Group of Senegalese Claim Jewish Past
Lost brothers? Some 4,000 residents of a remote village called Bani Israel in Senegal are claiming they are of Jewish descent, according to an article published by the official Senegalese news agency, APS.
The article attempts to trace the origins of the residents of the village, which is in Senegal’s remote southeast, a two-hour drive from the capital Dakar.
President of the village Dougoutigo Fadiga reported that villagers of Jewish origin. “Our fathers’ forefathers left Egypt in order to avoid persecution,” he said, claiming that they left the Horn of Africa and made their way west. Fadiga said they settled in the village of Bani Israel, where they have lived for thousands of years.
Fadiga conjectured that their forefathers kept the secret of their Jewish heritage from their children so that they would not be compelled to practice Judaism in the midst of the other residents of the villagers, who are Muslim and lead a Muslim lifestyle. He added, however, that the knowledge of their Jewish origins has been passed down orally from generation to generation.
Two years ago, Israel’s Ambassador to Senegal Gideon Behar visited the village and inquired about the villagers’ origins. However, the villagers did not cooperate.
Behar reported then to the Foreign Ministry that the villagers had removed the word “Israel” from the name of their village on their passports so that they could make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia without being harassed.