India and the Land of Israel – Meir Bar Ilan



Translated from Hebrew by Danielle Sharon and Erica Meyer Rauzin.

The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies, Vol IV, 2001.

Meir Bar Ilan – April 10, 1880 – April 17, 1949


The ties between India and Israel, like many relationships, began behind the scenes and ended up in the open. The purpose of this article is to evaluate the historic ties between the two countries and the two peoples, the Jews and the Indians, over the course of approximately 2000 years. Links start in the tenth century BCE (if not earlier), and are examined up to the time when the Jews were mentioned in the brass plates from Cochin, written around the year 1000. Sources will be reviewed chronologically, from their beginning in the Bible, through the Hellenistic literature and, finally, in the Rabbinic-Talmudic literature.

  1. In the Bible
  2. India at the End of the World

India is mentioned only one time in the Bible, in the Scroll of Esther. The scroll begins and ends (Chapters 1 and 9), with a description of King Ahasuerus’ reign (Esther 1:1): “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over 107 and 20 provinces.” That is, the Persian kingdom spread over a large number of countries, and the Persian Empire spread from India in the east to the Land of “Kush” in the west, the largest empire in the world until its time.1 Indeed, even if—as claimed—the number 127 is only typologically important, the substance is real: the Persian Empire spread over almost all the known world’s land mass, as it was understood in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE.

In light of this description, it is now possible to obtain different views from the literary perspective and, more confusingly, the geographical perspective, though both have the same intent.

The geographical description of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14) mentions four rivers: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Euphrates, and the Hiddekel. It says:

And a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from thence it was parted and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pishon: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold: and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it, which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

The description in Genesis does not mention India at all, however—as will be explained—the land of the Havilah is India (that is, part of it), as already stated by an Aramaic translator,2 while the river Pishon is the Indus. Examining this description in detail, starting with the issue of the rivers,3 proves this view.

Based upon this view of the world, the “Garden” is actually the populated world. There are four real rivers in it, two in its center, even if the word “center” is not mentioned, and two more rivers surrounding (“that circle”) the world.

Therefore, Gihon is the Nile flowing north, while the river Pishon is the Indus flowing south.4 Thus, a kind of “symmetry” and “roundness” is formed in the map of the world, similar to the map described in regard to Ahasuerus’ reign. The “center” of the world is in Mesopotamia and in this center are two big rivers. Far away on each side is a “circling” river that flows to the sea, going about and around, until it comes out again. It appears that the world—that is, the Garden—is surrounded by water.5

At least on the surface, this geographical approach seems to disagree with the Bible of the land of Israel, due to the fact that Mesopotamia is located in the center, even if this is not specifically mentioned. In fact, the scriptural portion on the flood, which follows the portion on the Garden of Eden, makes it evident that Noah’s Ark rested on the mountain of Ararat, which is close to Mesopotamia (and not, for example, on the summit of Mt. Hermon). This description expresses the Mesopotamian background of the story. Apparently, this phenomenon is a consequence of the beginning of the Book of Genesis being part of the Wisdom Literature, which was prone to move more easily from one place to another. Anyway, there is no point on insisting on a picture of the world where there are two rivers in the middle and two more “surrounding” that world.6

The Gold

In essence, the double marking of the word “gold” in the scriptural portion (“there is gold there and gold”), can be interpreted as a literary style. However, it is more likely that this double marking is intentional and was meant to emphasize the importance and the value of the gold coming from the land of Havilah.7 Given both the double marking of “gold” and the description emphasizing the richness of Havilah, the text appears to hint of a wonderland with enormous riches. This description says Havilah is the land that exports bdellium, the land of the onyx stone.8

Remains of approximately 100 gold mines were found in upper Egypt, in Nubia (in Egyptian, the land of gold). However, the land of Havilah did not export only gold; it also exported bdellium and onyx. Clearly, parts of upper Egypt (Sudan or Ethiopia) could not qualify as candidates for the “land of Havilah.” Nevertheless, Sumeric and Akkadian documents make it appear that in the third millennium BCE various places in Mesopotamia were already importing gold and other merchandise in ships from a place named Dilmun, described in documents as, “a wonderful place on earth.”9 In the second millennium BCE, Dilmun sent Ur, which was in the south of Mesopotamia, not only gold but also silver, brass, necklaces of semi-precious stones, ivory combs, and pearls. Even though Dilmun was never clearly identified, it probably was one of the cities in the valley of the Indus.10 Reputably, gold was exported much earlier from India, particularly from the Indus Valley.”

During the reign of Darius in the sixth century BCE, India was considered the richest country in the Kingdom of Persia, bringing 360 talents of gold as tax revenue every year.12 This literary evidence joins other archeological findings, which clearly show, from the remains of hundreds of mines spread throughout India, the intensity of metallurgical activity in ancient India. Mines for a variety of metals—gold, silver, brass, iron, lead, etc.—date from the fourth millennium BCE onward.13 When Rome conquered Egypt in 30 BCE, it imported gold from India.14 Clearly, India continuously supplied gold for many generations, although the Egyptian gold mines did not.15

The close biblical link between gold and the land of Havilah is historically supported by India’s reputation as a gold exporter at that time. Even if one cannot conclusively identify the geographical location of the land of Havilah from this evidence alone, it is clear that it was in India, somewhere in the region of the valley of the Indus.

The Bdellium (B’dolakh)

Different interpretations have been offered as to the meaning of b’dolakh. Is it a type of a precious stone, a crystal or another species, or is it a type of perfume, an essence emanating a pleasant aroma?16 The traditional interpretation that it is a precious stone probably comes from Rav Aibu, a Talmudic scholar who lived in the land of Israel in the third century CE. Rav Aibu said b ‘dolakh was not a perfume, but a stone.17 However, he probably did not know that the word b ‘dolakh already existed in Akkadian and meant “perfumes.” Thus, biblical scholars are inclined to interpret “b ’dolakh” as perfume (indeed, the shoham is described as “stone”),18 and some scholars believed that it referred to perfumes from plants growing in southern Arabia and Somalia. However, this geographical observation seems to be only an extension of a mistaken opinion prevalent in Rome during the first century CE, according to which cinnamon (and, most probably, the other perfumes) originated in Arabia and Somalia.

Today, it is certain that most perfumes did not grow there, but grew in India and Sri Lanka. The peoples of Arabia and Somalia were, instead, the middlemen in the perfume trade.19 Even if Somalia and southern Arabia did grow perfumes such as myrrh and frankincense,20 disproving India’s role as a source of perfume would still require proving that the people of Mesopotamia maintained commercial activities with these distant locations, and not with the people of India even though India was much closer. India and Mesopotamia had a well-documented trading relationship because Mesopotamiams could trade with India by water—a cheaper option than the “Ishmaelite Caravan”—by sailing along the shores of the Persian Gulf. This also avoided the risk of sailing the open seas, which were subject to monsoon winds.

For generations, India was known as an exporter of perfumes due to its unique weather conditions and vegetation. In the first century CE, many varieties of bdellium perfume, imported from India, were well known21 in Bactria and other places, suggesting that exports during the later period reflect earlier reports. Therefore, bdellium brought from the land of Havilah is perfume.

The Onyx Stone (Shoham)

Modem researchers identify the shoham as onyx, or malachite, among other opinions.22 This stone is mentioned in the Bible not only as an export from the land of Havilah, but also as a stone placed in the tunic and breastplate of the High Priest.23 It is difficult to say anything clear about it. Possibly, the reference is to a “family” of semi-precious stones,24 not to only one particular variety of stone, as is the custom in our days. However, even if the reference is to one particular stone, or even to a specific semi-precious stone, so little is mentioned about it in the Bible that it remains in question. One thing is clear: India was and still is an exporter of semi­precious stones, diamonds, and more, particularly the south of India, the location of four port cities. These include Muziris (that is Cranganore), located about 30 kilometers north of Cochin, which was established later.25 Muziris exported ornamental stones—a variety of beryllium stones, sapphires, and diamonds—found in the middle of the country.26

In view of the above, the geographic description of two circling rivers surrounding the world (among them the Pishon, which circles the land of Havilah) like the description of the export products of this country (gold, perfumes, and precious stones) necessarily leads to the conclusion that the land of Havilah is India. Probably, the reference is not to the entire Indian sub-continent, but to classical India, that is, the cultural center in the valley of the Indus, from whence the name “India” derives.

Gold, bdellium, and ornamental stones could be obtained not only in India, but also in Ethiopia, so the possibility still remains that the land of Havilah is in Ethiopia, except for one other comparison. For many generations, India attracted people of the west as tourists, merchants, or conquerors, not only because of its uniqueness, but also due to its richness and business opportunities. In contrast, Ethiopia was hardly ever conquered over the generations. This fact indicates that the land the Bible calls “Havilah”—the land it grants a good reputation for gold, bdellium, and ornamental stones—must be India and not Ethiopia, and that Ethiopia is only mentioned “thanks” to the confusion between it and India, not only in the Middle Ages,27 but also much earlier.28

In any event, the biblical narrator is aware that India is located at the end of the world: on one side is Kush, which is upper Egypt (Sudan and Ethiopia), and on the other side of the world is the land of Havilah, which is India.

  1. Maritime Travels from the Land of Israel to India

The land of Israel first enjoyed a period of prosperity during the days of King Solomon in the tenth century BCE.29 After the biblical narrative describes the richness and greatness of the King, as well as his vast network of connections with Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and with Hiram, King of Tyrus, one encounters the following description:

India and the Land of Israel

Scholars differ about the location of Ophir, and their uncertainties are difficult to clarify.30 The narrative does not provide enough data about the commercial question, “What did the slaves of Solomon trade in exchange for the gold?” But, by analogy to what is known from a later period, it is possible to assume that Israeli and Phoenician exports included products which the two neighboring countries excelled in: glass (glassware, necklaces, and raw boulders)/1 purple dye paint (from Phoenicia), grain, wheat, wine, raisins, dried figs, olive oil, dates, honey, almond nuts, brass (from the land of Israel and Edom), and others.32 However, the large quantity of the gold, approximately 13 metric tons in modem weight, could help indicate Ophir’s location. Such a large quantity of gold leads to the assumption that it came from a process of continuous gold production, and not from an occasional extraction of gold. This large amount of gold suggests that this must refer to India, and not to Africa—where there were gold mines, but no urban coastal center that was capable of trading in gold.

The biblical author, while describing the coming of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, remembers to mention additional details about the delegation to Ophir:

I Kings 10:11-12

II Chronicles 9:10-11

And the navy also of Hiram, and the servants of Solomon, which brought gold from Ophir, brought algum trees and precious stones. And the King made of the algum trees terraces to the house of the Lord, and to the King’s palace, and harps and psalteries for singers: and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah.

And the servants also of Huram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought algum trees and precious stones. And the king made of the algum trees terraces to the house of the Lord, and to the king’s palace, and harps and psalteries for singers: and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah.


This indicates that the vessels brought back not only gold, but also precious stones (the Indian origin of which is described above) and prime quality timber. While it is possible that timber was imported to the land of Israel from Africa, the word “algum” has been identified as a transliteration from the Sanskrit valgum?3

Those who believe that Ophir was located in India include Josephus {Jewish Antiquities, pp. 4, 6, 8) and the Church Fathers, Eusebius and Hieronymus. In Le

The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies

Septuagint, the city’s name was translated as Soupheir as well as Ophir, and it seems that the reference is to Sopara, somewhat south of Bombay in India. Given that, Ophir is actually Sopara, one of the most important port cities in the Roman Empire period.34

More so, King Solomon’s vessels reached another location, as it is written in Kings and Chronicles:

I Kings 10:22

II Chronicles 9:21

For the King had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.

For the King’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.


That is, Solomon’s fleet had two destinations: the first—Ophir, a destination reached, as is specifically written, from Ezion-Geber. The second expedition’s port of departure is not specified. Moreover, the second destination (rendered “Tarshish” by scholars) remains anonymous, possibly on purpose, as written in the Book of Kings/5 On the other hand, in the Book of Chronicles, Tarshishj6 is mentioned as the country of destination, a place whose identity will be clarified below.

Forget the apparent possibility that this second fleet, unlike the first fleet, was the fruit of maritime cooperation in the Mediterranean—a more in-depth investigation will show that this was impossible. Remember that Phoenician dominance of the Mediterranean didn’t require the support of King Solomon. Consequently, there was no advantage in a joint Judeo-Phoenician expedition in the Mediterranean Sea or beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar)/7 Moreover, the streams and wind patterns in the Mediterranean Sea are relatively mild, so a round trip that lasted such a long time in the Mediterranean Sea—or even outside of it, sailing around Africa or to the north of Europe—seems improbable.38 On the other hand, cooperation in the Southern Sea looks more reasonable because other instances of cooperation are known from other sources. A port location (Ezion-Geber) is not cited, probably because the author assumed this “minor” detail was insignificant, due to his lack of experience and understanding.39

The translation attributed to Jonathan writes that this trade was with Africa. Rashi and Rabbi David Kimhi share this opinion, but the issue requires a more in­depth analysis. Scholars past and present tried to find a hint of the geographic destination of these marine voyages, but they considered only part of the available information while ignoring the broader reach of data in this work.

