Across the Sabbath River
In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel
By Hillel Halkin
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618029983, 400pp.)
Publication Date: August 2002
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The fate of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel has fascinated Jews and Christians throughout the ages. Hillel Halkin, a distinguished writer and translator, has long been intrigued by the old legend that the tribes still exist in distant corners of the earth -- a legend that, like nearly all contemporary investigators of the subject, he considered to lack all factual basis. In 1998, he accompanied a Jerusalem rabbi and dedicated Lost Tribes hunter to China, Thailand, and northeast India in search of traces of the biblical Israelites who disappeared in the eighth century B.C.E. The journey ended among a little-known ethnic group living along the India-Burma border who had themselves been swept in recent years by Lost Tribe fever. Halkin returned twice more to the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur for a deeper look. Gradually, despite his initial skepticism, he became convinced that this remote group is -- incredible as it may seem -- historically linked to the ancient biblical tribe of Manasseh.
Across the Sabbath River is the compulsively readable account of Halkin's experiences in arriving at this conviction. A superb writer, he effortlessly interweaves the biblical and historical backgrounds of this centuries-old quest with a captivating account, both funny and poignant, of his own adventures. In vivid, engaging portraits, he introduces us to a wide and memorable range of characters at once alien and familiar, while transporting us to an exotic society obsessed with the enigma of its own identity. Piece by piece, as in a tantalizing detective story, he amasses the evidence that finally persuades him, and will persuade many of his readers, that, for the first time in history, a living remnant of a lost biblical tribe has been found.
Hillel Halkin was born in New York City and has lived in Israel since 1970.
"Humorous, intelligent commentary . . . genuinely intriguing, and difficult to dismiss." Kirkus Reviews
"Extraordinary . . . beautifully written and intelligently argued." The Wall Street Journal
"Amazing . . . rich in both geographical and intellectual adventure and spiked with wry wit. A book that has many delights." The New York Times
"A captivating tale that is part travelogue, part ethnography, part cultural treasure hunt. His conclusions . . . will amaze even skeptical readers." Publishers Weekly, Starred
"Halkin writes with a beautifully descriptive, flowing prose that enhances our appreciation of the exotic locales and peoples he encountered." Booklist, ALA
"A good-humored travelogue." The San Francisco Chronicle
"A writer and scholar worth listening to . . . this elegantly written "detective story" . . . helps put the Mizos on the Jewish agenda." Jerusalem Post
"Spirited, engaging, and charmingly written . . . fascinating, full of vividly rendered encounters . . . rendered with insight, wit, and considerable humor." Commentary