A Time to Come Home

Deep in the heart of the Niger Delta, and in Nigeria’s major cities, lies an ancient secret so powerful and astounding, that even Catholic Portuguese missionaries in the sixteenth century tried to keep it a secret. Upon arrival in the region of the Niger Delta, the Catholic Portuguese missionaries discovered an ancient lost tribe of Israel – the Igbos. Who are the Igbos and what makes them Jewish? Could it be their faith? Their lineage? Their traditions? All of above were found to be Judaic-like. The missionaries, for their part, were under strict instructions to keep this a secret as they feared this tribe would join up with their brethren in Europe. A recent mass DNA test conducted on various Igbo individuals proved that the Igbos are indeed of an ancient Israelite bloodline.

Like most African people, the Igbos have seen the worst side of humanity inconceivable to mankind. Atrocities they have suffered, include slavery, persecution by other tribes and more recently the Biafra civil war which resulted in a catastrophic famine and genocide. Even to this day the Igbos suffer from frequent army incursions by the Nigerian militaries and pogroms have become commonplace. The Igbo are the third largest ethnic group in Nigeria, numbering twenty to thirty million. Their tradition speaks of being descended from the tribe of Gad, whom as opposed to joining the exodus, went through Africa from Egypt prior to slavery and made their way to the Niger delta. One notable Igbo figure is Remi Ilona, a lawyer residing in Miami, Florida, who maintains his Jewishness.

All the elders of the now, mostly converted Igbos, proudly talk about their Ancient Jewish heritage, previously unknown to mankind. Another more popular and accepted school of thought is that they to flee the wrath of the Babylonian despot Nebuchadnezzar, whom the Israelites fled, all the way to the banks of the Niger Delta spanning half the African continent to find a safe haven. Another remarkable theory, maintains that even up to the time of King Solomon Israelites made their way to the Niger Delta. Only as of recently, have there been a significant return of Igbos to their Hebrew roots. The word Igbo is said to be an African derivation of the word Hebrew.

The Igbos, for the last millennia, lead a peaceful existence in the tropical rainforests of West Africa’s Niger delta. We saw a lot of hype and excitement about the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) and the recently arrived Bnei Menashe from India. Organisations like Shavei Israel have worked hand in hand with the Igbos and assisting with Synagogues and education to aid to their ancient heritage.

We, the people of Israel, are one of the oldest surviving nations who have been scattered far and wide. Whether it’s white skinned Ashkenazim with blue/brown eyes and blonde/brown hair, darker featured Mizrahim from the Arab countries, Yemenites with brown skin and thick long curly hair or even Beta Israel from Ethiopia. We have been gathered from all corners of the world as prophesied in Ezekiel. Look at the composition of Israel today. People you would never think are Jewish on any given day pass you in the tachanat mercazit, children, pensioners, office workers, eighteen year old boys and girls in their tzahal uniforms and rifles slung over their shoulders all form the kaleidoscope of a true multicultural society that never went wrong. Yet there are still Jews in distress who have not been admitted into Eretz Israel to date.

I am not talking about someone in New York, who can’t get it together with his Shaliach, or a person trying to gain right of access by proving their Jewish ancestry via a maternal grandmother in Moscow or Miami. I am referring to the people of Biafra land where the movie ”Tears of the Sun” comes to life, which is now manifesting itself as we speak in Biafra – yet the world remains silent.The state of Israel was re-established after two thousand years in exile so that Jews in distress would have a home of their own.

We ignored their plight in Biafra in the late 1960s during the civil war and ensuing famine. It’s all very well for us to point out the events in other countries but what’s the point of having a Jewish state if we can’t let fellow Jews in on the Aliyah movement? There are said to be 30,000-45,000 Igbo adherents of the Jewish faith (non messianic). An Igbo close to my heart told me there are many more. So who gets to decide their Jewishness? The same Rabbinate that blacklisted a set of Rabbis, some of whom I hold in very high esteem, or the evidence that speaks for itself? If one were to make the effort obtaining Portuguese reports by the Catholic missionaries about the Jewish customs of the Igbo together with the DNA test what further proof do we need of their Jewishness?

It’s time for work on the ground to be done and put forth a plan in motion as these Biafran Igbos are also staunchly Zionist. A friend told me it is a dream of his to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Their are those who want nothing more than to live a better quality of life without fear. The Nigerian/Biafran Igbos for the most part, are highly educated and will have little or no trouble integrating into Israeli society. Some are IT professionals/doctors/teachers etc so their contribution could be of great relevance and be mutually beneficial for them and us. Besides, more Jews making Aliyah, be they Anusim from Spain or Portugal or Igbos from Biafra/Nigeria could help our population growth skyrocket as they marry, have children and reproduce making Israel the melting pot of the middle east and a light unto nations snatching the Apartheid card from the hands of cynics.

On matters of defence and security a lot of Nigerian men served in the armed forces (Igbos included!) despite the harsh realities facing them in Biafra now. The love they have for Israel is akin to the fiery passion of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Having served in the army and being enthusiastic to serve in the Israel Defence Forces could be beneficial as we would have already-trained Igbo Jews joining the ranks of the IDF.
They would bring a warrior spirit, unrivalled in any annals of our own military history with a formidable espirit d,corps and fierce determination to protect their ancient homeland which has welcomed them back with open arms.

Recently the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, called on the world to take up the cause for Biafra. As usual it fell on deaf ears, as some would rather blow a gasket each time Israel defends itself from the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas. Hence, with the Igbos being our ancestral brethren, it is our duty to assist them where we can and to bring over the ones who retained and practice the Jewish faith back home. We could do this by pulling off an airlift, akin to operation Solomon in the 1980s, when dozens of thousands Ethiopian Jews returned home to Eretz Israel.

Since the Holocaust was given a backseat by the Allies, now proven by documents recently uncovered, demonstrating their indifference or lack of intention to stop it.The Allies knew about the programmed genocide and final solution from 1942 onwards. We as Jews have only ourselves to rely on and no other nation will lift a finger to our hour of distress. It’s all in our hands! Eretz Israel exists for a reason so that we as a people can exist in the ever growing hostile and anti-semitic world, not so that we can deny the birthright on the basis of blacklisting Rabbis whom have manipulated our government tenfold. The time for the Igbos to come home has arrived so the world may see we as a people are resolute in our survival. Now is a time to come home. I call on our ministry of absorption to let the Aliyah from Biafraland or Nigeria commence.

About the Author
Alon Fisher was born in Israel and grew up mostly in South Africa. He has always taken a keen interest in the SA-Israel relationship and the demonisation of Israel evident in so many South African and global institutions. He suffers from Aspergers Syndrome and therefore thinks "out-of-the-box."
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