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AFGHANISTAN:

Country of Asia, lying to the northwest of India. The Afghans themselves have a tradition that they are descendants of the lost Ten Tribes. They were carried away by Buktunasar (Nebuchadnezzar) to Hazarah, which they identify with the Arsareth (R. V. Arzareth) of the Bible. In the "Tabaḳati-Nasiri," a native work, it is stated that at the time of the Shansabi dynasty there was a people called Bani Israel, who traded with neighboring countries; they had settled in the country of Ghor, southeast of Herat, and about the year 622 they were converted to Islam by a person called Kais or Kish (see Ten Tribes). This throws no light, however, upon the source of the modern Jews of Afghanistan, said to number 40,000 in about sixty congregations, who are chiefly concentrated at Kabul (2,000 souls), Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Balkh. The ruins of the synagogue at Kabul are said to date from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, but the present Afghan Jews speak Persian, and all their religious books and teachers come from Teheran or Muscat. They have in each of the above-mentioned fivetowns a special quarter called the Mahall-i-Yehudiyeh, which is closed at sunset and opened at dawn. They dress like the rest of the Afghans, except that they wear a black turban, said to be mourning for the fall of Jerusalem, but probably as a distinctive mark (see Badge). Several of them are doctors. They are exempt from military service, but instead pay a harbieah, or war-tax. In 1880 Ayub Khan ordered the Jews of Herat to supply for a harbieah 300 laborers and 2000 tomans (equal to 10,000 Austrian florins), and this caused many to flee back to Persia. See Balkh, Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Herat.

Bibliography:
  • Bellew, Races of Afghanistan, 1880, p. 15;
  • Allg. Zeit. d. Jud. 1878, p. 810, 1880, p. 271;
  • Benjamin II., Mas'e Yisrael, chap. cxxv. 74-76 (only vague references);
  • Jew. Chron. Oct. 4 and 11, 1878, Aug. 13, 1886.
J.
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