I just read the strangest article (in print, in Hebrew, no online link).
What is even stranger was that when I mentioned it to Jameel, he already knew about it, and of course had even more details.
The Jewish community is familiar with Crypto-Jews, such as those from Spain, also known as Marranos or Conversos. These are Jews who were forced to hide their religion, but continue to practice it (or parts of it) in secret, passing down bits and pieces to their descendents.
But it seems their might very well be Crypto-Jews living in the Land of Israel – looking and acting like Muslim-Arabs!
The article describes an Arab Hamula (clan) which lives near Hebron and who claim to be Jewish.
It all began years ago when a local Jewish resident saw an old Arab on the road that looked exactly like a well-known Sephardic rabbi.
He approached the Arab and asked him who he was, and that old Arab guy started to tell him his family's story.
He claimed to be descendants of Moroccan Jews who arrived in Israel in the 1600s. Their original family name was Amsallem.
After nearly the entire family was wiped out by Arab raiders, the survivors adopted the external appearance of Muslim Arabs to save their lives. They have certain Jewish traditions/rituals they follow in secret, and of course they pass down the knowledge they are Jews to their children.
True or not true? Who knows.
But the stories gets even weirder.
In 1948, 35 Jews were massacred in Gush Etzion. They become known as the “Lamed-Hey”. They were killed by Arabs from the town of Tzurif.
What is interesting is that Arabs from this town apparently have a tradition that they are descended from Jews going back to the Second Temple period, and at some point they were forced to convert to Islam.
Supposedly in their homes they have various unusual customs that point to remnants of Judaism (such as a pseudo mezuzah, and brit mila at 8 days).
And more interesting is that supposedly other Arabs also consider them to be descendants of Jews.
Apparently the legend of Jewish descent is linked to some of the most violent, terrorist laden, religiously strict clans in the Gush Etzion/Hebron region.
And the alleged reason why they are so extreme in their religion and violence?
To prove to their fellow Muslim Arabs that they really aren’t Jews.
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד