of July 1967–15th of January 1970) where many Igbos were slaughtered by the surrounding peoples of Nigeria.

The Igbos history uncannily parallels much of Jewish history in so many ways. Coincidence? I don’t think so.