Legends of the Lost Tribes  

Documentary series in 13 chapters (25 min. each)


The series was broadcasted  1996 in the Israeli Channel 2.

An English version was broadcasted in Chicago Jewish Broadcasting Network.

A French version was sold to "Planet" and was broadcasted in Europe and in South America.

Full English version of "Legends of the Lost Tribes" is now available on DVD [SHOP].

From the heart of Africa to the jungles of Peru, from the Rastas in Jamaica to the British Israelites in England, people all over the world, in one form or another, identify themselves with the Lost Tribes of Israel and the Hebrew spirit. This 13 part documentary series is an intriguing journey into the beliefs, legends, rituals and lifestyle of such communities.

“Legends of the Lost Tribes” is an invitation to explore the hidden history of the Hebrew faith, to extend beyond the boundaries inherent in the concept of the “Jewish People”.  The essence of the Hebrew movement, of which Judaism is only a small fragment, has touched the whole of mankind. It begins with Abraham, the first Hebrew, who was called to transcend from idolatry towards an awakened sense of unity.  This movement sparked a fire that burns at the heart of humanity, infecting man with the urge to understand its mystery.  Although people use different symbols and myths to explain the world around them, the questions they pose are, in essence, the same. As we watch these legends unfold, as we laugh and cry with their stories, “Legends of the Lost Tribes” raising intriguing questions. What is the nature of the Hebrew spirit?  Why did it encounter such forceful resistance?  How did this ideal bring about such a fundamental change in human history?   

 The legend begins where history fades out.  After the death of King Solomon, the Hebrew nation split into two kingdoms. The Southern Kingdom of Judas comprised of two tribes, one of which, Judas, is the ancestors of today’s “Jews”.   The Northern Kingdom of Israel, centered in Samaria, united the remaining ten tribes.  In the year 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel and sent the Ten Tribes into Exile.  Since then, their fate has been cloaked in a shroud of mystery and legend. 

  Although the Ten Tribes disappeared as an historical entity, they spread the Hebrew spirit by assimilating among the nations of the world, preserving its hidden presence. Perhaps this is why such a variety of people from all corners of the earth claim some connection to the Tribes.  Like the mystery itself, these communities appear in unexpected contexts, defying ordinary explanation. Though blurred by cultural diversity and historical circumstances, they all point to this same origin, a common intention of unity. 

This series takes us through a colorful mosaic of 13 communities, spanning the entire globe, including the Samaritans in Israel, the Ibos in Nigeria, the Bene Israel in India, the Rastafarians of Jamaica, the Israelitas in Peru, the Karaites in Poland and Lithuania, descendants of Crypto-Jews in Dallas, and others. As Nick, the Techno-music prophet points out in the concluding chapter of the series: “The Lost Tribes were so lost that you can find them anywhere”. 



Synopsis of the 13 chapters

1. “Samaritans”

The opening chapter presents the series in a colorful mosaic of communities, all of whom, in one form or another, see  themselves as original Hebrew descendants. It then  goes on to explore the story of the Samaritan community in Israel.  Numbering about 600, these people, who still struggle to keep their ancient tradition, live in what was the capital of  Samaria - Nablus. They claim to be  authentic descendants of Israelite tribes that were not exiled. Here we see their customs, religious practices and heritage, culminating in a vivid portrayal of their renowned Passover sacrifice on Mount Grizim. For one day the summit of Mount Grizim is transformed into a scene from biblical times.


2.  “Bene Israel - India”

One of the legends which explains the origins of Bene Israel in India goes back to the sailors of the Zebulun tribe. It tells of 7 men and 7 women  who survived a shipwreck and found themselves on the Kunkan shore of India. There, they established a community.  Legend and reality are juxtaposed as we see what happened to them in modern-day Israel, when, after they immigrated to Israel in the mid-sixties, the religious officials refused to acknowledge their Judaism. Only after a long and exhausting campaign did the “Bene of Israel” succeed in becoming accepted as Jews.


3.  “Ibo Tribe of Nigeria”

The wild landscapes of Africa, its exotic rhythms and mask dances provide the picturesque background for this tribe, who believes itself to be the descendants of the Israelite tribe of Gad.

They have numerous legends which explain their origins, many of which don’t exactly fit in with the others.  But this doesn’t seem to bother the Ibo, whose powerful faith allows them the flexibility of accepting what is considered by Western man as a logical contradiction. They interpret their name “Ibo” as a mispronounced “Hebrew” and till today, the members pray to “Chuku Abiama” - Abraham’s God. The Ibos, well known for their struggle for independence in the Biafra war, are now considered the “Jews of Nigeria” and have contributed greatly to the intellectual and economic development in that country.


4. “The British Israelites”

This chapter documents  a weekend convention at the peaceful town of Harrogate, England. In the Imperial Hotel, immersed in a typical English atmosphere, the elders of a Christian cult meet to present a variety of scientific evidence, archeological discoveries, historical interpretations and even DNA tests to support their theory on the origins of the British nation.  They state  that the ten exiled tribes of Israel  traveled by sea to Ireland and then to England to form the mightiest nation in the world, Great Britain. They have explicit genealogical trees of the Royal Family which trace the ancestry of  Queen Elizabeth directly to the House of David.


5. “Bedul - Petra”

In the beginning of the century, the Bedouin tribe “Bedul”, living in the caves of Petra, Jordan, captured the imagination of Zionist pioneers. Among them was the historian, explorer and first president of Israel, Itzhak Ben Zvi. In this chapter we follow the observations of Ben Zvi who discovered traces of ancient Hebrew customs in the lifestyles of some Palestinian villagers and  Bedouin tribes. He speculated that the inhabitants on both sides of the Jordan river may be descendants of the original Hebrew population which never left the area, despite the numerous exiles. Although 100 years ago they presented themselves to the British historians as the “Sons of Israel”, the Bedul  of today deny everything...