First, “ani-Tarshish” most probably describes the type of vessels used, and not the destination of the voyage. That is, wood for the vessels was brought south (like the cedars brought for the Temple in Jerusalem) and the vessels were built according to the “model” set by “Tarshish.” That is, they were not built as local fishing boats or local merchant vessels, but as commercial cargo ships, which nowadays would be called “Trans Atlantic” ships. Such ships would sail from Tyrus to Tarshish—which possibly was in Asia Minor or somewhere else (Sardinia)—and their name derived

India and the Land of Israel from that locale. The vessels built in Ezion-Geber were built according to the appropriate model for a long-range voyage.40 That this refers to a Phoenician ship model is self-explanatory. Clearly, due to their characteristics, these vessels were not adequate to face the monsoon winds, just as the sailors aboard them, even if very experienced in the Mediterranean Sea, had no such experience in the Indian Ocean, which required very different seamanship than the Mediterranean.41

These facts, sailors, and ships, also explain why each voyage took three years. Even if the biblical author was not meticulously precise about the length of the voyage, and “rounded up” the time, evidently it was a very long sailing time (compared to the scale of much later periods). However, before discussing the actual length of the voyage, it is important to note a few observations about the wind patterns and the sailing routes from Egypt or the land of Israel in the Indian Ocean approximately 1000 years after King Solomon.

Around the first century BCE, it became possible for a vessel sailing from Egypt to India in July under good conditions (ship, captain, sailors, and luck), to return with cargo from India within a little less than a year, because—among other reasons—the ship could now take advantage of the monsoon winds, which had not been possible before due to lack of technical expertise in shipbuilding. Only ships with a relatively large volume were capable of exploiting the monsoon winds to make the trip in a year, which was considered a very short duration at the time. Until this development, it was impossible to sail westward for several months of the year.42 No standard Phoenician ship was adequately built to dare the Indian Ocean’s winds. Vessels of the period before the Roman Empire had no choice but to follow the same, along-the-shore navigation patterns used by vessels in the Mediterranean Sea. That is, a vessel leaving Ezion-Geber would sail to the south until it came to Yemen, continue east along the southern shores of Arabia, cross the Persian Gulf and continue south along the shores of the Indian sub-continent. Not only was this a longer route than the one taken by later period monsoon-ships, but the crews of the ancient ships had to be careful with the unfamiliar winds. One suspects that the maritime navigational talent of the famous Phoenician sailors of antiquity helped them avoid the dangers of unknown wind patterns. Considering the danger the monsoon winds presented to the Phoenician vessels—due to the longer route they had to travel, their relative slowness, and their inability to sail in bad weather—a three-year return voyage (including a significant number of months in which the sailors idled) looks like a very reasonable duration for ships departing from Ezion- geber to Ophir on the western shores of India and returning safely to their bases.43

If Ophir was in Africa, the long duration of the voyage has no plausible explanation. Moreover, no archeological evidence supports the existence of real ties between the Middle East and Zimbabwe in Africa.44 The identification of India as the destination of Solomon’s and Hiram’s maritime expeditions in Tarshish ships was accomplished due to the “small” detail describing the extremely long duration of the voyage to that country. Analyzing the products imported from that mysterious country—gold, silver, ivories, monkeys and parrots—strengthens the assumption that it refers to India.45

In terms of metals, gold was covered above. As for other metals, the silver and lead mines of Nai in Baluchistan (north of the valley of the Indus) were already known by the fourth millennium BCE. Ancient silver, lead, and zinc mines also were known to exist in six other regions of India. Clearly, therefore, the export of silver in ancient times fits India more than any other country, definitely so, when the silver is exported with gold.

To comment on the exported animals, both from the zoological and the linguistic points of view, note that the Hebrew words for “monkey and “parrot” are unique. According to linguists, they originate from Tamil, a sort of dialect of Sanskrit.46 “Monkey” and “Parrot” are the first written Tamil words that are in use today, although some cast doubt on this etymology (albeit, without offering a better explanation). Therefore, it is appropriate to examine these animals from the zoological point of view.

When examining the animals and other items on the export list, one could also, at least apparently, consider Africa as the possible exporter of ivory, monkeys, and parrots. Investigation proves that it is not. The Hebrew word “shenhav” (ivory) is from the Egyptian, so one cannot deduce anything about ivory’s origin from its name. Therefore, when discussing ivory, one must look instead at the elephant itself, and consider the differences between Africa and India in regard to elephants and the trade in elephants. The Asian elephant was domesticated in India thousands of years before. Therefore, its trade in ivory is similar to trade in the products of other livestock, like cow’s milk or sheep’s wool. In contrast, the African elephant was not domesticated, and trade in its ivory was in the hands of hunters and, thus, incidental in nature.47 In ancient times, eastern Africa had no city-kingdom along the Indian Ocean that could consolidate this occasional flow of ivory brought by hunters. But Abu, that is Elephantine, in upper Egypt, could do this, and derived its name from doing it. That is, ivory that arrived in the land of Israel in an orderly fashion through marine merchants could have only come from India, not from Africa.

The case of the Tukki teaches nothing, whether the reference was to the parrot known as such in the modem Hebrew language, or whether the reference was to the peacock, as some scholars believed (and perhaps rightly so). However, the monkeys brought in ships could better hint as to the homeports of the vessels that brought them. Indeed, there are monkeys in India as there are in Africa, but these monkeys are significantly different. As among elephants, the Indian monkey can be domesticated, even if not completely, while the African monkey is a wild animal. During early generations, both Africa and India exported wild animals to different places, but the essence of the question is the type of the monkey. If the reference is to a wild animal, then it must have either been tied or caged in a safe place so that it would not harm people, or so that it would fight people, like the exotic animals that Rome imported from Africa,48 and somewhat like the handling of different wild animals, among them monkeys, being sent from Egypt to Mesopotamia.49

The Indian monkey is, uniquely, a pet, which is why it was exported for many generations, and still is. This monkey helps harvest coconuts and, in modem times, even helps handicapped people. Given this, did Solomon’s seamen bring other pet animals, such as the parrot, or domesticated animals, such as the elephant, or did they bring wild animals, those dangerous to people? No evidence exists that the land of Israel had caging facilities for animals until the arrival of Hellenistic culture, as is evident in the Bet-Guvrin theater. Since India exported monkeys, peacocks, and parrots for generations, it is reasonable to believe that the monkey brought by Solomon’s sailors was from India—this being the long-tailed monkey, the same monkey Egypt imported from the land of Punt.50 The Indian monkey is small and brings only pleasure and fun to animal lovers, as well as being entertaining during long, lonely sailing days. However, the African monkey, a dangerous animal, could only interest zoologists; its only place is in the zoo or in the wild. So we can conclude that the monkeys that Solomon’s sailors brought came from India and not from Africa.

In summary, the thrust of this entire database and of each data element indicates that Solomon’s expedition reached India. This data is further strengthened by the emergence of a sort of an Indian “export profile,” as a consequence of India’s climate and ocean. This profile fits what is known about India from a variety of sources and from different periods. Due to India’s relative advantages over many other places in the world, the profile shows a continuity of export activity through many generations.

King Jehoshaphat

About 100 years after King Solomon, in the ninth century BCE, Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, reigned in Judea. He is considered one of the greatest Judean kings. After consolidating his power in the south of the country (as it is written about him in I Kings 22:49), Jehoshaphat made Tarshish ships to travel to Ophir for gold. However, the ships got destroyed at Ezion-geber.

This short and concise verse teaches us that King Jehoshaphat probably tried to follow King Solomon, his great-grandfather, but couldn’t. The ships that broke down in the southern port probably indicate maritime activity in this region. It seems that the ships were anchored at port and a strong, unexpected wind smashed the vessels against each other, or pushed them to the shore so strongly that they were ruined. This further testifies that, at this time, the people of Judea lacked maritime expertise. They lacked experience with the special wind patterns of the Bay of Eilat and, needless to say, of the Indian Ocean. In reality, the final fate of these ships was already set from their inception. Note the difference in the maritime activity between Jehoshaphat and Solomon. King Solomon maintained a broad network of connections and cooperation with Tyrus in many areas, including maritime cooperation, while no evidence exists of such cooperation between Jehoshaphat and Phoenicia. The silence of the narrative about such cooperation is significant. The following verse strengthens the lessons learned from the destruction of the ships and is illuminating because it was written right afterward (I Kings 22:50): “Then said Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, unto Jehoshaphat, ‘Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships.’ But Jehoshaphat would not.”51 That is, the King of Israel—whose father married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Sidon, who probably could help him in this area where Phoenician sailors were experts—rejected the offer of help on the spot for reasons of prestige and politics, reasons that turned out to be wrong after the ships broke down.52

No more attempts were made, even later, to develop a port city in the south of the land of Israel. Maritime activity was renewed in this area only in the twentieth century, in the era of steamships, with the establishment of the state of Israel.53

The story of Jehoshaphat’s maritime failure only shows, by comparison, the strength of the successful aspects of King Solomon’s venture, a success that remained unequalled for many generations. At the same time, the driving force behind these maritime activities was gold. However, the political ability to achieve this goal was inconsistent and, clearly, no continuous ties were maintained between the land of Israel and Ophir, that is India. The scarcity of details about Ophir in the historical memory of the biblical authors is noticeable. From the point of view of the Bible, and of modem researchers, the various names of different countries on the Indian sub-continent, thousands of miles away from the land of Israel, were destined for oblivion.54

  1. The Importation of Perfumes from India and Sri Lanka

Gold is not the only import for which a land of origin, in this case India, is not mentioned. The lack of citations of countries of origin is an evident problem in relation to other products mentioned in the Bible, particularly perfumes.

The bride’s description in the Song of Songs 4:13-14, says: “Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.” India was the country of origin of at least three of these perfumes: calamus, spikenard, and cinnamon.55 To these add the “cassia” (Psalms 45:9), which is made of the shell of a tree of the cinnamon family.56 Specific testimony about perfumes being exported to the land of Israel from India and Sri Lanka exists from the Roman period (see below), and so this is obviously not just a later innovation. Nabataean Arabs brought the perfumes to the land of Israel, but they neither knew nor told about the origin of the perfumes, therefore the name of India is not mentioned concerning such perfumes as “Spikenard-India.” Since no similar product existed, contemporary observers had no need to mention its origin.

Due to the similarity between Indian love songs and the Song of Songs (which precedes the Indian songs by hundreds of years), and due to the mention of Indian perfumes in the Song of Songs, some believed that the Song of Songs was influenced by Indian literature,57 more so, because the authorship of this book is attributed to King Solomon, whose connections to India were described above. However, this opinion seemingly has no basis in fact. Love songs exist in any place where the human race lives, and one must not assume that the author of the Song of Songs knew that the perfumes he described came from India. This theory has other problems, including the probability that King Solomon did not compose the Song of Songs in the first place, but this is not the venue to discuss them.58

Cinnamon and calamus are mentioned in the description of the sacred oil ointment in the temple (Exodus 30:23-25). Possibly calamus is also a perfume from Sri Lanka.59 However, in all of these cases, the origin of the perfumes is not actually mentioned, just as the origin of the precious stones in the temple is not mentioned. This is because the perfumes and the stones reached the land of Israel by desert routes without leaving us the identity of their country of origin. Also, the fact that the Temple’s rituals required the import of things from so far away only emphasizes that, in the first millennium BCE, or maybe even earlier (in Canaanite temples), the land of Israel received a continuous supply of perfumes from India. The investment

involved in the importation of perfumes was much smaller than the one involved in importing gold. If importing gold was the enterprise of kings and emperors, importing perfumes was considered a small-scale activity that didn’t demand the large capital investment required to import gold.

