(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) The scholar known
internationally as the “British Indiana Jones” has tracked a tribal people
identifying itself as a “Lost Tribe of Israel” in a remote corner of Papua New
Florida International University religious studies professor
Tudor Parfitt recently conducted an expedition to Papua New Guinea, where he
studies the Gogodala, a tribe of former cannibals who believe they are one the
Lost Tribes, according to a Florida International University press release.
The Gogodala are now hunter-gatherers in western Papua
New Guinea with very little connection to the outside world. But from the very
first encounters with western explorers in the 17th century, the idea took root
that ancient Israelite communities were to be found in the islands of the
Pacific. Australian missionaries later went on to further propagate the idea.
A decade ago, at the request of tribe leaders, Parfitt
conducted DNA testing on the Gogodala to see if he could establish any link to
the Middle East. The tests were inconclusive. Nonetheless, the Gogodala have
continued to embrace Judaism. During his most recent visit, Parfitt was
surprised to see how the Jewish practice had developed in the tribe.
“The bedrock of the religious identity of the Gogodala
remains in some respects, their traditional belief system, upon which has been
grafted Christianity, which was introduced to the tribe in the 1950s by
missionaries,” Parfitt said. “On top of that has been grafted a kind of
Judaism. More and more of the Gogodala wear yarmulkes [kippot] and prayer
shawls. They’ve started celebrating Jewish holidays and they are using more