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Ten tribes that composed the Kingdom of Israel. When Sargon, King of the Assyrian Empire, completed the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E., he led most of the population into exile. Ever since then, the ultimate fate of these exiles has been the subject of innumerable theories and legends. The Talmud presents contradictory opinions. One maintains that the ten tribes were assimilated with the populations among which they lived. Another opinion holds that they survived and joined the exiles from Judea in 6th century B.C.E. who returned to their homeland in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Medieval Jewish writing is full of references to one or another of the Lost Tribes. Some of the travelers of the Middle Ages, notably Eldad the Danite, claimed to have visited among them. Eldad claimed to have found these tribes in North Africa. Some of them, he said, were called the “sons of Moses” and lived guarded by the Sambatyon, a river made impassable six days in the week by its turbulent, stone-throwing waters. To this day, Yemenite Jews and the Bene Israel of Afghanistan claim to be descended from the ancient Israelites. Various theories have identified the Tatars, the holy Shindai class of Japan, and the American Indians, in turn, as the Lost Tribes. The most popular of these theories, claiming more than a million followers in England and the U.S., identifies the people of the British Isles as the Lost Tribes.

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