  1. In the Hellenistic Literature

Josephus Flavius relates a story attributed to Clearchus of Soli, a pupil of Aristotle, in regard to Aristotle’s meeting with a Jewish sage. According to tradition, this was the first (known) encounter between Jews and Greeks. In Against Apion (A, 177-181) it is written, approximately:

[And Aristotle said:] “True, that [man] was a Jew from his origin, from Coele in Syria, however, they [the Jews] are descendents of the Indian philosophers, and as they say, the philosophers in India are called Kalanim, and in Syria [the philosophers are called], Jews…”60

An in-depth research project, dedicated to the “discovery” of the Jews by Aristotle, clarified that this is most probably not a true story. No historical proof exists of any encounter between Aristotle and Jews. Moreover, Clearchus related this story as taking place between 345 and 347 BCE, notwithstanding some anachronisms that are connected by the name “Kalanim” (after Kalanos, the Indian gymnosophist). Alexander the Great did not know any Jews until his expedition in 327 BCE. Thus, even if the story is untrue in the strict historical sense, the question still stands: how did it come into anybody’s mind to see the Jews as descendents of “Indian philosophers?”61 Whether this is a good story, a joke, or a philosophical fairytale (in the hypothetical struggle among different philosophical schools), even if it is not historical, it is bound to reflect a certain reality. The question being asked is: how could such a mistake as identifying the Jews with the Indians62 happen to Aristotle or Clearchus (or to the one whose words Clearchus related)? Thus, the following discussion is aimed at “defending” Clearchus, and explaining the reasons for his mistaken view that the similarity between the Jews and the Indians is significant enough that they would be considered one people, descendent of the other. Clearly, this is not an intent to “reconstruct” Clearchus’ thoughts, because that can be accomplished, if ever, only when more portions of his lost works are discovered. Nonetheless, the aim here is to explain the breath of views and ideas in the Greek world in the second half of the fourth century BCE, a world in which—as will be explained below—it was possible to assume that Jews and Indians were people of the same nation.

Two possible approaches to the similarity between Jews and Indians are the resemblances among their social and dietary customs and the resemblance between the geographic locations of their settlements.

  1. The Resemblance in Customs: Social Stratification, Purity and Impurity, and Diet

The western observer who describes India is usually very much impressed by its unique social structure, a society based on castes.63 The existence of different castes that do not mix with each other and that observe distinct customs is a well-known reality in Indian life today; with some variations, it was also a known reality in the fourth century BCE. This system bore no resemblance to fourth century Greek society; however, Jewish society in the land of Israel at that time did have many characteristics of a socially stratified society. The Mishnaic teachers taught in the Mishnat Kidushin 4:1:

Ten castes came up from Babylon:

Priests, Levites, Israelites, Impaired priests, Converts, Freed slaves, Mamzeri, Netini, “Silenced ones,” and Foundlings.

Priests, Levites, and Israelites—are permitted to marry among one another.

Levites, Israelites, Impaired priests, Converts, and Freed slaves—are permitted to marry among one another.

Converts, Freed slaves, Mamzeri, Netini, “Silenced ones,” and Foundlings—are all permitted to marry one another.64

According to the opinion of the Mishnaic teachers, Israel’s stratified society—particularly its stratified marriage rules—came from the fifth (or fourth) century BCE, the days of the Babylonian immigration. Even if this tradition requires validation from the historical point of view—to what degree is it reliable?—the Talmudic literature has more examples that testify to this social stratification, as well as to the tensions that arose because of it.65 Clearly, one cannot know the precise situation in India or in the land of Israel in ancient times, but the Greeks could have seen the existence of social stratification (such as in the status of the permanent priests, even those who were not necessarily linked to the temple’s rituals) as two phenomena, deriving one from the other.

The rigid, socially stratified structure that existed in different degrees continued, not only in the area of marriage, but also in the adherence to purity and impurity in everyday life. This differs from Greece, where purity and impurity applied only when visiting the temples. But, it extended to Indian and Jewish dietary restrictions, which had no counterparts in Greek culture. Greek eating habits varied, but the Greeks recognized almost no “forbidden” foods in the Indian or Hindu religious sense. The main Greek food restriction was based on the Hypocrite medicine.66 The exceptions were a small minority of Pythagoras’ disciples, or Orphaic groups, who refrained from eating certain foods in a manner resembling Jewish customs. Pythagoras spent decades in the east, in Egypt and Mesopotamia,67 so it may not be a coincidence that later authors thought that he also stayed in India. Nevertheless, a Greek would have looked with astonishment at Indians or Jews who refrained from eating meat served to them, and would have probably regarded their abstention as deriving from the same (ethnic-religious) source.

Moreover, it is possible that social stratification left its marks, both in India and in the land of Israel, on the clothes of the different classes, as it transpires from Rabbi Meir, a Mishnaic teacher of the second century CE (or this may be an addition by later editors). Rabbi Meir said to Avnimus the Gardi, “As we found there were a number of markets in Jerusalem and they did not mix one with the other, a market for kings, a market for prophets, and for priests and for the members of tribe of Levi and for that of Israel, they were foreigners in the way they dressed and in their markets, what these would wear the others wouldn’t.”68

While it is difficult to determine to what extent this is a historical description, it is necessary to mention the notion of “priesthood garments.” Even if this idea doesn’t exist as a permanent expression in the Bible, but only in the Talmudic literature, it nevertheless clearly reflects a social reality wherein stratification of the classes was recognized in clothes that only higher social classes (i.e. priests) were allowed to wear.69 The markets also had foodstuffs that were sold only to priests, or only to the members of the tribe of Levi.70 This clarifies why “groups of priests” ate by themselves, and why members of Israel could not join their meal.71 Based on earlier law, Jews were careful not to eat with bastards, and to avoid any social ties with them, as it is written (Deuteronomy 23:3): “No bastard will come among the people of G-d.” This means that strict prohibition of social exclusion was regarded far more severely than Mishnaic sages’ prohibition about marriage.72 Perhaps social and halachic forces suggest the historic background reflected in Rabbi Meir’s tradition. Clearly, social stratifications (or castes, in modem language) were present among the Jews in terms of marriage, socializing, eating, dress, and the strict application of purity laws. Apparently, these examples were sufficient to convince an outside observer, such as a Greek, that a real resemblance existed between the life cycles of Indians and Jews in the ancient times and that Indians and Jews could belong to the same people.

Which of these elements attracted Clearchus’ attention and caused him to believe in the existence of an ethnic connection between Jews and Indians? Evidence presented here demonstrates that he could have arrived at this conclusion. Though it may look improbable at first glance, it definitely becomes more plausible after deeper analysis. However, a geographical gap of thousands of kilometers still separates India and the land of Israel. This gap looks like a real barrier against any attempt to connect Jews and Indians. In light of this dilemma, one must examine the geographical puzzle.

  1. Geographical Distances: The “Expansion” of the World

How could a “mix up” occur between Jews residing in the land of Israel and Indians residing in India, located thousands of miles away in the east? Even if one assumes that the Jews resembled the Indians in their social customs, one still cannot ignore such a large distance. That matter requires a separate explanation.

First, note that modem astrophysical thinking is divided on whether the universe is of a fixed dimension or is expanding. In comparison, the size of our world, as far as it is known, is fixed. However, during the progress of human history, the world “expanded” twice in human perception. That is, the reality did not change, but twice mankind’s understanding of the size of the world changed. The first time came during the days of Alexander the Great,73 and the second occurred in the sixteenth century with the discovery of the “new world.” Before the world “expanded,” the distances among places were perceived differently than any child knows them to be today.74 Thus, the following makes an attempt to explain what happened in this area in the sixteenth century, a subject relatively well known in research. The “expansion” of the world in the sixteenth century is comparable to what probably happened in the fourth century BCE.

In 1492, Columbus traveled west to find India. Until the day of his death, almost 13 years later, he thought that he had reached China instead. During the sixteenth century, it became clear that Columbus really had discovered a new continent, and that the distance between Europe and India was far bigger than had previously been thought. Only in the sixteenth century did it finally become clear that the world is a globe, an idea that had floated, of course, in the human consciousness thousands of years before, but only as a philosophical and astronomical supposition.

In the sixteenth century, it became clear that the world had “expanded” in size, and myths that were thousands of years old slowly disappeared from people’s minds. It is a known phenomena that looking at a distant object causes a mistaken evaluation of the actual distance between the observer and the observed object. By analogy, observers from Europe looking west found the distance to India was greater than they thought. Suddenly, India moved both further away and closer to Europe. After a few years, this same “distancing” caused the breakthrough that allowed the circling of the Cape of Good Hope from the west eastward, and later the circling of the globe from the east westward. This change in mankind’s perspective of the world is very well known, but—in this frame of reference—it is worth mentioning that many researchers in the sixteenth century were certain that the Native Americans were the descendents of the ten lost tribes.75 That is, the geographical mistake, even if later corrected, was still bound by an ethnological mistake.

A similar process occurred in human consciousness of the world and its size with the discovery of India during the travels of Alexander the Great. Until the fourth century CE, Europeans (that is Greeks) thought India was at the end of the world. However, Alexander’s conquest of northern India brought about a better understanding of the distances and directions of the ancient world.76 When Alexander the Great—Aristotle’s pupil—went to conquer India, he hoped to find the sources of the Nile, and only later realized his mistake.77 During the same period, these geographical notions were unclear even to those who could afford the best education, including Alexander, who was taught by Aristotle.78

The world, or the western world-view, “expanded” twice, as the knowledge of new land discoveries made scholars aware of the world’s real size. The first time was in the fourth century BCE, within the first or second generation after the discovery of India. That shift in perspective was smaller than the one that occurred in the sixteenth century, within one or two generations of the discovery of North America. Until these discoveries, the European inhabitants of the west had a mistaken view of the east, based, of course, on the knowledge available to them at the time. In both cases, the world “expanded,” and in both cases, Jews were considered to be already present in those distant places. This period of geographical-ethnological mistakes could not have lasted very long and, within a generation or two after the geographical discovery of either India or North America, it became impossible to link the Jews to those wonderful places. Therefore, Clearchus’ words could have been written only during one possible period: the days of Alexander the Great or shortly afterward, precisely when the east “opened” and Greece became aware of India and of the Jews.

  1. The Talmudic Sources: Under the Roman and Byzantine Rule

With the conquest of Egypt, under the Roman rule in 30 BCE, a real change occurred in the commercial ties between Rome and India.79 Even before the conquest, Egypt served as a natural, intermediary between the exporter—India, and the importer—Rome, due to special growth conditions in India and Sri Lanka that did not exist elsewhere. However, under the rule of the Roman Empire, the ties between Rome and India became closer.80 This explains the increase in merchandise and Roman coins discovered in India, especially in southern India.81 With these circumstances and, probably, with the strengthening of Egypt, in general, and Alexandria, in particular, as the intermediary between India and Rome, there was also an increase in the merchandise that reached the land of Israel from India. Thus, the people of the land of Israel enjoyed the same Roman prosperity (except for local uprisings, which cost the lives of thousands of people in the land of Israel). Even if some trade between the land of Israel and India passed, in general, through Ptolemaic Egypt, another part of it arrived via Arab and Nabataean caravans which transferred merchandise either from southern Arabia or the region of Eilat. The next section presents a number of testimonies and examples of imported products that reached the land of Israel from India.82

  1. Imports from India

Spices and Medications

Among the many products imported from India, the spices and perfumes were particularly famous.8j These were a natural extension of Indian exported goods from earlier periods. In addition to spices, medicines also reached Rome from India.84 The Indian influence on Rome was so large that it is possible to identify the influence of Indian medicine on Roman medicine in the first century CE.85

Most probably, all the pepper and cinnamon mentioned in Talmudic sources was imported from India. Even if there are sources indicating that cinnamon was grown locally, the special climatic conditions needed for growing cinnamon and pepper86 hint that these products were not grown in the land of Israel but reached it as finished imported products.87

High Quality Cloth

The description of the High Priest’s ritual during the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) includes details about his clothes, which he used to change during the performance of these rituals.

In Mishnah Yoma 3:7-8 it is told:

They brought him white vestments. He dressed and sanctified his hands and his feet. In the morning he would don Pelousion worth twelve maneh and in the afternoon Hinduyin worth 800 zuz. These are the words of Rabbi Meir. But, the sages say, in the morning he would don (garments) worth eighteen maneh and in the afternoon worth twelve maneh—altogether 30 maneh**

On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest wore “golden clothes” (as this garment collection is called in the Talmudic literature), his most magnificent clothes.

In the morning, he wore clothes brought from Pelousion located on the eastern branch of the Nile.89 At dusk, the High Priest changed his clothes and wore less expensive ones—although they were also expensive—brought from India, most probably via Egypt.90

In the Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 3:6, 30d, there is a clarifying tradition:91

We have learnt: And the second clothing from Pelousion was not any more beautiful from the first one from India, and this is based on a tradition stated in a detailed report: type A from the best cloth brought from Pelousion—there is no better than it, the type B from the cloth from Pelousion is equal in quality to type A of the cloth brought from India, and type B from Pelousion is not more beautiful than type A from India, according to the tradition (account) stated in the detailed report.92

The Talmudic teacher knew that the merchandise brought from Pelousion was of better quality than goods from India, and that it was 50% more expensive. Nonetheless, the Talmudic teacher emphasizes that the level of cloth type B from Pelousion is equal to cloth type A from India (according to either R. Meir or the sages).9j The Jerusalem Talmud raised additional traditional points about the expensive garments of priests who worked in the temple. One of them was the High Priest Ishmael ben Phiabi,94 and the other was Eleazar ben Harsom, who was extremely wealthy.95 These facts explain the high price of the garments exported from either Pelousion or India.96

Most probably, the millet wares mentioned in the Talmudic literature a few times as expensive garments were also imported from India. So it is told, for example, in Ketubot 66b:

“Surely it was taught: It was said about Nakdimon ben Guryon that whenever he would leave his house [go] to the academy, carpets of fine millet would be spread out beneath him, and poor people would come: and roll them up after him.”

