In October, 2002, I watched a remarkable Nova PBS documentary, The Lost Tribes of Israel. It tells an unbelievable story of Jewish dispersion into Babylonian exile, a return to Israel with Nehemiah, a resettlement in deepest Yemen, another migration to Zimbabwe & a final move to South Africa. The tribe calls itself the Lemba and claims that it is one of the 10 Lost Tribes. An English “Indiana Jones” professor, Tudor Parfitt, went to S. Africa to lecture on the Falashas and was challenged by Lembas in attendance at his lecture to visit their homeland. When he went there he found that many of their rituals, beliefs and clan names had Semitic roots. Subsequent genetic research showed that their chromosomal structures bear striking similarities to Jewish ones. The Lemba also have a priestly caste whose chromosomal patterns bear resemblance to our Cohanim. In addition, the number of cohanim in the Jewish population corresponds precisely to the number in the Lemba population. The genetic researchers concluded there was incontrovertible evidence of genetic correspondence bet. the 2 populations.
The Lembas claim that after leaving Israel, they settled a Yemeni city name Sena (there is a clan named Sena listed in Nehemiah as returning from Babylonia to resettle in Israel). Through tremendous archaeological sleuthing, Parfitt uncovers a Yemenite village in the Hadramaout (the same region that the Bin Laden clan hails from) of the same name. He also uncovers strong evidence of ancient Jewish settlement in the region that predates the birth of Islam. In addition, Lemba clan names match almost completely with existing clan names in this region of Yemen.
The Lembas claim that after leaving Sena via a well-traveled trading route following Africa’s east coast, they came to Africa and created The Great Zimbabwe, the greatest standing ancient fortress in all of Africa. While Parfitt cannot prove conclusively that the Lembas built the fortress, he can show that the Lemba, being Jewish traders, could easily have moved back and forth from Yemen to Mozambique on seagoing trading routes. The nearest great city to the Mozambique coast during this era (13-14th centuries) would have been Great Zimbabwe. From Zimbabwe, the Lembas finally moved to South Africa (because, their legend claims, they committed the unpardonable sin of eating mice!).
I’d never heard of this story and find it even more compelling and scientifically verifiable than the Falasha claim to Jewish ancestry.