Ancient Maori Jews?


Neil Rubin

So your cruise stops off at a New Zealand island when you catch a strange site over to the right. It seems that a native Maori dancer — dressed in feathered robes and decorated with face tattoos — has whipped out his cell phone (hidden beneath his robe) and just whispered in Hebrew, “Emah, ani b’avodah!” (“Mom, I’m at work!” )

Remnants of an ancient lost Jewish tribe speaking Hebrew? An undercover Israeli government operation? A North American Jewish day school project?

Nah, just a group of Israeli backpackers paid by a New Zealand tour operator to impersonate the native Maori, Australia’s ABC News recently reported. Why, oh why, hire young folks taking a breather “off the grid” after two or three years in the Israel Defense Forces?

It seems that Discovery Heritage Group paid the visitors because, according to company director Terina Puriri, the local Maori are too lazy.

Gulp. While insulted by the impersonators, Maori elders said they are more upset about the label of poor work ethics. As local tribe chairman HuiKakahu Kawe countered, “ We have Maori operators that are operating successfully in the tour business who do get up in the morning and do the business.”

No doubt the Israelis would have commented, but they were likely out on another coffee break.

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