It is clear that extreme wealth is being described here. Consequently: as it is told in the Baba Batra 146a:

“Come, leam that Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel: There was an incident involving a certain person who sent to the home of his father-in-law a hundred wagons, [containing] jugs of wine, jugs of oil, silver utensils, gold utensils and fine wares of millet and in his elation rode…”97

The storyteller added more on the subject of millet wares,98 but the central issue is still unclear: what are the millet wares, and why were they so expensive?

Indeed, even if the word is pronounced, as some would say it, with an “ah” vowel (as in milat), it would still resemble the word “millet” in English, a word that came to English from Latin with French mediation, a word whose meaning is millet, the grain plant.99 In the context of this subject, the importance is not only the etymological perspective of the word, but the testimonies that millet was exported from India to the Roman Empire.100 Consequently, it appears that the extremely high price of the cloth called millet originated from the fact that it came from India. In fact, no known cloth is woven from millet, but it seems that these products were called after the main export item. Therefore, since the vessel was loaded in India with millet (and at a location also called Millet, the name of its main export item), the cloth itself was called “millet,” too, even if it was not actually made from that plant.101


Iron was exported from India in the period of the Roman Empire, if not for many years before it.102 Indian iron had a reputation as being a reliable material for weapons. It was produced using a unique technique that made it less fragile than the iron known in Europe and, therefore, was found to be adequate for battle swords. In fact, modem researchers studying ancient metallurgy found that Indian iron was actually steel (iron with at least 1.5% carbon) and was melted at temperatures of at least 1400 degrees Celsius).103 Obviously, anyone whose life depended on good armory valued superior metal and was willing to pay for it accordingly. Talmudic Literature includes the following three testimonies in regard to the Indian steel.

  • In the Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 16a, it is explained:

Said Rabbi Ada Bar Ahavah: One should not sell foreigners raw bars of iron. Why? Because, the foreigners use them to make weapons. If so, said the speaker, we would not sell the foreigners even pick-axes or axes from which one can make weapons! Rav Zevid answered: The prohibition is on iron from India, on which the prohibition is valid, because this metal is appropriate for weapons. But aren’t we today selling foreigners iron against the original verdict? Responded Rav Ashi: We are selling only to the Persians who are protecting us.

In fact, all this is said in Babylon, not in the land of Israel, but it will immediately be shown below that the export of iron from India didn’t stop in Babylon and had reached the land of Israel (and also Rome, of course).

  • Midrash Tehilim (Psalms) 6 (Yalkut Shimeoni Tehilim, Remez, 635):

Said R. Elazar; The issue is a parable of a king who was angry with his son while holding an Indian sword in his hand.

Here is a Talmudic scholar in the land of Israel who knows about a sword made of Indian iron.104

  • Midrash Tanhuma (Buber), Portion Va’etkhanen, paragraph tag F: Said R. Abbahu: What does it resemble to, to one of the highest in the kingdom who found a Indian sword, like nothing similar in the world, and said: This befits no one but a king! What did he do, he brought it as a present to the king, said the king: Cut his head with it.105

These two traditional portions from the land of Israel of the third century CE, approximately, make it evident that India exported iron (steel), of excellent quality that reached both the Jews of the land of Israel and the Jews of Babylon. Note that both cases refer to iron in the hands of kings. It was expensive merchandise that only the very rich could afford. But, as is known, there were many kings in ancient times, as there were many wars, a fact that explains how Indian iron reached the fertile crescent region—and, during the same time frame, how numerous coins and goods from the west reached India. Therefore, it is evident that Indian iron was considered “good” iron, just as Indian gold was considered good gold a few hundred years earlier.

What was the origin of the iron in India, a large sub-continent? Well, the suggestion is that the iron originated in a place called Chera.106 Chera is identified as a kingdom whose main port in southern India was Muziris. This city is now known by its modem name, Cranganore, and is a neighbor of Cochin, which was established hundreds of years later.107 So, the iron that came from India to the land of Israel in the Roman-Byzantine periods is documented in the Talmud. And, this iron came from the same region of India where hundreds of years later there were Jewish communities, which saw themselves as being of ancient origin.

As long as Rome ruled the Mediterranean, in general, and Egypt, in particular, it imported various products from India. However, apparently, as a result of inflation in the Roman Empire during the third century CE, the demand for luxury items started to decline and the trade between Rome and India shrunk. This reduction was felt also in the land of Israel. With the fall of the Roman Empire, imports from India declined even further and returned to what they were in the past: small scale imports carried out by private merchants without the backing of a central government.

  1. Religious Influences on India and Immigration to It

The inhabitants of the Middle East, Jews among them, immigrated to India over the generations, most probably as a result of the broad commercial activity between the two regions. King Ashoka, who reigned over most of India (except the south), in the middle of the third century BCE, mentions the Greek King Antiochus in one of his kingdom’s decrees.108 Scholars identify this king as Antiochus II,109 and from that period on, the “Yavanah” are mentioned many times in Sanskrit and in Tamil.110

One of King Ashoka’s decrees was found in Afghanistan. It had been published as a bilingual document, in Greek and Aramaic, which means that there were enough people in India who spoke and read Aramaic; Jews could have been among them. However, these people came to India from the north over land, and it is somewhat hard to imagine the presence of Jews from the land of Israel in caravans that passed through Persia and Afghanistan. The shortest and easiest route to India for the people from the west, including Jews, was by sea. In fact, plenty of Hellenistic finds exist in India and Sri Lanka, especially along the shores. Those “Yavanah” were not only Greeks from Greece who settled in India, but were also people of the Levant who went through the process of Hyalinization. With the strengthening of the economic ties between Ptolemaic Egypt and India, they made their way to India and remained there as commercial representatives of the west. No doubt, the people of India could not distinguish between Jews and “Yavanah,” as to them, they were all “white” and foreign. In any event, there is no known reference to Jews in India during this period. The Jews from the land of Israel had only a marginal share in the commerce with India, so their numbers among settlers in India was, most probably, also marginal.

There were exceptions, however. Nicanor, who lived in Alexandria in the first century CE, accumulated his wealth from the Indian-Roman trade,111 and possibly also sent his representative to India, was, obviously, a Jew. Maimonides’ brother, who lived in Egypt in the twelfth century CE, drowned in the Indian Ocean during a trip to purchase precious stones for his business. That fact only strengthens the understanding of the background of the Jews who settled in India. The people of the “Yavanah” settlements were merchants, representatives, and relatives of those who lived in Egypt and who were concerned about the economic interests of their partners overseas.

Nothing is known about the precise time when the Jews came to India, but Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, who lived as Jew in the land of Israel, spread the Christian gospel when he reached India in 52 CE.112 His area of activity is not as clear as Paul’s in Asia Minor, but by using analogy, one can deduce that Thomas worked among the Hellenistic merchants. If a Jewish community existed there, he was likely to have visited it. It is difficult to determine if Thomas was, in fact, persecuted and had to flee to India, but if this was so, then it could have been a precedent for other refugees from the west to follow—fleeing an intolerant, fervently religious culture to live in a multi-cultured, spiritual world that believed in tolerance.

Scholars who reject the church’s traditional accounts as unhistorical still must admit that Christian activity in India started among the Hellenistic communities, and that these Christians were located in southern India, close to the shores of Muziris. Scholars stress that Christianity in India started as a Hellenistic spiritual activity, just like in Asia Minor. Since the Middle Ages, the Christians of Saint Thomas have been linked with the Assyrian church (the Nestorian/Syrian and other streams of the religion), that is, with others of the same religion in the Persian Gulf. However, these Christians’ spiritual origin was the Mediterranean Hellenism that reached India via Egypt and Yemen. Only after their connection with the west was broken—following the fall of the Roman Empire and the massive decline in commerce in the Indian Ocean—did they build ties with Christians in Iraq and Syria.

The histories of the Christians and the Jews in India have several parallels, as is to be expected of two monotheistic minorities with partially common traditions, living within a pagan society.”0 However, the testimonies on Christian settlements in southern India apparently look more reliable than the ones on Jewish settlement there in the first centuries CE. Yet, remember the possibility that there could have been just an “optical mistake” there, and what was called a Christian settlement was originally a Jewish one that over the years converted to Christianity.

  1. A Talmudic Scholar of Indian Origin

To end this discussion of the ties between the land of Israel and India, it should be mentioned that a Talmudic sage lived in Babylon. He was named Rabbi Yehuda Hindua, that is Rabbi Yehuda the Indian, and the following is written about him in the Babylonian Talmud Baba Batra 74b:114

Rabbi Yehuda the Indian was telling a story: Once we sailed on a vessel, and we saw in the water a precious stone guarded by a crocodile circling around it. A diver descended to bring the stone up, the crocodile came and wanted to swallow the vessel. A predatory bird came and cut the head of the crocodile, and water turned to blood. Another crocodile came, the partner of the first, took the stone and placed it on the dead crocodile and it returned back to life! The crocodile came back and wanted to swallow the vessel again. Came the bird and cut off his head. They raised the stone and brought it on the vessel. We had on our boat salted bird’s meat. They put the stone on the birds and they came to life and flew away taking with them the precious stone.115

This story, told by a Jewish sage of Indian origin, probably reflects the way of life in the Persian Gulf—where there are divers and where pearls are collected,116 and where there was room for popular myths about “the stone of life” and about marine monsters (like the stories of Rabba bar bar Hana and their continuation).117 This sage is mentioned only one more time in the Babylonian Talmud, in Kiddushin 22b, where he is described as a “converted Jew who has no heirs.” The text notes that he had a slave and that he lived during the days of Mar Zutra (fourth to fifth centuries CE). That is, this sage is an Indian who converted to Judaism and settled in Babylon. It is no surprise, therefore, that the story he tells is about a sea that connects India to Babylon. From the Jewish tradition, it seems that this was a unique case, but from analyzing cultural ties that lasted thousands of years between Mesopotamia and India, it appears that there is nothing to wonder about in this phenomena. Ties between Indians and the residents of Babylon (including Jews) led, most probably, not only to Indians converting to Judaism, but also to the conversion of Jews to Indian religions (and/or to Christianity).

With Rome’s decline, the commerce between the west and India diminished, reducing the flow of news about what was happening in the Indian Ocean during the Byzantine period.118 This obscure period in regard to ties between India and the land of Israel lasted for hundreds of years after the conquest of the land of Israel by Islam. It remains very hard to find clues to the history of Indian Jews during the hundreds of years that passed between Hellenistic activity and Jewish settlement in southern India.119

As is known, the Jews of Cochin kept brass tablets written approximately in the year 1000 CE. These tablets show the rights the Jews of Cochin gained from the local government.120 Probably, these rights would not have been given to the Indian Jews if they hadn’t been in this place for at least 100 or 200 years, but it is impossible to say they were with assurance. Geographical conditions didn’t change in the marine arena that included the Indian Ocean or in the areas where the Jews of Yemen and Iraq lived. However, as it turned out, new European colonial activity in India, starting with the arrival of Vasco da Gama in 1497, started a new phase of commercial and military maritime activity. From this resurgence forward, the Jews of Cochin began to enter the historical consciousness of the Jewish people.

Immigrants probably built the Jewish community in Cochin over many generations, and so it is not the result of a one-time settlement, as the History of the Jews of Cochin claims.121 For many generations, marine and commercial conditions as well as Islamic persecution, or the Roman administration, or Byzantine Christianity, provided good excuses for many generations of immigration to India. Moreover, it seems that analysis of the later, broader history of the Jews of Cochin confirms the community’s beginning as a settlement of Jews at the “end of the world,” a result of forced immigration from several places, but mainly Yemen.


Almost 2000 years went by from the time that the ships of King Solomon visited the shores of Ophir in India and the time when Jews are mentioned in India. Almost another thousand years passed until the marine trade-lines between the land of Israel and India were opened.

The fundamental geographical conditions didn’t change, but over the years, the world gradually shrank. Once seemingly enormous distances were considered reasonable enough to traverse. The land of Israel enjoyed Roman trade with India, even if it was on its margins, since most of this trade passed through Egypt and Alexandria.

The decline of the Roman Empire caused the “disappearance” (if not the conversion) of the “Yavanah” in India, Jews most probably among them. Actually, Indian Jews, and more precisely, the Jews of Cochin, appear in a “charter” which was written around the year 1000 CE (even if the city of Cochin didn’t exist then). One must hope that we can learn more, in a better way, about other ties between India and Egypt, and the Jewish activity there from geniza documents that S.D. Goitein collected in his Book of India, a book we are expecting.

