Sunday, May 31, 2015

Zimbabwe's Jews

Al Jazeera has an article on Zimbabwe's Jewish tribe, who just built their first synagogue.

Where he is from, near Mutare, in the east of the country, locals refer to the Lemba as “mwenye Lemba” or “people from elsewhere.” Oral traditions recount how the Lemba left Judea around 2,500 years ago and made their way first to Yemen and later to Africa. They were said to be traders who lost their holy book while fleeing Arab persecution en route to southern Africa.
The Lemba maintained a number of practices in line with Jewish tradition. As a child, Maeresera, now 40, learned never to eat or drink anything served in a non-Lemba home, and only to eat meat slaughtered by a circumcised Lemba. Maeresera was circumcised at the age of eight as part of a larger initiation program that is conducted in the bush and includes the learning of songs and poems. Later, he took on the role of shochet, traditional Jewish slaughterer, at his school. It was a Roman Catholic boarding school and he was required to attend church service every Sunday. But the school also made sure Lemba students were served food prepared in the proper Lemba way. It was a strange duality, but one in which Lemba are well practiced.

and then there is the DNA evidence that suggest their might be some truth in their beliefs.

GetReligion blog has other links about the story, and notes:

The story of the Lemba is surprisingly similar to that of the Beta Israel, a tribe of Ethiopians who emigrated en masse to Israel centuries ago. That story, too, says the Ark came to Africa from Israel -- and the modern Ethiopian Orthodox Church even claims it still has the object. Both the Lemba and Beta Israel, in turn, are part of the intriguing field of once-hidden Jewish communities -- groups in several lands that seem to retain traces of Jewish blood or customs. Those include the Crypto-Jews of the Americas, the Igbo Jews of Nigeria, the Cochin Jews and Bene Israel of India, even descendants of medieval merchants in Kaifeng, China.
No, this was not the area of Zimbabwe where I worked many years ago, but in the eastern part of the country... but I have written in earlier blogposts about the terraces in eastern Zimbabwe and how BrianFagan's book "Elixir" mentions these as irrigation terraces similar to several other areas in African highlands.

His book can be found on Amazon HERE. But I am reading it on Scribd...

More on the terraces HERE.

BEFORE THE EUROPEAN came to Central Africa, the methods of agriculture were extremely primitive. Generally speaking, an area of woodland was cleared, the trees burnt, and a crop planted in the soil enriched by the ashes.
When, as soon happened, the fertility of the clearing ran out, the people moved on and repeated the whole process elsewhere.
And yet there is proof that there lived in the Inyanga Mountains a race of people with a relatively sophisticated farming system, who grew their crops on terraces, used irrigation, and practised some of the basic principles of soil conservation, a long time . . . perhaps five hundred years, ago.
At first, their walls of stone, their protected terraces, their pits and their strongpoints were thought to link them with the people who built the Zimbabwe type ruins elsewhere, but Mr. Roger Summers, Curator of the National Museum in
Bulawayo, believes that the Inyanga hill dwellers came from an entirely different culture.

and it was a trading area for gold, the Kingdom of Manica, in the 1600's...headquarters on the eastern side of the hills in Mozambique.

so did the gold trade date back before the Bantu expansion?
Just like Archeology is rewriting the story of the ancient Americas, there is a lot of work being done in Africa also.

For later reading: LINK

PBS link2
While the site was occupied in ancient times—iron was in use there by the third century A.D.—its rise to prominence, and the advent of the finest walls, occurred in the 14th and 15th centuries during a florescence in trade. Great Zimbabwe happened to lie right on the route between the region's gold-producing regions and ports such as Sofala on the Mozambique coast, where merchants traded African gold and ivory for beads, cloth, and other goods from Arabia and farther east. 

and the article goes on to discuss if the Mashona or the more ancient Lemba tribes built the Great Zimbabwe...

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