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Quaint Arctic Legend

Russian Tradition About the Lost Tribes of Israel

An article referring to the reputed finding of the north pole by Explorer Nansen, published in the Atlanta Consitution, says that a people speaking the Hebrew language live there and are supposed to be members of the lost tribes of Israel. In this connection it may not be inappropriatae to recall an old legend extant among the orthodox Jews of Russia regarding this subject and which confirms the report of the explorer.

Years and years ago, so the story runs, an exiled Jew on the bleak wilds of Siberia, in an effort to reach an overhanging branch of a tree, placed his foot upon a log floating on the water. No sooner had his foot touched the log when it seemed inspired with life and moved rapidly off, bearing the exile away toward the vast ice fields which were plainly visible and plentiful toward the north. Rapidly the current swept the log northward, bearing with it the unfortunate Jew, who was so benumbed with fear and cold that he was unable to formulate a plan of escape from his perilous position.

For three consecutive days and nights the prisoner clung to the log, passing through towering fields of icebergs and dashing under arches cut by the current through the sky scraping fields of ice. Out into beautiful sunshine our traveler eventually emerged. The grass was green and the trees were garbed in the splendor of nature and birds made merry music on every branch. People, great in numbers, were congregated on either bank of the stream, all dressed in holiday raiment of the finest texture, but similar in character to the clothing worn by our ancestors 2,000 years ago. The current of the stream ceased to flow, the log drifted to the bank and the almost famished and thoroughly frightened traveler repeated for the thousandth time the Hebrew words "shama -- Israel," and in uncertain manner dismounted from the log.

The inhabitants crowded around, and speaking in Hebrew (with which language he was thoroughly conversant) learned of his need of food and rest, and supplied those wants, after which they inquired whence he came and whither he was going. Numerous inquiries were made regarding the people who lived beyond their circumscribed world, who in reciprocity informed him of themselves and their mode of living, which had in nowise changed since the advent of the Christian era.

They worked and worshiped even as did the Jews in ancient times, when Palestine was a garden and Jerusalem the center of civilization. The traveler learned that these people were the lost tribes of Israel, who had migrated to this goodly country, led by the descendant of Aaron named Joseph -- who had passed away without leaving any descendants. With them they had brought many of the vessels and much of the paraphernalia of Solomon's temple and patterned their house of worship after this famous temple of Jerusalem.

The traveler was told that the stream's current was active six day in the week and on the seventh became quiet and did not move, but as he was a member of a different tribe to themselves he would not be allowed to remain within the country. So he was placed in a boat, which was pushed out into the current and was borne by a circuitous route back to Siberia. Afterward he was pardoned, returned to Russia and told his adventure.

Reproduced with permission: L.L. Dyche, Explorations (Newspaper Clippings Related to Polar Exploration), Vol. 1 & 2. University Archives, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence, KS.


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Original Source:
  Brooklyn Eagle, Brooklyn, NY. April 5, 1896  
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  Jennifer F. Holvoet, Ph.D.  
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