The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies


1 The Babylonian Talmud, Megila Ila, says: “From India to Kush; Rav and Samuel.” One said: “India is the end of the world and Kush is the end of world.” Another said: “Both are mentioned as being neighbors.” This second interpretation is far from simplistic, and was possibly said under the inspiration of Genesis 14:23: “from a thread even to a shoelatchet.”

2 The translation attributed to Jonathan says: “Pishon is surrounding all the land of India.” Consequently, this is also the translation in the Neofiti version. Genesis 25:17: “From Havilah unto Assyria,” was translated in a work attributed to Jonathan as, “From India to Halutza.” The Neofiti accepted this version.

3 Scholars disagree about almost every word involved in this entire subject matter, and it is impossible here to consider all the opinions. However, see: I.M. Grintz, Origins of Generations (The United Kibbutz, 1969), pp. 50-3. In short, Grintz’s interpretation is that Havilah refers to Ethiopia. He almost completely disregards the possibility that it is India, and does not take into consideration a significant portion of the discussion outlined here. It is worthwhile to view his opinion as a “balance” to the discussion in this research, even though in his entire work, not even one piece of evidence supports a reference to Ethiopia (more on this to follow). Even if some scholars claim that “Havilah” is one of the sons of “Kush,” it does not necessarily mean that Havilah must be physically close to Kush. Moreover, there is a Havilah who is Ophir’s brother, as well Hazarmaveth’s (Genesis 10:21-29). However, compare I.M. Grintz, The Antiquity and Uniqueness of the Book of Genesis (Jerusalem, 1983), p. 65, “It seems that the reference is to the land of Ethiopia, even though there are those who assume that Havilah is India.” For more on the research, see E.A. Speiser, “The Rivers of Paradise,” R. von Kienle, A. Moortgat, and Festschrift Johannes Friedrich, eds. (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1959), pp. 473-485.

  • Of course, a number of opinions exist about this issue. The choice here was based on considering linking the two rivers in the center of the populated world, and the two other rivers in the “end” of this world. The word “surrounding” in regard to these two rivers testifies about them. See also Geula Cohen, “Pishon,” in Biblical Encyclopedia, 6 (Jerusalem, 1981), pp. 480-1. About the views of the past sages, attributed to Jonathan, and for more see A.M. Haberman, ed., The Writings of Avraham Epstein (Jerusalem, 1950), pp. 57-9. Note, that the author of the Book of Enlightenment (Zohar), or someone from his school, was under the opinion that the Pishon was the Nile. See The Book of Zohar, Midrash Ne ’elam, Life of Sarah, 125a.
  • Hecataeus, considered the “father of geography,” held this view of the world. In this description the world is round (meaning a disk) and surrounded by water. While the Mediterranean Sea is correctly depicted, even if relatively so, to its south Hecataeus describes only four rivers: the Nile, the Euphrates, the Hiddekel (drawn without a name) and the river Indus. See Guido Majno, The Healing Hand, Man and Wound in the Ancient World (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 228 (based on a map from the fifth century CE). This means that the Greek grasp of the world was based on the old approach (both Mesopotamian and Biblical), though the Greeks already knew a “larger” world.
  • For more about the link between Literature of Wisdom and the story of the Garden of Eden, see R.B.Y. Scott, The Way of Wisdom in the Old Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1971), p. 81; R.N. Whybray, The Intellectual Tradition in the Old Testament (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1974), pp. 104-8; Calum M. Carmichael, “The Paradise Myth: Interpreting without Jewish and Christian Spectacles,” in A Walk in the Garden, Morris and Deborah Sawyer, eds. (Sheffield: JSOT, Supplement Series 136, 1992), pp. 47-63.

It is worthwhile to observe that the description “and the gold of that land is good” is close to the one about King Solomon’s work on the Temple (II Chronicles, 3:5): “And the greater house he ceiled with fir tree, which he overlaid with fine gold,” was, most probably, the good gold mentioned here, and described below, in regard to King Solomon’s travels.

India and the Land of Israel

  • To a certain degree, this description is reminiscent of the Eldorado legend and the gold rush in North America (below you will find discussion of other similarities between the discovery of India from one side and of North America on the other).
  • N. Kramer, “Dilmun: Quest for Paradise,” in Antiquity 37 (1963), pp. 111-5.
  • Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Civilizations of the Indus Valley and Beyond (London: Thames and Hudson, 1966), pp. 64-6, 70, 151. This contains descriptions of additional economic ties, as well as chronological issues outside the scope of this article. Modem day proposals to identify Dilmun (together with two other relatively near locations) with Bahrain are not withstanding criticism (first, one must bring evidence to the existence of a culture there in the third millennium BCE, and then one must question if Bahram could export these products). See W. Horowitz, Mesopotamia Cosmic Geography (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1998), p. 328.
  • In fact, the Mesopotamian sources mention a number of places in the same direction: Dilmun, Magan, and Meluhha, and the researchers struggled about whether to locate these places in India or in Ethiopia, finally deciding for India, in the region of the Indus (among other reasons, because of its closeness compared to Ethiopia). They did all this without yet being aware of the difficulties of sailing in the Indian Ocean (see below). See W.F. Leemans, Foreign Trade in the Old Babylonian Period (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1960), pp. 159-166.
  • Herodotus, 3, 94; I. Lior and M. Schpitzer, “India,” in Biblical Encyclopedia, II (Jerusalem, 1954), pp. 792-5.

|J Dilip K. Chakrabarti, “The Old Copper Mines of Eastern India,” in Robert Maddin, ed., The Beginning of the Use of Metals and Alloys (London: MIT Press, 1988), pp. 239-244. About the origin of iron production in a relatively later period, see D.D. Kosambi, “The Beginning of the Iron Age in India,” in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 6 (1963), pp. 218-309.

  • Vimala Begley and Richard Daniel De Puma, eds., Rome and India: The Ancient Sea Trade (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991), pp. 12, 15.
  • The deriving explanation is simple: The longer the operational period of the mine, the more difficult it is to satisfy its firing energy needs, and more uneconomical the operation becomes. This phenomenon explains the closing down of other mines (such as the brass mines in the land of Israel and Trans Jordan), even though the need for firing materials was much smaller in the tropical climate of India.
  • A. Loewenstam, “Bdellium,” in Biblical Encyclopedia, Vol. II (Jerusalem, 1954), pp. 35-6.
  • Midrash Rabba Genesis 16:b follows: “Rav Aibo said: You might think that the bedolah used by perfume-makers is a sap of a tree,” therefore it says, “Its fellow telleth concemeth it (Job 36:33), just as the latter is a precious stone, so is the former a precious stone.”
  • In the Syrian-Israeli translation: “And Yemen is gumarta and the rock dehirta” See M. Goshen-Gottshtein, The Bible in the Syrian-Israeli Translation, (Jerusalem, 1973), p. 4. The “gumarta” is a perfume placed on coals to spread good scent, and “dehirta” can be explained in a number of ways.

The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies

  • H. Warmington, The Commerce Between the Roman Empire and India, 2nd revised edition (London: Curzon Press, 1974), pp. 187-8, 216. Apparently, the origin of the mistake was in the system of marine transportation, from which obvious considerations (see later), split the import activity to vessels of one kind for the Indian Ocean, and to smaller vessels of different kinds, in the Red Sea (and in the Gulf of Bengal), and as a result, the Indian merchandise (and merchandise from Sri Lanka, etc.), was constantly stored in warehouses in Yemen and in Somalia (such as glass which was found in Moza in Yemen). This does not mention, however, that no middleman would readily admit that he was not the producer, but merely the go- between.
  • See Y. Felix, Trees of Perfume, Forest and Ornament: The Vegetation of the Bible and the Sages (Jerusalem, 1997), pp. 80-4, 89-97; M. Har’el, The Historical Geography of the Land of Israel (Tel Aviv, 1997), pp. 457-9; Majno, The Healing Hand, 207-227, 447-450. (Very extensive bibliography on the archeological and literary findings in regard to Arabian perfumes.) In approximately 2500 BCE, Egypt imported myrrh from the land of Punt (that is India, see below), and possibly production of myrrh was transferred to Arabia from India.
  • Felix, Trees of Perfume, 33-5. The origin of the word “b’dolakh” is probably from the Sanskrit “madalaka.”
  • About the onyx stone, and about other precious stones, see D. Soler, “Precious Stones,” in Encyclopedia Eshkol, A (Berlin, 1929), pp. 273-285; D. Ginzburg, “The Identification of the Breastplate’s Stones,” in Appendices to Vol. 2, The Opinion of the Bible: Book of Exodus, A. Hahkam, ed. (Jerusalem, 1991), pp. 67-73. 2j In the translation of Exodus 35:27 attributed to Jonathan, there is a link between the breastplate’s stones and India, because the translator says: “and clouds of the sky flow to Pishon and from Yemen my stones are drawn.” Pishon, as mentioned, surrounds the land of Havilah, that is India. See also M. Goshen-Gottshtein, Excerpts from the Aramaic Translations of the Bible (Ramat-Gan, 1983), p. 65.
  • One related example is in the name of the biblical expression of leprosy. Even if the identification of this disease requires investigation, it is absolutely clear that it does not refer to one illness but to a “family” of illnesses (as with the plague). Consequently, possibly the “shoham stone” is not a particular stone, but a group of ornamental stones now referred to as “semi-precious stones,” or a “family of beautiful stones,” for which people are prepared to pay a high price, though less than for a diamond.
  • For the identification of Muziris, see Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 122, n. 25; see also comments by Brian Weinstein at the end of the article, particularly p. 502.
  • Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 116.
  • See M. Bar Ilan, “Prester John: Fiction and History,” in History of European Ideas, 20/1-3 (1995), pp. 291-8.
  • James S. Roman, The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 82-3. An example of the confusion between India and Ethiopia is evident in the eighth century CE map based on earlier sources. In this map, most parts of which are “correct,” the river Ganges flows in Ethiopia (one must remember that the further an object is from the eye, the larger the scale of the mistake in distinguishing its details). See Evelyn Edson, “The Oldest World Maps: Classical Sources of Three Eighth Century Mappaemundi,” in The Ancient World, 2412 (1993), pp. 169-184. (In the various maps there are examples of other mistakes, including that the world is a “disk” and surrounded by water.)
    • Review, M. Avi-Yona, Essays and Studies in Geography (Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, 1964), p. 156; M.H. Stem, The Influence of the First Israeli Kingdom on the Economy of the Country and the Life of the People (Tel-Aviv, 1973), pp. 61-3.
    • S. Hartum, “Ophir,” in Biblical Encyclopedia (Jerusalem, 1950), pp. 163-4. Hebrew.
    • Glass is implied here for two reasons: 1) The relative advantage of Phoenicia in this area; 2) The vessels assigned to import gold needed to export cargo of similar weight, even if only for ballast or balancing needs (the characteristic weight of gold is 19.3 and of silica approximately 2.2). Also, one should not disregard the exporters of metals, partly as brokers for merchandise from other seafaring countries. It is possible that Phoenicia or the land of Israel were the sources of some of the glass artifacts discovered in India, of which the identity is not yet known. See Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 117.
    • Exported products were also foods for the sailors, including fruits, which the land of Israel excelled in growing (Deuteronomy 8:8). Also see Y. Braslavy, The Historical Geography of the Land of Israel, 98-107. Brass is also a possibility due to the same reasons given for glass: a) Relative advantage, given the brass mines in “Jordan Square” where King Solomon was active (I Kings 7:46; II Chronicles 4:17); b) The vessel’s weight in export which was supposed to be similar to its weight in import. The characteristic weight of brass is 8.92 and the meaning of this data is that the volume of the gold imported to the land of Israel was much smaller than the volume of brass and glass exported. Compare, Y. Braslavy, Information on the Land of Israel from the Bible (Tel-Aviv, 1970), pp. 51-4.

