Just How Similar are Pashtun and Jewish People?

The Pashtun people who live in Afghanistan and Pakistan have common historical, linguistic and cultural similarities with Jewish people.

pashtun-jewishPreviously, we have compared the Pashtunwali, an unwritten code of conduct for the Pasthun people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the Jewish Torah.

Now we can look for similarities that originate from the Torah or from the Bible that do not have necessarily something in common with the Pashtunwali.

There are some recognized stories of  Pashtun practices virtually identical to Jews: Lighting candles on Friday night, separation of meat and dairy, and covering graves with stones.

Moreover, some Pashtu names derive from Hebrew. For example, Asif, Assaf, Binyamin, Kenan, and Barak (Barak is the name of the known Barakzai tribe, which traces after Barak son of Avinoam, officer- warrior of the ancient Israeli Kingdom.

Barak means glance, sparkling, flash. The other names mentioned in the Torah: Asif (harvest in Heberew), Assaf (gather in Hebrew), also known as the compositor of the Levi’s (Liwan tribe) choir, Binyamin (fool of power), the 12th Israeli tribe, and Kenan (lamenter in Hebrew) the fourth generation of the humanity.

These names are quite ordinary in Israel and in Pashtun areas. Names that do not originate from the Torah, like Tameer (high in Hebrew/hideen in Aramaic) and Timor (carved decorating shape of palms found at the Jewish temple), are also common among the two groups, as well as Shir and Sahar.

Religious names and tool share common characteristics.

In Pashtu, names of God are known as Khudai; while in biblical Hebrew God is referred to as (El) Shadai. The Jewish prayer shawl (talit) issue also has a great resemblance to the Pashtu/Urdu word tolia which means towel.

Many Pashtun wear scarves which look like a talit: a wide white scarf decorated with blue stripes on both sides of it. The only thing that is missing in the knotted fringes (tzitzit) attached to its four corners.

READ  Corruption and Women's Rights in Afghanistan

Saturday in Pashtu is called Shanbay and Hebrew, Shabbat – the holy day of the week for Jews. During Shabbat, Jews are commanded to abstain from labor and reflect. Shabbat is the Jewish symbol of loyalty for God. In Pashtu, Sabat means loyalty, and on Shanbay work is also not allowed.

Furthermore, Pashtu and Hebrew prefixes originate from the ancient Semitic language Aramaic. For example, the prefix “De” which used in Hebrew and Pashtu literature means “from” or “of.”

There are probably more common words, names and phrases between the Pashtu, which belongs to western Iranian language group, and Hebrew which belongs to west Semitic language group. And yet both groups still have much in common, as the Pashtuns originate from the lost tribes of Israel.

Watch this excerpt from the Quest for the Lost Tribes of Israel

If you liked this article and want to discover more, check out What Everybody Should Know About the Pashtunwali and Torah.

Yasmin Eliaz is a Master’s student in Political Science at Bar Ilan University. She specializes in Afghanistan and works as a research assistant at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Read other articles by Yasmin.