The Igbo, DNA, Struggle for Jewish souls

The Igbo is one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. Long based in the south of what became Nigeria, the Igbos are as much African as Cleopatra who was Greek was Egyptian (African). Or as much European as the Jews who were by Roman times already a large segment of the population.

But going by culture the Igbos are Israelites. Their basic culture is Israelite. Some Igbo scholars opine that as they do not have records that the Igbos immigrated from Israel, that that means that the Igbos are not Israelite. Many Igbo scholars are convinced that the Igbos are Israelites. Interestingly the two opposing camps agree on one thing: that the Igbo and the Jewish cultures are similar. However those that say nay say that this does not mean that there is a relation with Israel, because according to them-all ancient cultures are similar. And here they are gravely and grossly mistaken. A person who has not spent good time studying the Igbo, the Hebrew, and other cultures can make the mistake of believing that all cultures are similar. Well this is not the basic reason why I decided to write this article.

Something incredible is happening. The whole ethnic group is discussing its future. The discussion is about whether they will revert to Judaism which is its original culture, and which tale-tellingly the phrase that the Igbos call their culture affirms to be their original culture. To get confirmatory proof that Omenana is connected to the Land of Israel, I had my DNA analyzed, and smack, there is Middle Eastern in me. The results of many Igbo including Igbo American lawyer Emeka Maduewesi show the same Middle Eastern. Igbos are taking note. Following a charismatic Igbo leader called Nnamdi Kanu, who characteristically dons a tallit, and who agitates for the revival of the defunct state of Biafra as a response to the historic persecution of the Igbos in Nigeria, many Igbos are engaged in this debate.

Non Igbos have taken note. A messianic Christian group based in America which describes itself as Jewish says that it wants to work with these descendants of ancient Jews that it views as new Jewish brides. A few months ago, its representatives came to Nigeria, and collected samples for DNA testing from one urban center.  Some have said that this messianic group has come too late, if it has competition in mind, because a Jewish group called Kulanu Inc, which responded to the Igbos, aided them in very important ways, and has worked assiduously with the Igbo for years is the face of the Jewish community to majority of the Igbo people.

We wait to see how this battle royale will go.

About the Author
Remy Ilona, is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Riverside, where he also functions as a teaching assistant. He is also the secretary-general of Hebrew-Igbo people, an Igbo socio-cultural organization. He is also an author of 10 books. He is of Ibo or Igbo extraction, and a lawyer by training, as well as a historian of the Ibo. He is among the leaders shepherding the Ibos re-emerging Judaism.