6. “Beit Yaakov-India”

These people, claiming to be descendants of the tribe of Efraim, now live in two villages north of Madras. Under the Hindu caste system they are labeled as “Untouchables”, along with millions of other outcasts in India. They claim that their casting was a terrible mistake, and that they are Hebrews who have indeed kept the tradition to the best of their abilities. Living under constant discrimination, alienation and poverty, they try to maintain a Jewish way of life despite their harsh conditions. In their unfurnished hut which serves as a synagogue, they sit on the ground, praying, singing, and studying ‘Tora’, impatiently waiting for salvation, for their return  to Zion.


7. “Manasseh Tribe - Mizoram”

In the steep mountainous region which lies between the borders of India and Burma, live the Mizo people, numbering one and a half million. Paradoxically, this tribe, with typical oriental features, discovered its Hebrew origin when introduced to the Old Testament by Christian missionaries. A small but growing group of 5,000 converted fully to Judaism believing that they come from the tribe of Manasseh. Geographically isolated,  they long for any tidbit of information on Judaism that they can get, and dream of returning to the land of Zion. The chapter concludes with a moving scene in Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport with the arrival of immigrants of Mizo tribe.


8. ”Rastafarians - Jamaica”

The “Rastas” of Jamaica believe themselves to be the only authentic carriers of the Hebrew spirit and the Jewish destiny.  Like the Jews, they felt the bitterness of exile, they suffered the terrible effects of racial prejudice and cultural alienation and they, too, yearn to return to their Zion - Ethiopia. They also have a messiah, the Emperor Haile Selassie, whom they believe to be a direct descendant of the holy union between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

This chapter displays the unique Rasta rituals where they elevate themselves towards the divine with the help of Bongo drums and passionate Reggae music, cloaked in heavy smoke of marijuana, an integral part of their devotion.


9. “Israelitas - Peru”

The chapter opens with the quest to find the mysterious Israelitas. With rumor as the only guide,  the crew flew over jungles, crossed whitewaters and traveled perilous paths in the rain forests...

In 1957 God dictated the Ten Commandments personally to the leader and living prophet of Israelitas - Ezequiel Ataucusi.  Since his revelation they have increased in numbers to 40,000 and are even represented in the Peruvian parliament. Israelitas are, first and foremost, pious Christians. They follow the Old Testament to the letter, keeping all of its commandments. They make sacrificial offerings, keep the Sabbath, and are in the midst of building the Third Temple. According to Ezequiel’s teaching, the year 2000 marks the Apocalypse. Only the virgin land of the jungles of Peru will be saved. Therefore, Atacousi and his followers are making urgent final efforts in their  move to the jungle by the end of the millennium.


10. “Venta Prieta - Mexico”

What goes on behind these “dark windows”, the name of a small town near Mexico City, where lives an Orthodox Jewish community?  They have a synagogue, they keep all the Jewish holidays  and some of them have immigrated to Israel.  Their facial features are indistinguishable from those of the local Mexicans.  Therefore, when this community was first discovered in the beginning of the century, they were called the “Jewish Indians” and against their will,  have become a tourist attraction.


11. “Magda”

This chapter portrays Magda, a descendant of the Crypto-Jews, living in Dallas, Texas.  Five hundred years ago her ancestors, who were forced to convert to Christianity, fled from the Spanish Inquisition to the New World, where they continued to be persecuted. They were called the “New Christians” and for generations have continued to cherish the Jewish traditions in complete secrecy. They developed and entire lifestyle based on fear, concealment and suspicion, that continues till this day.  Like many others with similar roots, Magda, a daughter of a priest, did not know that Jews still exist until she went to college,. When she learned more about Jewish customs, she was amazed by its resemblance to her family tradition. Despite the difficulty in breaking an age-old habit of hiding and fear, she courageously started a personal quest to find her way back to Judaism. 

It is impossible to remain indifferent to the emotional drama that accompanies Magda’s moving story..


12. “The Karaites of Poland and Lithuania”

The Karaite movement began as an offshoot of Judaism in 8th century Iraq.  Denying all authority,  rabbinical or otherwise, the Karaites obey only the letter of  the Old Testament. After 50 years of Communist oppression, the Karaites of Lithuania deny any connection whatsoever to Judaism. They speak and pray in a turkic dialect, which is according to them a remnant of their Khozar heritage. Still their strict observance of Jewish Law is uncompromising.  Today, these East-European communities are on the verge of extinction.


13. “Nick, the Techno-music Prophet”

Nick, the Techno-prophet, is a disc jockey in one of the largest rave clubs in London.  He regards  Techno music as the crusading sound of modern spirituality.  He has a vision: to construct the Third Temple as a site for his interactive Light and Music show in the “New Jerusalem” - London. From record companies to friends, Nick tries to gather support and funds in order to fulfill his messianic dream. In doing so, we meet his outstanding friends with their ideas about themselves as the lost tribe of Dan, and their thoughts on music and salvation.  The chapter ends the series with a twist that questions the meaning of tracing the Lost Tribes. In Nick’s words, “The Lost Tribes were so lost that you can find them anywhere.”

Director Aran Patinkin

Miracle Productions

Sound Arturo, Ronen Yzchaki, Penny Rabiger
Editor Aviv Peres, Lila Alon, Daniel Zeldes

Savion Ben-Israel




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