According to Shalva Weil, there is considerable body of evidence suggesting that the Pathan ethnic group, from which most of the Taliban are drawn, is
one of the fabled "10 lost tribes" of ancient Israel. Indeed, as recently as half a century ago, Pathan tribesmen themselves claimed that they were
descended from wandering Jews.
The Pathans, who are also called Pashtuns, were said to wear cloaks decorated with a symbol that closely resembled the lamps lit by Jews at Hanukkah.
The traveler also reported that they donned prayer shawls similar to those of their Jewish counterparts in the West, insisted that men grow side
curls, and lit votive candles on Friday evenings, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.
Some anthropologists have also found Pathan families that circumcise sons, on the eighth day after their birth, in keeping with Jewish custom.
A legend of the Pathans, as recounted to Weil when she did field research among them in the 1980s along the Pakistani border, tells of a "Jeremiah,"
a son of King Saul - but not the more familiar Jeremiah of the Old Testament who sired a daughter named "Afghana." Her descendants, the legend
maintains, made their way to the Central Asian land that now bears her name.
A Jewish connection of more recent and well-documented origin leads just across Afghanistan's western frontier to the Iranian city of Mashhad. It is
the traditional home of the "Mashhadi Jews," who were forcibly converted to Shiite Islam after a pogrom in 1839.
Like some of their distant Sephardic cousins in Islamic Spain, the Mashhadi Jews behaved in public as faithful Muslims - even making,the pilgrimage to
Mecca when they could afford it - but clung secretly to Judaism at home.
Hundreds of them emigrated to the Shiite region around Herat in western Afghanistan over the years, which is today a najor stronghold of the
The U.S. war against terrorism, in short, may be unfolding amid a second war between two lost tribes of Israel.