In the near, or distant future will there be just one, or two Israelite states? One, the state that arose in 1948, on part of the territory of the ancient Hebrew State founded by G-d in what is called the Near East, exists presently.
The other nearly came to life as the Republic of Biafra. Talking about the Igbo people who are forcing scholars who are studying them to take another serious look at Israelite history and culture. As this essay is not for the purpose of proving that the Igbo are Jews, or Israelites or Hebrews-which has been proved beyond reasonable doubt, and with evidence like the one I will discuss briefly hereafter. The institutional structures of Israel from Joshua’s era to the exile of Judah were or are replicated outside the land of Israel only by the Igbos, in Igboland. The Israelite priesthood developed as G-d conceived it, outside the land of Israel only among the Igbo. There are many traditions of Israel, which are central in the Tanach, which did not develop in practice among the other communities of Israel which have consistently tried to live by the culture of Israel since the three great deportations of the Hebrews from their land-these traditions are still central in the Igbo culture in 2017. A good example is the Osu institution. The Osu were the people who assisted the priests, Leviim, and elders, in public religious services. Their direct parallels did the same in the Tanach. The great Israelite general, Yoav, strove to become one, to escape King Shlomo’s wrath. As I wrote, this essay is not for the purpose of proving that Igbos came from Israel, and that ‘Ome na ana’ (Igbo culture) is Israelite culture. That has been proved. A person who really wants to learn and understand Igbo culture can start with The Igbos And Israel: An Inter-cultural Study of the Largest Jewish Diaspora, which is on Amazon. The essay is about what the future of the Hebrews will be. Will another Hebrew state arise?
From what I can see, I think that another one will arise from the Igbos in the future. In the past, well before Israelites operating as Zionists got their acts together, and God blessed their efforts, and Israel became a reality, the Igbo who what they were called then were more like Eboe, Ebreo, Iboe, Ibo, had what we could call a federation of republics, held together only by their knowledge that they were one people, and were different from their neighbors in religion, culture, and language. This entity operated independently until it was overthrown by British arms, and in 1914 was amalgamated into the British construct called Nigeria.
The Igbos have moved from one calamity to the other for over 500 years. More Igbo people are believed to have been sold into New World Slavery than members of any other ethnicity. The Igbo resisted the British far longer than any other people that stood on the way of Imperial Britain in Nigeria, and the consequence was that in retaliation the British imposed a form of criminal colonialism on the Igbo. The Igbo culture alone, among the cultures of every other colonized people, was targeted for destruction by the British.
The British tried to impose kings, on the Igbo who hate authoritarian rule passionately. In the Daily Post of October 2017, Nigerian (Yoruba) statesman, Olu Falae, was quoted, “We (Yoruba) decided to have a House of Chiefs and the East (Igbo) did not want to have one and there was no problem.” His statement captures Igbo revulsion for kings perfectly. Yoruba, traditionally have semi divine kings. The Igbo, traditionally were led by their elders, who were not more than first among equals. Igbo resistance to British aspirations, and plans led to the British retaliation that I alluded to. Britain’s role in the genocidal war waged against the Igbo by the other ethnicities that make up Nigeria was still part of the retaliation.
All the troubles have weakened the Igbo almost to the point of collapse. But the Igbos have an uncanny knack for surviving against all odds. The Igbo suffered genocide in Biafra, and survived it. Igbos and Jews have had a low level conversation for centuries. In the middle of the 20th century it was even at governmental levels, but I think that while it was likely that Michael Okpara, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Akanu Ibiam felt that Israelis were kith and kin, that David ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol may have felt that the Igbo were rather a people who have a unique feeling of affection for, and closeness to Jews. The Igbos were forged in a color blind culture, while the Israelis were forged in European culture, where things like ethnicity was seen through color of skin.
The African is more likely to be a tribalist, and an ethnocentric, while the European would likely be more racist than ethnocentric. However, instinctively I may say, the Igbo, and the Jew, continue to reach out to each other, and to talk. Dr. Daniel Lis, Swiss-Israeli anthropologist, and author of Jewish Identity Among The Igbo of Nigeria, earned himself a name by studying this dreamlike activity that has not been given a name. Meanwhile as the interactions continue, the Igbo are rebuilding and renewing the dilapidated Igbo society, as a Hebraic one, with its eyes on YHWH, and Zion. When the renewal reaches certain levels, what will happen? Will they rejoin the Israelites who have returned to the Land of Israel, the land of their ancestors?
A few Israelis, and a few Igbos, and a few non Israeli Jews; incurable optimists, hope so. I have been in the vanguard of the struggle for the Igbo to shrug off Hellenization, and become fully Hebrew culturally again, but I am also a scholar: one with soberly cold eyes. Exile implanted many evil seed like foreign creeds, and racism, in the Israelite psyche, and these militate against real honest rapprochement, so I don’t know what will happen in the future, vis a vis a second Hebrew state. But I know that the eyes of the Hebrews who live on the banks of the Niger, are increasingly trained on the G-d of Israel and Zion, which its eyes must be on, for it to even rise.
Remy Ilona is at the Florida International University, Miami, Florida.