There is much more to Ladakh than just the scenic beauty and heavenly natural beauty. The history of the place and its people is fascinating. Apart from the local culture and the ongoing traditional customs, there are a few places in Ladakh that are accommodated with culture and tradition that goes way back to a thousand years and have foregrounds different from that in India. Following history and whatever has happened in the past, this culture, religion, and tradition have been successful in keeping their authenticity intact.
VILLAGE- GOSHON (Ladakh)
The journey of Jesus to India(in Kashmir) in search of lost tribes of Israel is supported by historical, traditional, and Biblical Literature as well. It may come to surprise to many but the Jewish population in India has been residing for the past 2000 years. Also, India is one of the few places where Jewish immigrants were welcomed without a history of anti-Semitism. And that is the reason, there is plenty of Jewish history in the country to explore. It is also said that due to the hospitality and welcoming nature in India, there are Israeli soldiers who commonly travel to India after finishing their mandatory tours of duties.
The village named Goshon in Ladakh is a remote place where the population is very small. Here, resides a few families that claim to be a part of the ‘Lost tribes of Israel’. Goshon village is just 2 kilometres from Dras in Ladakh. Dras lies between Zoji La Pass and Kargil which is 164 kilometres from Srinagar. Very few people are aware of this place, as just 400 people are living here and it has only 80 huts. The only fact that makes it famous is the five families living here who are known to be a part of the ‘Lost tribes of Israel’.
There are several reasons why this set of populations is different from the other. As they follow a certain religion of their own which is yet to be understood by others, they speak their own language/dialect which is unknown to others, and while most of the population is dark-skinned and Mongoloid in appearance whereas these people have caucasian features and have fair skin. This part of the population follows all the Jewish customs, have Jewish names(like Ismail, Abraham, Isaac), perform the rituals which are a part of the Jewish culture. They have Talisman on their doors(like the Jewish Mezuzoth) and have eating habits just like the Jew’s kosher-style. Their burial customs are also similar to those of the Jews, bodies facing west towards Jerusalem, also the circumcising of the children takes place on the 8th day(not on the 10th day like Muslims).
HABAYIT HAYEHUDI, Leh (Ladakh)
Habayit Hayehudi in Leh is also a remote place where the tribes are found. They follow the traditional Jewish culture and are also welcoming to the tourists so that they can also have a traditional experience of their culture. The tourists are 99% Jewish because the signs, symbols, and language on the boards inviting are written in Hebrew(also in English at some places). There are free Shabbat meals for Jewish travellers who visit Habayit Hayehudi. There are several other activities for the travellers to join like, the social gatherings where they sing in their native language, then there are morning prayers and many more.
In Leh, there is a board sign which says, “We are waiting for you at Habayit Hayehudi (the Jewish Home),” it is written in the Hebrew language. The boarding sign points out towards the Changspa road, which leads to Habayit Hayehudi, easy for the Jewish travellers to spot the place.
It goes back to the time of the Assyrian Kings who deported the Jewish people on a large scale back in 745-28 B.C. and 722-05 B.C. the reasons behind deporting were military and political. Thousands of Jews were deported from the northern kingdom of Israel and hence, the deportation and resettlements once again happened 200 years later. There were rebellions and a vast number of Jews settled in the foreign countries which resulted in the loss of the Jewish tribes. The settlements mainly happened in Afghanistan, India, and other Asian countries. There are about 300-400 people in Afghanistan who call themselves ‘Bani Israels’(sons of Israel) and also have Jewish names similar to the names of the Jews in India. They speak the Indo-Iranian dialect which is also similar to the dialect spoken by the few families in Goshon, India. There are chances that the Jewish tribes of Israel that live in Afghanistan might have wandered in Ladakh and then continues their way to Afghanistan and settled there.
Dras is considered a wise choice by them as it lies on the silk route to Tibet which allowed them to trade despite being in isolation.
Most of the tribal people from Israel considered living isolated due to the war and rebellious conditions in their country. These lost tribes of Israel don’t just live in Ladakh or Kashmir in India, but in Kerala, Himachal Pradesh(Kasol) also.
These mentioned places where the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’, are found and rarely known to common people and travellers. There are several reasons for their lesser-known existence, first, they live in remote areas. Second, lack of information, there is very little information about the existence of Israel’s lost tribes. To have a better experience knowing these tribes and people, there are some Ladakh tour packages that can help you get the traditional Jewish experience by taking you to these places and making you familiar to the Jewish people residing in Goshon and Habayit Hayehudi.
The culture and tradition the tribes follow are thousands of years old and the authenticity is just the same. The population of these tribes that reside here in Ladakh is very welcoming to tourists and travellers. Whoever visits here, experience the inexperienced.
Jewish travellers are always welcome to visit and embrace their long lost heritage in India. As there are only a few places left with the proper tradition and customs followed outside of Israel.
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