Since the late 1990s, a group of Tutsi, who have their origin in the Great Lakes area of Africa (Burundi and Rwanda), claim that this region was the home of a Hebraic community in ancient times, and claim a Jewish identity. Their homeland, supposedly extending far beyond the regions where the Tutsi now reside, is called Havila by them, according to the name applied in Genesis 2:11 to the legendary territory watered by the Pishon River. The Tutsi claim to perpetuate either the pharaonic monotheism of the 18th dynasty of Egypt or Moses' faith as transcribed in the Hebraic Torah. The Hamitic-Semitic myth of the origins of these Tutsi, which was largely inspired by missionaries and colonists of the 19th century, now appears to be strongly reinforced by the symbolic uses they make of Judaism. Following their terrible suffering during the genocide of 1994, these Tutsi have increasingly claimed a Jewish identity and describe their history as a microcosm of World Jewish history, evoking the common experience of persecution to give more weight to their Jewish identity claim. The group is based in Belgium, where its president, Professor Yochanan Bwejeri, and the Havila Institute call upon Israel and the international community to condemn and take measures against the "antisemitic" violence in Africa towards the Tutsi ethnic group.


L. Ndayongeje, "Mythe des origines, idéologie hamitique et violence en Afrique des Grands Lacs: comprendre et agir," in: Grands Lacs Confidentiel (Aug. 16, 2004); E. Kennes, "Judaïsation des Tutsi: identité ou stratégie de conquête," in: Grands Lacs Confidentiel (March 18, 2000).

[Tudor Parfitt (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.