Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Ari and Ari: Laws of the Jungle

Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Ari Greenspan

In Papua New Guinea, a land where hunters live by their arrows, and children wield machetes, there are tribesmen who believe they’re reconnecting to their Jewish roots

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 Mishpacha image

If the flight was exhausting, we were quickly rejuvenated — as we left the airport terminal, we were greeted by about 100 Gogodala tribesmen waving Israeli flags and singing “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem” and other Hebrew songs (Photos: Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Ari Greenspan)

T here is exotic, and then there is off the charts. When we heard about a tribe in Papua New Guinea (PNG) that claims descent from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel and is now expressing interest in returning to Judaism, we knew we needed to plan a trip. But how do you contact tribesmen who live deep in the jungles of this remote Third World country, where phones are rare and Internet is nonexistent? And what would we do once we got there, in a locale where transportation is primitive at best, and roads don’t exist? (Disclaimer: this had absolutely nothing to do with Mishpacha’s current serial, Normal Like Me, whose protagonists come from PNG.)

Our plan was to visit Papua New Guinea, a country just north of Australia, consisting of dense jungles, tropical rain forests, large wetlands, and hundreds of offshore islands surrounded by vast coral reefs… and cannibals. We were told by a woman whose cousin is in the navy that Indonesian military maps mark PNG’s cannibal regions in red. Shortly before we visited, we read about a British couple who had recently been captured and tortured there. Back in 1961, Michael Rockefeller, youngest son of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, is assumed to have been killed and eaten by cannibals in New Guinea. And although cannibalism was made illegal more than 50 years ago, every so often reports surface of these human feasts.

The Gogodala have several ancient customs that resemble Jewish traditions, and European explorers had even written about “a race of Jews in New Guinea suspected to be a remnant of the Ten Tribes of Israel”

The cannibalism threat was pushed to the back of our minds, though, because we had so many other things to worry about. Our infectious disease expert warned us that there is an extremely high transmission rate of malaria year-round; risk of travelers’ diarrhea exists throughout the country, even in deluxe accommodations; tuberculosis is in the highest-risk category; the chikungunya virus risk is countrywide; and deadly Australian box jellyfish inhabit the coastal waters.

He didn’t tell us that Melioidosis, caused by a bacteria found in soil and water, has recently been found in the soil in Balimo, our exact destination. For good measure, he did let us know that violent crime is very common in the capital, Port Moresby. Despite being a small city by international standards, with only about 400,000 people, it’s considered among the ten most dangerous cities in the world. This was confirmed for us by a hotel owner in Daru, who had been carjacked more than once in Port Moresby. So why, we wondered, were we going?

Because members of the Gogodala tribe in that distant island believe that they are descendants of exiled Jews from the First Temple period, and of course, we wanted to see for ourselves. So we packed our Shabbos supplies and took our shechitah knives just in case — and as usual, siyata d’Shmaya was on our side through what was probably our most astounding halachic adventure to date. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 681)

Related Stories

From Strength to Strength

Binyamin Rose with Eliezer Shulman and Yisrael Yoskowitz

As involved as he was with Israel before his appointment, for Ambassador David Friedman, nothing com...

Courage of His Convictions

Yossi Elituv and Aryeh Ehrlich

Gilad Erdan speaks frankly, in measured tones, and without spouting the clichés that politicians so ...

Torah Triumphs in Passaic

Binyamin Rose, Passaic, New Jersey

Here, progress is measured by how its newcomers succeeded in winding the clock backward, all the way...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Weekly Struggle
Shoshana Friedman Cover text: promise big and deliver what we promise
Only Through You
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A response to last week’s letter, “Waiting in Passaic”
Are You Making a Kiddush Hashem?
Yonoson Rosenblum In communal affairs, “one bad apple…” often applies
Chance of a Lifetime
Eytan Kobre I identify with the urge to shout, “No, don’t do it!”
Work / Life Solutions with Bunim Laskin
Moe Mernick "You only get every day once"
Seeking a Truly Meaningful Blessing
Dovid Zaidman We want to get married. Help us want to date
Shivah Meditations
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Equivalence between two such polar opposites is puzzling
Magnet Moment
Jacob L. Freedman Everyone’s fighting a battle we know nothing about
Secrets and Surprises
Riki Goldstein Top-secret suits Eli Gerstner just fine
Blasts of Warmth
Riki Goldstein Keeping the chuppah music upbeat in low temperatures
Behind the Scenes
Faigy Peritzman The intrinsic value of each mitzvah
Good Vision
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Good or bad, nice or not? What you see is what you get
Day of Peace
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz On Shabbos we celebrate peace within and without