    3j Braslavy, Geography to the Bible, p. 54.

    j4 Support for the assumption that Ophir is actually Sopara can be found in the two words transliterated from Sanskrit to Hebrew—“ophir” and “algum,” by dropping the prefix consonant. Actually, this is also the case in the transliteration of the name Indus, whose origin in Sanskrit is “sind.” Here too, the prefix consonant was dropped (similar to the dropping of the first letter in psychology). To complete the understanding of the transliteration of “supara” “ophir,’’ one must first make an observation about the vocalization and, later, about the consonants. The biblical author wrote in a short style, using only consonant-based writing. The “yod” was added later to the words as a vowel-letter (especially towards the end of the word), in the much earlier period before vowel-signs were added. The adding of the “hey” at the end of the written word was accomplished by a similar, though different, method, and there are examples of the letter “reish” as a final form with a consonantal force (as in Genesis 24:57; Deuteronomy 22:20; and others). During the period of the First Temple, the guttural letter “fei” was pronounced hardened as “pei,” that is, with an aspirated sound. See J. Liebes, “Seven Doubled Consonants: Bet, Gimel, Daled, Khaf, Fei, Reish and Taf.” More on the “doubled reish,” and the background of the “Sefer Yezira,” in Tarbiz 61 (1992), pp. 237-247 (particularly p. 240). A further point can be made about the word India (Hodu). In Sanskrit, the letter “samekh” was used as a breathed, initial letter; the initial “’samekh” was then dropped, and the “nun” disappeared due to its closeness to the other consonant (as in other cases in other languages). The remaining letters “he” and “daled’ were vocalized in the Bible just like other foreign words (such as: Pharaoh or Sennacherib), according to “Jewish” rules. On the other hand, in Greek, the “samekh” disappeared and so did its aspirated sound but the letter “nun” remained in India, due to its different pronunciation and spelling rules.

    Remember that the ancient navigators did not possess maps, and if they had “guide-books,” these, most probably, were kept secret as maps in Europe were kept secret during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as were directions to hidden treasures. Probably, this is why a precise description of the route is missing, so the places cannot be clearly identified without further archeological finds.

    J<5 There are two interpretative directions: 1) The word “tarshish” was introduced here by the author by a mistake, because it appears in its place later in the verse, but the subject actually deals with Ophir. 2) In this “Tarshish,” one can see a name of a different place than the one in the Mediterranean Sea, and if so, the “ani-tarshish” is referring to vessels headed to Tarshish (in this case, there is no author’s mistake and the description in the sources is the same). The Bible mentions a precious stone called “tarshish” (beryl) together with onyx and “jasper,” all in the clothes of the High Priest and in the court of the King of Tyrus. (Ezekiel 28:13: “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold.”) It is possible that the stone is named after its origin, and if so, not only gold was brought from Tarshish but also precious stones that found their way to Tyrus as a result of the cooperation mentioned above, between Judea and Tyrus. Also see M. Eilat, Economic Ties Between the Countries of the Bible During the First Temple (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1977), p. 190, n. 36.

    j7 The settlement of people from Tyrus and Phoenicia in western Africa is known from a later period. It is obvious that there, too, the Phoenicians had no need for joint ventures with King Solomon, just as it is obvious that the length of the voyage was not so long.

    This is a counter argument against those who want to find Tarshish in Spain, even though no data has been provided on gold mines in this region. See Z. Herman, Peoples, Seas, Ships (Tel-Aviv: Masada, 1962), pp. 205-220. For more on Tarshish, see M. Eilat, “Tarshish,” in Biblical Encyclopedia, Vol. 8 (Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 942-5; Eilat, Economic Ties, pp. 150-3.

India and the Land of Israel

  • 9 The large difference between the two descriptions could indicate that two separate kingdom clerks authored them. Both wrote about the cooperation between King Solomon and King Hiram that brought gold to Jerusalem, but beyond it, there accounts are different in all the other details. However, this difference does not necessarily point to a different departure port, or to a real difference in the definitions of the destination ports of the various expeditions.
  • For a picture of a model of a Phoenician vessel from the seventh century BCE, featuring a crew of approximately 25 people, see Herman, Peoples, Seas, Ships, opposite p. 200. In the carvings from Sennacherib’s palace, Phoenician vessels are described with triangular sails, two rows of rowers, and a crew numbering altogether approximately 20 to 25 people. See Eilat, Economic Ties, Table 4, opposite p. 47.
  • John H. Pryor, Geography, Technology, and War: Studies in the Maritime History of the Mediterranean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 649- 1571.
  • All data is taken from top expert in the area: L. Casson, “Ancient Naval Technology and the Route to India,” in Rome and India, 8-11. See also Y. Braslavsky, Do You Know the Land? 4 (En-Harod: Hakibuz Hameuhad, 1952), pp. 430-3.
  • In a very later period, a monsoon vessel sailed only for seven months in a year; for the remaining time, it was anchored in a port without being able to shorten its voyage. On the other hand, vessels of the “normal” (Phoenician) model, sailed along the shores and had to be careful with these winds. However, the sailors who sailed to India and returned had to overcome barriers of the kind that even Odysseus could not manage: 1) Sailing from Muza along the shores of Arabia without being swept with the winds toward the open sea (and the same difficulty coming back), 2) Sailing along the shores of India under wind conditions that either push or pull the vessel from or to the shores; 3) Sailing the Red Sea, “The Sea of Storms;” and after that heading north toward Ezion-geber against the wind. Moreover, sailing along the shores of western India was considered extremely dangerous during a little more than three months, and it meant that a ship arriving at the mouth of the Indus in the month of June had to wait a few months before it could proceed southward. To summarize this subject matter, even if it is difficult to calculate precisely the number of months that the sailors had to sit idle, it is obvious from the three years the vessels were absent from Ezion-geber, that a little more than half of this time was spent in port (from here derives the genealogy of the sons of Joktan in Genesis 10:26-29: Hazarmaveth, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab, which were stations in the maritime voyage from the land of Israel to India. Compare this with the claim of those who believe that Ophir was on the shores of the Red Sea, and that the trip to Ophir lasted only a year and a half or two (this without doubting the author’s report on the large amount of gold). See Eilat, Economic Ties, 146, 192. On the other hand, Har’el, Historical Geography of the Land of Israel, A, p. 220, is of the opinion that the other Tarshish was located in the Malay islands. That is, he considered the extremely long duration of the voyage and “translated” it to a long distance, but without taking into account the special conditions in the Indian Ocean as well as other considerations upon which he did not elaborate.
  • Herman, Peoples, Seas, Ships, 241-7. Moreover, Herman identifies Ophir with Punt, as known from Egyptian sources, starting from the fifth dynasty as the “land of El” (and this is also the opinion of most scholars, see Eilat, Economic Ties, pp. 193- 4, but he didn’t mention India as he didn’t evaluate the export products of Punt). From Punt, Egypt imported perfumes, myrrh oil, ebony trees, silver and gold alloys, and midgets. Later, in the fifteenth century BCE, Egypt imported from Punt: myrrh essence, ebony trees, ivory, gold, cinnamon, frankincense, kohl for eye-shadow, long-tailed monkeys, gray dogs, and panther hides. (Herman, Peoples, Seas, Ships, pp. 39-48) From this description, it appears clear that the land of Punt was in India, and no “so-called discovery” can change this. About the culture in Zimbabwe, see R. Summers, “City of Black Gold,” in Vanished Civilizations, Eduard Bacon, ed. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1963), pp. 33-54. For more on Indian export products see below. As to midgets, this seems to refer to the people of the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, a few hundred kilometers east of India (which were, and still are, part of India). See A. Montego, The Man—His First Million Years (Jerusalem: Tirgumei Hamada Haisraeli, 1964), pp. 78-81. After I wrote this, I found a book that claims to be a research work, but is actually a fairytale. See E. Valikovsky (Israel, 1997). While there is no need to discuss all the mistakes in the book, it is enough to mention that according to him, both Punt and the “land of El” are the land of Israel. If one ignores the question of timing (and that is the author’s method), it is still completely clear that the land of Israel never exported perfumes, ivory, or high quality wood. See, for example, Periods in Tohu, pp. 86-91, 101-4. For more on the rejection of his work, see E.C. Krupp, “Observatories of the Gods and Other Astronomical Fantasies,” in In Search of Ancient Astronomies, E.C. Krupp, ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979), pp. 241-278.
  • From the history of this research, it is worthwhile to note that the many scholars who dealt with the issues covered here considered only a part of the data and not all of it, moreover, they did not try to tackle navigational issues in the Indian Ocean, an unknown problem to the inhabitants of Europe and to scholars originating there. Therefore, the study of research work on the issues related to this article is similar to a study of a journey in suppositions than to ordinary and orderly research. The zoological discussion below, as well as the review of oceanographic problems, are essential to any world-broad discussion of this kind whose beginnings are in biblical philology and whosr issues are spread over many fields
  • Rabin, “Indian Words in Hebrew,” in Our Language to the People 14 (1963), pp. 232-245. Among the suggested words in the article are: horse (soos), sheath (nadan), violin (kinor), saffron (karkom), spikenard (nerd), aloes (ohalot), plumb line or lead, (anakh), tin (b ’dil), sapphire (sapir), topaz (piteda), carbuncle (barekef), fine linen (carpas), crimson (karmil), mauve (argaman), monkey (kof), parrot (tooki), and more. The Indian word is “kapi” and the rules of the ancient transliteration discussed in relation to Ophir are valid here as well. The parrot (tukki) is the “togaf’ and it is the peacock (which anyway is a more fitting gift to a king than is a parrot). See also Braslavsky, Did You Know the Land 4, p. 419, for more issues related to the research work on Ophir.
  • On the attempts by the people of Carthage to use elephants as war animals, see H.H. Scullard, The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World (Cambridge: Thames and Hudson, 1974), pp. 146-9. Note that even if there was any success in training African elephants, it was done with the assistance of Mahouts from India; so, in any event, India carries an advantage in this case.
  • See Warmington, The Commerce, 150-1.
  • Eilat, Economic Ties, 124-7. One must pay attention to the difference between a one-time export or war spoils and continuous import, which was the case with King Solomon’s vessels (even if one could claim that the biblical author was imprecise).
  • See also S. Bundheimer, The Wild Life in the Countries of the Bible, A (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1950), p. 296, about an ornament from Megiddo consisting of the front part of an animal identified as an African baboon. In Egypt, and maybe also in Mesopotamia, many animals were kept as “holy animals” in temples, but it is very doubtful that one can say that there was a similar situation in the land of Israel.
  • The narrative in II Chronicles 20:35-37 describes the issue somewhat differently, but the end result is the same, and is unimportant to the issue at hand: “And after this did Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, join himself with Ahaziah, King of Israel, who did very wickedly: and he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer, the son of Dodavah of Mareshah, prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works.’ And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.” Originally it was clear to the author that Tarshish is a name of a place.
  • It seems that the Crusaders’ maritime failure in this arena was due to different reasons than Jehoshaphat’s, even if in both cases, the issue was the lack of experience in the region. See I. Prawer, History of the Crusader’s Kingdom in the Land of Israel (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1963), pp. 501-3.
  • In addition to the serious problem of lack of sufficient good drinking water, there were a number of elements that when combined, prevented settlement in this place:
  1. The difficult wind patterns for northbound sailing in the Bay of Eilat, analogically to the lack of development of Suez (Clysma, Cleopatris). (See, Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 12-21.) The winds in the Bay of Eilat blow almost always southward and very rarely northward, a fact that denies the vessels the ability to sail north most days and in most hours, and the south wind turns into storms reaching up to 85 knots. (See Braslavsky, Did You Know the Land, pp. 360-7; the writing there is “must reading” to King Jehoshaphat’s advisers.) These facts clarify Strabo’s testimony that the spices and perfumes brought to Rhinocorura (Al-Arish) from Petra, were unloaded in the port of Leuke Kome which is located south of the Bay of Eilat, approximately in the latitude line of Myos Hormos (Har’el, Historical Geography, pp. 427, 459).
  1. Both in the land of Israel and in Eilat, the vessels had to unload their cargo and transfer it by land to a waiting ship in the Nile or in the Mediterranean Sea. However, because the overland transportation increased the cost of the imports significantly compared to the cost of marine transport, the relative advantage of Egypt was very obvious; there, the overland routes from the Red Sea to the Nile were much shorter compared to the route connecting Eilat to Gaza, for example. See Albert C. Leighton, Transport and Communication in Early Medieval Europe AD 500-1100 (Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1972), pp. 157-165.
  2. A monsoon ship had to be relatively large and, consequently, the volume of merchandise in it was large and required large capital for the initial investment. This capital existed in the Ptolemaic and Roman densely populated Egypt, but not in the land of Israel, which was scarcely populated, and therefore, lacked a centralized administration that could support such broad import and export business. In light of all this, it is understandable why Eilat was a small place and almost without Jews in the Roman period. See I. Zafrir, “Eilat and the Bay of Eilat in the Greek and Roman Sources,” in Kathedra 53 (1990), 149-193. Hebrew.
  • Some of the issues brought up here, as well as a similar research approach, were already proposed more than a hundred years ago, but were missed by the researchers. According to this view, Ophir was located at the mouth of the river Indus, even if the defenders of this approach were aware of the problem of a lack of similarity between the biblical name and the later name. See J. Kennedy, “The Early Commerce of Babylon with India—700-300 BC,” in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 5 (1898), pp. 241-288.
  • Felix, The Biblical Vegetation World, 2nd edition (Ramat-Gan: Masada, 1968), pp. 244, 263-9; the origin of the word nerd (spikenard) is in Sanskrit, pp. 263-9.
  • The word “cassia” is already known in the Greek literature, and those who trace its etymology from Chinese should not say that the “cassia” reached Israel from China (even if the origin of the plant is in southern China). Such suppositions were made because it was not known that there were Chinese merchants in Mantai, Sri Lanka, the source of the cinnamon and (Their western post, that is, the entrance to the Indian Ocean, required special expertise.) See Felix, Trees of Perfume, pp. 107- 112; Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, pp. 10-1, 199-200; and Majno, The Healing Hand, pp. 219-221.
    • Marvin H. Pope, “Song of Songs,” in The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., 1977), pp. 28-33.
    • Felix, The Biblical Vegetation World, 264.
    • In this entire subject matter, I rely on valuable research on the issues and their historical interpretation by B. Bar Kochba, “Aristotle, the Jewish Sage, and the Indian ‘Kalans,’” in Tarbiz 61 (1998), pp. 435-481. Hebrew. The translation is taken from p. 441. For early discussions on this subject matter, see the broad bibliography mentioned there. Note, the focus of this work is on the Jewish-Indian subject, and does not pretend to discuss other issues.
    • Bar Kochba, “Aristotle, the Jewish Sage,” pp. 474-5, relies (without much enthusiasm) on opinion expressed in prior research stating that the resemblance of the names could lead an observer to see in one a descendent of the name of the other. However, even if the view offered below is disputed, it still seems that the etymological view above must be completely rejected. The assumption that one name, “India” containing a “nun” was the source for name “Jews” (Yehudim), without the “nun,” seems like a total etymological failure. Plato, Aristotle, and his pupils also worked with etymology, and whoever claims that any of them thought that the dropping of the consonant “nun”—like claiming that the name elephant (pi!) derives from the root “” and therefore from the word “defeat” (mapalah) also deriving from “nunpe.lamed”—would have to have brought examples of such etymology from the Greek philology. See also, Plato, Cratylus 426; E. Hovdhaugen, Foundations of Western Linguistics (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget A/S, 1982), pp. 19-39.
    • The reader will notice the transition from the history of a period and a place to another history of a period and a place, and it gets worse: there is also a transition from the history of people and events to the history of ideas. These different transitions serve to explain the speculative nature of this discussion compared to the previous discussion above on one side, and to the discussion to follow below (regarding the history of the Roman Empire).
    • The following is based upon, J.H. Hutton, Caste in India: Its Nature, Function and Origins, 4th (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 71-91. The caste structure is a manifestation of a stratified society, but a rigid and multi-faceted version of one. It should also be noted that all scholars admit that in the fourth century BCE, if not much earlier, India already had a caste system, but how large is the difference between the ancient and “modem” systems is unknown. Since the discussion here refers only to general resemblances, and not to details (which possibly were different in the past from the modem reality), it is possible to ignore the historical gap (a large one!) between the modem reality and the description of the past.
    • Following are the changes according to manuscripts, in the Mishna: Kaufmann Ms. (Jerusalem: Makor Press, 1968), p. 250, concerning relationships, Mamzeri, andRabin, “Indian Connections of the Song of Songs,” in Sefer Baruch Kurtzweil, A. Soltman, M.Z. Kadari, and M. Schwartz, eds. (Tel-Aviv: Schoken, 1975), pp. 264-274; Ch. Rabin, “The Song of Songs and Tamil Poetry,” in Studies in Religion 3 (1973-4), pp. 205-9. For additional literature and questions related to the Song of Songs, see M. Bar Ilan, “Examination of Syntax, Erotic Issues, a Witchcraft in the Scroll of Song of Songs,” in The Annual for Research on the Bible and the Ancient East 9, (1987), pp. 31-53. Hebrew.Netini, Israelis and freed slaves, the line: “Levites, Israelites,” etc. until “converts” was omitted by the author, due to the similarity among them, and later completed in the margin, “are permitted to marry one another” (without “all”). In the W.H. Loew Ms. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1883), p. blOO: omissions were: in castes, to marry, the line “Levites, Israelites” until “another” is missing. The line “converts, freed slaves” exists until “and Foundlings are permitted,” and here the author skipped to “in our father Abraham,” to the end of the chapter and the tractate. In the manuscript Parma “C,” de Rossi 984 (Jerusalem, 1971), p. 211, there are some small variations: in “Ten relationships.” There are some differences in addition or subtraction of the connecting prefixes “vav,” and the addition of the letter “yod’ in “Giri.” The author forgot the second part of the Mishna, and later completed the text in the page’s notes. In the Paris 328-329 Ms. (Jerusalem: copy in author’s possession, 1973), p. 470, the changes are even more minute. In b. Yebamot 85a, the Mishna is brought in a version that looks like it was edited. For example, all the suffixes, except “silenced ones (shtuqi) and Foundlings (Asufi),” are written as in Hebrew with the suffix “-zm.” Even the word “freed slaves” (Aramaic: harurim), received a Hebrew suffix. See A. Liss, ed., The Complete Talmud: Dikdukei Soferim, Yebamot, C (Jerusalem: Makhon Hatalmud Haisraeli Hashalem, 1989), pp. 245-6. On another version’s corrections, see LN. Epstein, Introduction to the Mishnah Text, 2nd ed. (Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv: Magness-Devir, 1964), p. 379.
    • About this class-line list, and for more precision on social stratification, its social and textual parallels, the laws governing this, and more, see M. Bar Ilan, The Polemics Between Sages and Priests Towards the End of the Second Temple Period (PhD research in philosophy. Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University, 1982). Hebrew.
    • Wilkins, D. Harvey, M. Dobson, eds., Food in Antiquity (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1995).
    • Kenneth S. Guthrie, The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library (New York: Platonist Press, 1919), expanded and revised edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Phanes Press, 1987), pp. 60-1, 84. According to lamblichus, Pythagoras was in his origins a Phoenician from Sidon.
    • Buber, Midrash Zuta (Vilna, 1891), p. 41; Yalkut Shimeoni Ruth, Remez, 601. For more, see L. Ginzburg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol. 5 (Ramat-Gan: Masada, 1966-1975), p. 132, n. 43. The differences in the markets are explained by having markets based on donations (“sale to priests only”), markets in which the merchandise sold was from the first-tenth and to members of the Levi tribe only (there is no documentation about this), and regular merchandise for Israelis. The members of the lower classes in the society got “rests,” food that became impure or got contaminated with some rejects, and generally, the quality of the food paralleled the level of the class-line.
    • In the language of the Bible, these garments are called “holy clothes” (as in Exodus 28:2-4; Leviticus 16:4; Ezekiel 42, 14, etc.), or “ceremonial clothes” (Exodus 31:10). These expressions emphasized the ritual character of the garments.

