The relationship between Pashtuns and Jews #general

David Harrison

I know that this in not relating to family history research, but I think that it is within the Jewish human family definition.   It was within the AJEX (Jewish Ex-Serice Persons Organisation) Newsletter which I received today..
By SSgt (Res) Dan Fox, Deputy National Chairman 

Pashtun people speak of how their forebears referred to themselves as “Bani Yisrael” - the People of Israel. It is a self-reference that fits with the proposition that the Pashtun are one of the Lost Tribes, exiled (according to the Second Book of Kings) by the Assyrians to the banks of the ancient River Gozan in what is now Afghanistan. Whatever the tangle of biblical myth and anthropological fact here, it is worth noting the following Pashtun traditions: lighting candles on Friday night, separating meat and milk, and covering graves with stones.

All this has made the historical resonance of recent scenes from Afghanistan even clearer. Families with barely a suitcase each, forced into hiding or crowding onto transport out of their country as it it taken over by violence and persecution.

AJEX has thrown itself fully behind the Jewish community’s response to the evacuation crisis. We have connected our membership and others to schemes across the country taking donations of food, clothes, toiletries, toys, books and money. The response in the UK has been magnificent and the problem now is one of logistics: storage space for everything donated and transport to get it to hotels and other locations. If you or anyone you know is able to help with this, please let us know on AJEX4Afghans@... 

I am also proud to say that AJEX has been able to exploit its contacts in the military and NGO communities to help get people out as Kabul fell to the Taliban. We have worked with other organisations to help at least five families to safety so far and we continue to support others still seeking safe passage.

The long term work for Afghan refugees begins now. As well as material support, they will need advice on jobs, finances, legal matters, training and education. Again, if you are able to help with such things, please let us know at AJEX4Afghans@...
From David Harrison, once a Corporal in the British Army

Emily Rosenberg

-- Thank you so much for sharing this. The Jewish Family and Community Service  here in East Bay of San Francisco is the US government contracted resettlement agency for Afghan refugees. Their philosophy is "we know how to settle refugees.". After more than a century of settling Jewish refugees from Europe and then from the Soviet Union they've now turned their expertise to whoever is next and have Afghan social workers on their paid staff. I had a great experience helping resettle  a family through them a few years ago so I especially appreciate  knowing this distant connection.
Emily Rosenberg
Oakland, California

KESNER in Amsterdam, London, Chicago
STODEL in Amsterdam, London, USA
KAWIN in Suwalki and Poland
RUBINSKY in Suwalki and Poland


There has been a lot of ink spilled on this, and I’m not sure there is a definitive answer yet.

If the Pashtuns and the Jews are in fact closely related, this should show up in their DNA. Even here I’ve seen various claims, mostly unsourced. This post throws some doubt on their close relationship. The author is not a population geneticist, but he does give sources.

Haakon Chevalier

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Yehoshua Sivan


The story that Pashtuns have a Jewish connection is not factual.  The "lost tribe" aspect was most likely promulgated by 19th century British explorers and missionaries.  I lived for two years in the 1960's in Kandahar, the Pashtun heartland, and I have remained in touch with many Afghans ever since. I have never met a Pashtun who referred to the "Bani Israel" in reference to their genealogical history.  

In reference to the AJEX Newsletter article:
1.  Pashtuns don't have a tradition of "lighting candles on Friday night".  If they do light candles it's because they don't have electricity and they light candles/lanterns every night and not just Fridays.  
2.  Pashtuns don't separate milk from meat.  In fact there are popular Afghan dishes in which meat is served with yogurt based dressings.  
3.  The deceased are generally wrapped in a shroud when buried (no coffin).  After being placed in the grave a decedent may then be covered by a stone or board and then covered by earth. At the burial a stone is generally placed on the ground over the area of the head and of the foot of the buried person.  I don't know of any tradition of placing stones on graves as a sign of a visit as is often done in the Ashkenazi tradition.    

There were two small communities of Afghan Jews in Afghanistan when I lived there; in Kabul and in Herat.  All but one of the Afghan Jews have emigrated, most of them having gone to Israel and New York.  Currently the only Afghan Jew remaining in Afghanistan lives in Kabul.   

Len Oppenheim

Adam Cherson

Great discussion!

Based on my studies it seems that generally speaking the Pashtuns are more like the 'Lost Tribes of Europe' than of Israel. This because there is a large Pashtun affinity to the pre-historic Western European Hunter Gatherers (who were largely displaced by migrants coming from the East in later millennia). There is an interesting academic discussion these days about where the Western European Hunter Gatherers may have wound up, and one possible answer is: Central Asia.

The Pashtuns show a strong dna affinity to the ancient remains sampled at Sharh-I-Shokta (dating to circa 2800 BCE) and the corresponding Helmand Civilization. The Pashtuns have little affinity to ancient Levantine genes.

Interestingly there is one affinity both populations share: to the ancient Zagrosian samples (Northern Zagros Mountains), with these genes representing on average about 50% of Pashtun origins and on average about 22% of Jewish origins. The Zagrosian signal is visible in the ancient Canaanite (possibly Jewish samples from the Near East) which means it is not the result of subsequent assimilation during Jewish diaspora periods. For example the famous sample from Abel Beth Maacah dating to circa 928 BCE is about 28% Zagrosian.

In sum, there could be Jewish Lost Tribe origins in Pashtun ancestry, albeit highly diluted to the point where Levantine genes have disappeared in the modern Pashtuni population . The appearance of a Pashtuni male expressing the J-Z18271 haplogroup would be strong evidence of this hypothesis. I am currently conducting a project at FTDNA studying the Lost Tribes of Israel from this perspective and would appreciate any such knowledge regarding Pashtuni haplgrouping, now or in future.

Adam Cherson

Metin Delevi

Dear friends,
I am actually preparing a work on the topic on Pashtuns and Judaism.
Any source would be welcome.
Thanking you in advance
Metin Delevi

Jill Whitehead

My brother is G2b YDNA haplogroup. Several years ago, a researcher at FTDNA found there were only one or two mutations between Jewish G2b and those of Pashtun ancestry. It seems that 2,000 years ago one group left the fertile crescent and moved westwards and became Jewish Askenazi, and another moved westwards into Afghanistan/Pakistan and became Pashtuns. Both groups are sub clades of G2b. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


Miriam Klepper

For more than five days, Afghanistan's last Jew—Zebulon Simantov and over two dozen women and children rode a bus, crossing war-torn Afghanistan and Taliban checkpoints as the country’s last Jew left his homeland.

September 8, 2021

Miriam Klepper
Retired Librarian