17.2.4. To The Americas

Another, perhaps equally-strange idea, promoted by Mormons and some Native American Indians, holds that the lost tribes crossed the Atlantic to the Americas.

Special interest is attached to the fantastic traveler’s tale told by Aaron (Antonio) Levi de Montezinos who, on his return to Amsterdam from South America in 1644, told a remarkable story of having found Indians beyond the mountain passes of the Cordilleras who greeted him by reciting the Shema [Deu. Deu. 6:4]. Among those to whom Montezinos gave his affidavit was Manasseh Ben Israel, then rabbi of Amsterdam, who fully accepted the story, and to it devoted his Hope of Israel (1650, 16522) which he dedicated to the English Parliament. In section 37 he sums up his findings in the following words: “1. That the West Indies were anciently inhabited by a part of the ten Tribes, which passed thither out of Tartary, by the Straight of Anian. 2. That the Tribes are not in any one place, but in many; because the Prophets have fore-told their return shall be into their Country, out of divers places; Isaiah especially saith it shall be out of eight. 3. That they did not return to the Second Temple. 4. That at this day they keep the Jewish Religion. 5. That the prophecies concerning their return to their Country, are of necessity to be fulfilled. 6. That from all coasts of the World they shall meet in those two places, sc. Assyria and Egypt; God preparing an easier, pleasant way, and abounding with all things, as Isaiah saith, ch. 49, and from thence they shall flee to Jerusalem, as birds to their nests. 7. That their Kingdom shall be no more divided; but the twelve Tribes shall be joined together under one Prince, that is under Messiah, the Son of David; and that they shall never be driven out of their Land.” The Latin work was translated into English the same year it was published, and ran through three editions in as many years, and Manasseh Ben Israel used this “evidence” of the dispersal of the Jews throughout the world as an argument to Oliver Cromwell in his appeal to permit the return of the Jews to England, then the only country which had no Jews. As long as this situation existed, the fulfillment of the prophecy that the coming (or the second coming) of the Messiah would take place only when the Jews were scattered in the four quarters of the world (section 35). Both through the translation and the correspondence which the story initiated between Manasseh Ben Israel and theologians in England, it played a significant role in creating the atmosphere which eventually brought about the return of the Jews to England.1