However, in the Talmudic literature, these garments are described as “service clothes” (m. Zevahim 14:10), and, mainly, as “Priesthood clothes” (t. Kilayim 5:26; t. Yoma 1:23; b. Yoma 68b-69a, and many more).

  • The sale of donations to priests, or the one-tenth to Levites, which is not mentioned in the Bible, may have originated from reasons outside the scope of this paper. However, see: m. Terumot 5:1; m. Bekhorot 4:9; t. Damai 1:5; t. Zevahim 8:13, etc. The reference here, of course, is to a norm, and not to an act of felony (m. Bekhorot 4:9; t. Avoda Zara 40b).
  • Priests eating among themselves are explained in Brakhot 1:1. As an event, it parallels and follows their purification in the daily bath (b. Berakhot 2b). That a group of priests was eating the Passover sacrifice without the presence of members of Levi or Israel amongst them is already known from m. Pesahim 7:3 and 9:8. It is important to note that Rabbi Yohanan or another Amora (in the third century) didn’t allow the formation of a “group of proselytes” (y. Pesahim 8:7, 36a; y. Pesahim 91b).
  • Bar Ilan, “The Attitude Towards Mamzerim in Jewish Society in Antiquity,” in Jewish History (in press).

7j Romm, The Edges of the Earth, pp. 82-120.

  • It is worthwhile to pay attention to the significant gap between modem geographical perceptions and ancient ones in the physical understanding of distances. When a child sees a picture of the earth from space, the child will perceive the reality at once, but when a child tries to understand the structure of the atom, the child, like his ancient predecessors, will find himself in an entirely different situation.
  • Andre Neher, Jewish Thought and Scientific Revolution of the Sixteenth Century: David Gans (1541-1613) and His Times, David Maisel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 123-6.
  • The study the history of cartography is a necessary introduction to understanding of ancient geographical thinking. See O.A.W. Dilke, Greek and Roman Maps (London: Thames and Hudson, 1985), p. 36. The author does not necessarily stress the point of view discussed here, but it is quite evident from his historical review that the knowledge of geography became clearer and more precise with the progress of the generations. In this book, one can find reconstructions of various maps, among them those that describe the world as a circle, and those that contain four rivers, which meet in the middle of the circle, and more.
  • Majno, The Healing Hand, 261; Arrian, De Expeditione Alexandri (LCL), trans. E.I. Robson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press and London: Heinemann, 1949), VI, 1, Vol. 2, pp. 103-4. Dilke, Greek and Roman Maps, pp. 134-5. For more on this, see R. Wittkower, “Marvels of the East: A Study in the History of Monsters,” in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 5 (1942), pp. 159-197 (especially p. 161, n. 4).
  • Aristotle himself refers in four places to Ctesias of Cnidus and his book Indica, while rejecting the testimonies as unreliable. See J.M. Bogwood, “‘Ctesias,’ Indica and Photius,” in Phoenix (Toronto), 43 (1989), pp. 302-316. In view of this, it is possible to see in Dicaearchus’ “testimony” a sort of “rebellion” against the famous master. Another of Aristotle’s pupils, Dicaearchus from Mesina (in approximately 320 BCE), wrote a book named Periodos Ges (The Turning of the Earth), in which the world is described from the “Pillars of Hercules” (Gibraltar) to the Himalayas. (Dilke, Greek and Roman Maps, p. 30.) Theophrastus, Aristotle’s famous student, also collected materials about India. (Dilke, Greek and Roman Maps, p. 135) As Clearchus elaborated on the spiritual arena, so Theophrastus elaborated on the physical, and in all of this, on the wonders of India. See John Scarborough, “Adaptation of Folk Medicine in the Formal Materia Medica of Classical Antiquity,” John Scarborough, ed., in Folklore and Folk Medicine (Madison, WI: American Institute of the History of Pharmacy, 1987), pp. 21-32 (especially p. 22). That is, in one short period in the fourth century BCE, there was an enormous political change, as well as intensive scientific activity, and within these, geographical discoveries that expanded, so to say, the east of the world. Based on this, one cannot but guess the precise scope of the geographical knowledge known before that in the Greek world.
  • From the point of view of data collection and classification, we find ourselves on much firmer ground than in earlier times. The various sources were collected diligently and consistently in a manner almost without precedent in its scope, see Manfred G. Raschke, “New Studies in Roman Commerce with the East,” in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Roemischen Welt9.2 (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1978), pp. 604-1361. The author opens by calling his composition an “article,” but in reality it is a valuable book containing more than 750 pages, 1,791 notes, 17 different indexes and 6 maps, identifying approximately 680 locations. In fact, the author deals with the world trade of ancient times with a summary of literary and archeological finds from all possible sources that deal with manufacturing and trade in the entire world: from north of Russia to the southern part of Africa, and from Rome in the west to Japan in the east. Even if most of the discussions do not relate to the narrower discourse here, still, this important research can provide summarized background and depth to the different subjects discussed here.
  • About the Periplous and the maritime trade, with a list of the sources of the different products, see L. Casson, “Egypt, Africa, Arabia, and India: Patterns of Seaborne Trade in the First Century, A.D.,” in Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 21 (1984), pp. 39-47.
  • Until a few years ago, it was possible to rely mainly on, R.E.M. Wheeler, Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers (London: Bell, 1955), pp. 137-153. In this source, p. 138, there is a map with the summary of the archeological findings of Roman money treasures, almost all of them to the south of India and Sri Lanka. The findings clearly show that India had ties with Rome, but these relations took place only in the south of the sub-continent, a little in the eastern shores (and up the rivers), and some over land, up the river Indus. The more current map of the findings is not much different in substance.
  • India and the Land of Israel

