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Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel (In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel)
From The Publisher:
The fate of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel has fascinated Jews and Christians throughout the ages. Hillel Halkin, a distinguished writer and translator, has long been intrigued by the old legend that the tribes still exist in distant corners of the earth -- a legend that, like nearly all contemporary investigators of the subject, he considered to lack all factual basis. In 1998, he accompanied a Jerusalem rabbi and dedicated Lost Tribes hunter to China, Thailand, and northeast India in search of traces of the biblical Israelites who disappeared in the eighth century B.C.E. The journey ended among a little-known ethnic group living along the India-Burma border who had themselves been swept in recent years by Lost Tribe fever. Halkin returned twice more to the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur for a deeper look. Gradually, despite his initial skepticism, he became convinced that this remote group is -- incredible as it may seem -- historically linked to the ancient biblical tribe of Manasseh.
Across the Sabbath River is the compulsively readable account of Halkin's experiences in arriving at this conviction. A superb writer, he effortlessly interweaves the biblical and historical backgrounds of this centuries-old quest with a captivating account, both funny and poignant, of his own adventures. In vivid, engaging portraits, he introduces us to a wide and memorable range of characters at once alien and familiar, while transporting us to an exotic society obsessed with the enigma of its own identity. Piece by piece, as in a tantalizing detective story, he amasses the evidence that finally persuades him, and will persuade many of his readers, that, for the first time in history, a living remnant of a lost biblical tribe has been found.
From Publishers Weekly:
Noted author and translator Halkin (Letters to an American Jewish Friend) offers a captivating tale that is part travelogue, part ethnography, part cultural treasure hunt. His trail of tantalizing clues too often leads nowhere, but readers should hang in, because the search is not in vain, and the culture Halkin describes is in itself striking. He visits the Mizo people of northeast India a people who improbably but passionately claim to be descendants of the ancient Israelite tribe of Manasseh, one of the 10 tribes of northern Israel who were exiled by the Assyrians around 720 B.C. and then lost to history. Mizo tradition says they are the "children of Manmasi" possibly a corruption of Manasseh. Their rituals include a fragment of a "red sea song" and the symbolic circumcision of a baby boy eight days after birth; their god is named Za or Ya, possibly linguistically related to the biblical Yahweh. The attempt to trace Mizo traditions is frustrated by the disintegration of what they call "the old religion" as Christianity has insinuated itself into even remote regions of Asia. The intense desire of the Mizos to be considered Jews is both comical and touching (and colored by an equally intense desire to emigrate to Israel); their internecine conflicts over theology will be sadly familiar to Jews everywhere. Halkin offers a rich portrait of an entire people suffering an identity crisis in the midst of a region filled with ethnic turmoil, and his conclusions about the origins of the Manmasi people will amaze even skeptical readers. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
"A good-humored travelogue."
—The San Francisco Chronicle
"A writer and scholar worth listening to . . . this elegantly written "detective story" . . . helps put the Mizos on the Jewish agenda."
"Spirited, engaging, and charmingly written . . . fascinating, full of vividly rendered encounters . . . rendered with insight, wit, and considerable humor."
About the Author
Hillel Halkin was born in New York City and has lived in Israel since 1970.
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