Home July 2010 Genetically Speaking

Genetically Speaking

Armed people with dubious motives are intercepted on a blockade-running ship bound for Gaza with the purportedly good intention of bringing food and medical supplies to innocent people needing “humanitarian aid.”  A well-known journalist resigns amid her comments that the Jews should leave Israel and go back to Germany, Poland, and the United States.  A ruling suspends a Muslim student group at a local university for actions that can hardly be considered within First Amendment rights.

All of the above events took place within a few weeks.  To those of us who love Israel, justice has been served.  Still, it is small wonder that people with little understanding of Israel are scratching their heads.  Who really owns that small strip of land along the Mediterranean, who got there first, and why is it so important?  Fortunately, there is one more piece of news, and, using the science of genetics, it sets the record straight.

Two different studies prove that Jews in Israel ARE home.  The studies, conducted at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and in Tel Aviv, show the ancestral connection of Jews that emanates in Israel.  Our own Mayrav Saar, writing in the New York Post, said that the studies prove that “the Jewish people are a people after all.”

The common genetic thread among all Jews evolved in the second or third century B.C.E., according to the Einstein study, called “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era.” By comparing the genetic analyses of 237 Jews, including Sephardic (Middle Eastern) and Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews and doing an analysis of 418 non-Jews worldwide, the study determined “that the Jews were more closely related to each other than to their fellow countrymen.”
The Jewish genetic link spans the globe, showing that Diaspora Jews have the same origin as Middle Eastern Jews.  As Saar’s article says, “DNA analysis in both studies shows that European Jews are related to Middle Eastern Jews and non-Jewish Middle Eastern people, a finding that also repudiates claims by some that Ashkenazi Jews are the descendants of Slavs or Khazars, a north Caucasus group, who converted to Judaism in the ninth century.”

According to another article on the subject by Thomas H Maugh II in the Los Angeles Times, “The Jewish people, according to archaeologists, originated in Babylon and Persia between the fourth and sixth centuries before the Common Era. The modern-day Jews most closely related to that original population are the Jews in Iran, Iraq and Syria, whose closest non-Jewish relatives are the Druze, Bedouins and Arabs of Gaza, the study found. Sometime in that period, the Middle Eastern and European Jews diverged and the European branch began actively proselytizing for converts.”

While the studies were designed to shed light on what might be considered Jewish genetic diseases, they offer insight into the origin of the Jewish people and the ties that still bind us.  They also appear to substantiate the claim that Israel is not only the spiritual home for the world’s Jews; it is our ancestral home as a people from which we all branched out.  Genetic similarities supersede cultural differences and geographic diversity.  We really are “klal Israel” after all.

When that group of kids from the Bureau of Jewish Education’s T.I.E.S. program touched down on Israeli soil, it was not simply a Judaism-affirming experience.  It was a chance to come home.

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