    • The work of collecting the sources—literary as well as archeological—and their evaluation in regard to imported products to the land of Israel was not yet done, and it is obvious that there is a lot to add to it. See Z. Muntner, Rabbi Shabtay Donolo, II (Jerusalem, 1949), pp. 78-82.
    • Innes Miller, The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1969). (A review by Raschke, [above n. 79] p. 650).
    • Nutton, From Democedes to Harvey: Studies in the History of Medicine (London: Variorum Reprints, 1988), Ch. IX.
    • Majno, The Healing Hand, 374-381.
    • See A. Feldman, The Vegetation of the Bible (Tel-Aviv: Devir, 1957), pp. 204-7. Well commented on Erubin 28b: “Rabbi Yohanan said: For those who lived in earlier times, who did not have pepper, would grind it and dip their roasted into it.” More about the pepper (imported from India to Babylon), see in Yoma 81b and Rashi there: “that comes from the land of the Hindus—land of Kush,” just like the “mix up” described above.
    • Compare Felix, Trees of Perfume, 266; Har’el, The Historical Geography, I, pp. 332-4 (needless to advance it to the days of the queen of Sheba). Clearly there were gardens around Jerusalem where perfume trees were grown, but it does not mean that the cinnamon was among them).
    • According to the Kaufmann Ms., 125 (abbreviations were extended, such as: Rabbi, and Sages say). In the Babylonian Talmud Yoma 34b (Print editing. Manuscript JTS 218: Indians, Pelousion); Parallel in: Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 3:6, 30a, the spelling there is: Phelusion, Hindvan, Pelousim.
    • Har’el, The Historical Geography, I, pp. 468-478. The ancient Egyptian textile was known for its excellence. See testimony from much earlier period in Joan A. McDowell, “Kahun: The Textile Evidence,” in A.R. David, The Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt (London, Boston and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986), pp. 226-252; Florence E. Petzel, Textiles of Ancient Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt (Corvalis, OR: Cascade Printing Company, 1987), pp. 130-226. In the third century CE Arsinoe in Egypt was a textile export center. See on this, Raschke, New Studies, 904, n. 1000.
    • Most probably the clothes from Egypt were linen. About the Indian cloth see immediately below; A. Sh. Hershberg, The Cultural Life in Israel During the Mishnaic and Talmudic Period-, on cloth and production of cloth (Warsaw: Stiebel, 1924), p. 66.
    • The syntax is difficult, and the addition of the words “detailed report,” is unique. Actually, there are two doubles in this short paragraph, both in the double words in the explanation (“according to the tradition”), as well as in that after the words: “the second that is in the first and the first that is in the second—are equal.” There was no need for the words “and there is no second in the first more beautiful than the first in the second.” Indeed, in the Leiden Ms. (Jerusalem: Kedem Press, 1971), II, p. 499, the author omitted the first doubled sentence, and later “completed” it in the page’s notes (but it is hard to determine what the text was before this).

    The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies

    • Another approach is to explain the first sentence as a question sentence (and not as a statement sentence). However, from the frame of reference and from the fact that the sentence appears at the beginning and at the end in a modified form, it seems that the suggested explanation is preferred (following Moses’ direction). See M. Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, The Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and Midrashic Literature (New York; Pardes, 1950), pp. 1219-1220. This was edited as Peruti, but was probably written as Perut’, with the abbreviation’s apostrophe turned into a “yoh.”
    • The disagreement among the Talmudic teachers in the Mishna was in relation to the price, but not to the relative value of the products.
    • See t. Menahot 13:21, Zukermendel edition, p. 533. In the Jerusalem Talmud, this is written, “and he wore his tunic worth a hundred mena and stepped up to perform the sacrifice ritual.” But even if this is just an exaggeration used for enhancement, it is obvious that the clothes were very expensive.
    • Jerusalem Talmud, Yoma 3:6, 30d: “A story about Rabbi Elazar ben Harsom who wore his tunic worth 20,000 and stepped up to perform the sacrifice ritual, and his brother priests would not allow him to wear it because [it was transparent and] he looked as though he was naked.” This story reminds one somewhat of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” even if the ending is different. According to the tradition in Yoma 9a, Rabbi Elazar ben Harsom was a High Priest. In Yoma 35b, there is a related tradition, though somewhat different. Based on that, clearly, Elazar ben Harsom was extremely rich (see also the Kiddushin 49b: “On condition that I am a wealthy person—we do not say as Rabbi Elazar ben Harsom or Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah.”).
    • Possibly the cloth that came from Pelousion was of Indian origin and the importer simply didn’t disclose the source and, due to this, the people of the land of Israel thought that the products came from two different locations. This assumption is based on: A) The Talmudic teacher was himself aware that type B from Pelousion was equal to type A from India, that is, it was the same product from the same source. B) The relative advantage of Egypt over the land of Israel, as an exporter, was not so significant as to cause importation from Pelousion to be so much more expensive and so better in its quality, to the extent that customers would be ready to pay such a high price for it. As is known, a high price was (and still is), a function of the transportation distance of the product, and Egypt is not that far away from the land of Israel to cause its prices to rise so high as to reach the price level of products arriving from India. C) As was already explained above, one of the historical problems in identifying Indian products stems from merchants hiding their origins.
    • This is approximately how it is written in the Munich 95 In the Florence II Ms., I 7-9 there is a completely different version, probably based on another traditional portion (not due to a simple author’s mistake). It is written there, “The story about one man who sent to the house of his father-in-law a hundred carts of silver, a hundred carts of glass-ware, and rode in his happiness,” (there is no food and no millet-ware!), and later, “…that he sent to the house of his father-in-law new wine, and new oil, and new linen-ware in a holiday of assembly.”
  • Such as, Shabat 30b, “And then Rabban Gamliel sat and expounded that the Land of Israel is destined to bring forth bread rolls and fine woolen clothes,” etc. (and the Yalkut Shimeoni Tehilim (Psalms), Remez, 806: Rabban Shimeon Ben Gamliel).
  • Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, 775. Jastrow explained this word as: “fine wool,” but it is therefore unclear why its price was so high. The argument here is based on the combination of the etymological background, the historical knowledge and the price, so “fine wool” is not convincing.
  • Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 10, 22, 131. Compare these pages about the importation of cloth from India. One can still find Indian cloth in the markets.
  • The Mocha Coffee can be used as an example, a coffee called after the name of the city of its origin: Mocha (or Muza in Yemen). However, the issue discussed here is different because the point is that in the Indian port where vessels were loaded with millet, they were also loaded with clothes, and the entire cargo was called millet.
  • See Majno, The Healing Hand, 512, n. 39 (where he mentions that Damascus blades were actually from Indian iron). There is no mention of it in Begley and De Puma, Rome and India.
  • Bodenheimer, B. Rotenberg, and D. Pizanti, “Metallurgy of the Talmudic Period: The Iron in the Talmudic Sources,” in Badad 4 (1997), pp. 5-21 (especially pp. 12-3).
  • In Ms. 15 in the Jewish Theological Seminary in America, the gemara is presented with two significant differences: 1) The one answering is not Rav Zavid but Rav Yehuda. 2) At the end there are the words “Rav Ashi said” in parenthetic form, meaning that this is a page addendum. If so, there is no question and answer here but a simple statement, which is an addition of the “Geonim.” In favor of this version one must add that almost all the “ve ‘ha ’idna” in the Talmud are inconsequential and verbalized as statements. Indeed, in Shabat 10b (Beiza 17a) it is written: “but nowadays that we are concerned about sorcerers? What Rav Pappa said: he rubs (in Beiza: “rubs” is spelled with two “yods” instead) with the same type.” However, in the Yalkut Shimeoni on the Torah portion of the scripture Ki- Tisah, Remez, 390, it is written: “but nowadays to sorcerers, it rubs of the same type.”
  • Buber, ed., Tanhuma, (Vilna, 1885), p. 10.
  • This, according to Raschke, “New Studies,” p. 905, n. 1007.1 could not locate the place in India based on his description, as the name was mistakenly dropped from the list of key words for India.
  • Wilfred H. Schoff, “The Eastern Iron Trade of The Roman Empire,” in Journal of the American Oriental Society 35 (1915), pp. 230-7 (especially p. 236).
  • Majno, The Healing Hand, 266.

The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies

  • The inscription mention medicines for people and animals, and it is possible that it meant elephants (“working beasts” in India). The ties between Ashoka and Antiochus led to the sale of elephants that served the Seleucid army (also against the Hasmoneans). From collected data on commerce in the Indian Ocean, it turns out that these elephants reached Antiocheia through Egypt and Alexandria.
  • Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 175, n. 44. The book covers vast literature on the Greeks in India.
  • Fuks, “Notes on the Archive of Nicanor,” in The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 5 (1951), pp. 207-216; Raschke, “New Studies,” p. 847, n. 801.
  • W. Brown, The Indian Christians of St. Thomas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956); Jean W. Sedlar, India and the Greek World (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1980), pp. 176-185.
  • Shalva Weil, “Symmetry Between Christians and Jews in India: The Cnanite Christians and the Cochin Jews of Kerala,” in Jews in India,A. Timberg, ed., pp. 177-204.
  • This is how the text was written. In the Munich 95 a significant number of the words are abbreviated with an apostrophe mark, and there are a number of other changes (as improvements or detriments). The type of bird is not clear, and the essence of the story is as in the text.
  • The version of “diver” is confirmed in Rabbi Samuel Ben Meir’s explanation of the preceding story. In the beginning of the story, Rashi writes: “Thus must be read” to say that some scribes desecrated their hands in the story.
  • Read, Raschke, “New Studies,” p. 841, n. 781.
  • Read, M. Bar Ilan, “Monsters and Imaginary Creatures in the Ancient Jewish Legends,” in Mahanaim 7 (1994), pp. 104-113.
  • For more on the end of the period of the Roman Empire, see Yaron Dan, “Jews in the Marine Commerce in the Indian Ocean Before the Islamic Period,” in Research Works About the History of the Israeli People and the Land of Israel 5 (1980), pp. 147-158. One must take care not to draw far-reaching conclusions. Even if there were Jews in Yatvath (that is “Pharaoh’s Island,” near Eilat), still, one cannot deduce that they actually traded with India.
  • For a comprehensive bibliography on this subject see M. Bar Ilan, “Books from Cochin,” in Pe’amim 52 (1992), pp. 74-100 (at the end of the article is a comprehensive bibliographical list).
  • Walter J. Fischel, “The Exploration of the Jewish Antiquities of Cochin on the Malabar Coast,” in Journal of the American Oriental Society 87, Walter J. Fischel, ed. (1967), pp. 230-248; Fischel, Jews in Unknown Lands (New York: Ktav, 1973); Fischel, “Cochin in Jewish History,” in Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 30 (1962), pp. 37-59; Fischel, “The Contribution of the Cochin Jews to South Indian Jewish Civilization,” in Commemoration Volume—Cochin Synagogue Quatercentenay Celebration,S. Koder, ed. (Cochin, 1971), pp. 13-64; and Myron M. Weinstein, “A Putative Ceylon Rite,” in Studies in Jewish

    India and the Land of Israel

    Bibliography History and Literature in Honor of I. Edward Kiev, Ch. Berlin, ed. (New York: Ktav, 1971), pp. 495-509.

    121 Read the two previous notes, and also M. Bar Ilan, “The Words of Gad the Seer,” in Journal of Biblical Literature 109/3 (1990), pp. 477-493.

    The Places Mentioned in the Article

    Land Locations:

    Afghanistan, Africa, Alexandria, America, Andaman Islands, Antioch, Arabia, Arsinoe, Babylon, Bactria, Bet Guvrin, Bombay (Mumbai), Cape of Good Hope, Chera, China, Cochin, Cranganore, Dilmun, Egypt, Eilat, Ethiopia, Ezion-geber, Gibraltar, Greece, Havilah, The Himalayas, India, Japan, Jerusalem, Klysma, Kush, Leuke Kome, Magan, Malaya, Meluhha, Muza (=Mocha), Muziris, Myos Hormos, Nai, Nubia, Ophir, Persia, Petra, Pelousion, Punt, Rinocorora (Al-Arish), Rome, Russia, Sheba, Somalia, Sopara, Sri Lanka, Suez, Tarshish, Yeb, Yemen, Yotvath, and Zimbabwe.

    Seas and Rivers:

    Bay of Bengal, Bay of Eilat, Euphrates, Ganges, Gihon, Hiddekel, Indian Ocean, Indus, Mediterranean Sea, Nile, Persian Gulf, and Pishon.

    The following maps and illustrations can be added to this article:

    1. Perfumes from Arabia—Har’el, Historical Geography, A, p. 459.
    2. Findings in India from the Roman period—Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 2.
    3. The Red Sea and its ports—Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 13-4.
    4. Map of India, the Indian Ocean, Land of Israel + Monsoon—Begley and De Puma, Rome and India, 9.
    5. The map of the world in the eyes of the Greek—in the fifth century BCE—Majno, The Healing Hand.
    6. A picture of ships from Tyrus out of Sennacherib’s tablet— Har’el, The Geography, 61.
    7. The rivers surrounding the Garden of Eden in the church of Medba—Zafrir, The Land of Israel From the Destruction of the Second Temple 2, p. 417.
    8. Maps showing India in ancient times (like the Foitinger map), see N. Kadmon, in Ariel 116 (1996), pp. 89-96
    9. Maps and restored ancient maps: Dilke, Greek and Roman Maps (London: Thames and Hudson, 1985).