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Israeli Scholar: The Romani People Are Descendants of the Israelite Tribe of Simeon

The Jewish-Gypsy Forum convened in Jerusalem earlier this month to celebrate the bond between both peoples

Liel Leibovitz
December 06, 2017
The Romani People flagShutterstock
The Romani People flagShutterstock

Several years ago, Shmuel Avukia, an Israeli Bible enthusiast, was studying the weekly parsha when he was struck by a peculiar sentence. “And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me,” it read, right there in Genesis, Chapter 33, and Avukia began wondering just who the folk in question may be. Years of arduous research later, Avukia came up with what he believes is the answer: The Bible makes specific references to the Romani people, who are the descendants of the Israelite tribe of Simeon.

Avukia began sharing his ideas on Facebook, and quickly found supporters among both Jews and the Romani. Last week, he and a few dozen Israelis met in Jerusalem for the inaugural meeting of The Jewish-Gypsy Forum, which also attracted 60 French Romani tourists who traveled to town especially for the occasion.

“The gypsies know that they’re of Jewish origin, but they have no proof,” Avukia told the Israeli press. “I believe that by putting together my research and new things we’ll learn about the gypsy community, its origins, and its traditions, we can further connect the dots.”

To those who believe that the connection is far-fetched, Avukia reminds that the Nazis had sought out to exterminate only two people, the Jews and the Romani, a historical connection, he added, “that we simply cannot ignore and that suggests we’ve discovered a lost tribe.”

In addition to corresponding with thousands of Romani and Jewish scholars who are asking him for more proof to support his ideas, Avukia is working on presenting his findings in a book and a video in order to present it to several of Israel’s leading rabbinic authorities. He’s almost certain, he said, that most people will start out by denying the logic of his claims.

“Of course, people will try to deny it,” he said. “But I believe in the Jewish logic, that only things that appear impossible end up happening, like the establishment of the State of Israel. That, too, was a dream that seemed absolutely imaginary, yet here we are. This is how I see things unfurling with the gypsies. It’s a process, and we’re only getting started, and we should proceed slowly and smartly, but if it’s the truth, it will eventually come out.”

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.