The word "Makuya" is the Japanese translation of the Hebrew phrase Ohel Moed אהל מועד, the meeting place between God and man, the dwelling place of God's Shekhinah (Ex. 29:42–43), and has been adopted by an indigenous Japanese group of Bible believers, strongly identified with the cause of Israel and believing that the Japanese people have historical connections with ancient Israel through the dispersion of the Lost Tribes. Makuya was founded in May 1948 by a charismatic leader, Abraham Ikuro Teshima (1910–73), who was then a successful businessman and ardent Christian believer. He emphasized the importance of the personal encounter with the Spirit of God and the return to the dynamic faith of the original Gospel of early Hebraic Christianity, as opposed to the dogmatic, institutionalized, European-dominated churches. He tried to revive the devastated spiritual condition of postwar Japan by proclaiming the words of the living God (Amos 8:11). He said, "The Bible is the light to all peoples and the biblical faith perfects all religions. Even today the God of Israel is living and vividly intervenes in the human society with his abundant goodness and mercy." His followers believed that he was divinely endowed with spiritual power and prophetic vision, and attributed to him many miraculous deeds by his prayers. A commentator on the Bible and prolific writer, Teshima maintained that deeper understanding of the Jewish faith, its people and history, is essential to the full comprehension of the Bible. Makuya now counts some 50,000, mainly in Japan but also in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Greece, Israel, and other Asian countries. Their religious life is somewhat akin to the early ḥasidic movement with characteristics of hitlahavut (exuberant joy) and total commitment to God. The religious thinkings of Rabbi A.I. *Kook, Martin *Buber, and Abraham *Heschel are among the cherished elements of their belief. Their fervent love of the Bible and firm attachment to Zion brings hundreds of Makuya pilgrims annually to Israel. Over 250 Makuya students have been sent to Israeli kibbutzim to work together with the people of the Bible, and to study Hebrew and the biblical background. Some of them continue their academic studies in universities. They have published their first Hebrew-Japanese dictionary. The Makuya see in the establishment of the State of Israel – founded at the same time as their movement, as they stress – and the unification of Jerusalem a fulfillment of biblical prophecies. Israel is the experimental nursery of God and Jerusalem the capital of His universal kingdom; Divine history of redemption unfolds around the city of Zion. Whenever the Makuya get together they sing secular and religious Hebrew songs, many of them the songs of modern Israel. They adopt Hebrew names, observe the Sabbath, and keep a form of kashrut. They light candles on Friday evening, break ḥallah, and read from the siddur. Their view of the world is informed by a profound admiration for Israel and the Jewish people. Their love for Israel often finds practical expression: a Makuya volunteer was wounded in the 1967 Six-Day War and in the wake of the Israeli victory a Makuya "pilgrimage" marched through Jerusalem carrying a banner proclaiming "Congratulations on the Greater Jerusalem." In the fall of 1973, in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War and the Arab oil boycott, Teshima and thousands of his followers staged a massive pro-Israel demonstration in downtown Tokyo. And in 1975, when the United Nations condemned Zionism as a form of racism and racial discrimination, they sent a petition of protest containing 37,000 signatures to the un General Secretary. Makuya show great hospitality to visiting Israelis and Jews, and it is possible to find Makuya Hebrew speakers in most important Japanese towns. To some extent their admiration for Jews derives from the Christian part of their ideology. But, in addition, it springs from the national nature of Judaism – the idea that Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people – and from Zionism. The Makuya are intensely nationalistic and, in some ways, are looking towards the redemption of the Japanese nation which will be modeled upon the redemption of Israel.
T. Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: the History of a Myth (2004); idem, The Thirteenth Gate (1987).
[Akira Jindo /
Tudor Parfitt (2nd ed.)]