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The Ten Lost Tribes

A Cross-Cultural Approach

The project, The Ten Lost Tribes: Cross-Cultural Perspective, sponsored by the German-Israel Foundation (GIF), brings together scholars from Germany and Israel for three years to examine the role of the so-called Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and their dwelling place, replete as it was with the miraculous river, Sambatyon, pure animals, and gems, in Roman, Christian, Muslim as well as Jewish thought and history.

The “lost” tribes of Israel - the descendants of those tribes of the ancient kingdom of Israel which did not return to Palestine following the Babylonian captivity - have had a prominent place in Jewish historiography, messianic speculation, and geographical imagination. Sightings of the tribes and discussions of their whereabouts have occupied a notable place in Jewish travel writing and political discourse for over a millennium.

Likewise, the threat of Jewish tribes joining the army of the Antichrist, or the requirement that the Jewish people be reuinited have long been part of Christian eschatological belief, and speculations about the location of Jewish kingdom(s) and their potential political power infiltrated various threads early modern Christian thought. Finally, tribes of virtuous tribes of Jews who during the End of Days would assist the Messiah and the Muslims in their battle against the Anti-Messiah, or Dajjal, who in turn would be supported by wicked tribes of Jews became an integral aspect of Muslim discourse about Jews and their relationship with the “Umma”, the community of the believers, i.e. Muslims.

This project seeks to uncover the ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Muslim beliefs about these lost tribes of Jews were related, continued to evolve in dialogue with one another, and were used by various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities as a tool in their dealings with one another from antiquity to the present.


01-2015 - 12-2017

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