While it’s easy to be flip about studies on the similarities of Jews in far-flung places, a study recently released by a consortium of colleges in the United States, Israel, France, and Spain, did yield some interesting results:
It turns out that Syrian Jews have more genetic commonality with Ashkenazi (European) Jews than with other oriental Jews (Jews from Asian and African lands).
Also, Yemenite Jews, who have long been thought to have lived in isolation, apparently have genetic connections with people from neighboring states.
Jews of North African origins have greater genetic affinity with Ashkenazi Jews that with non-Jewish residents from North African countries.
What’s most interesting is the data about the North African Jews, which reveals a fissure between two communities, one that escaped Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition to settle in North Africa and another that dates back over 2,000 years.
The genetic findings corroborate historical accounts of the history of Jews from North African areas. Jewish migrants were apparently among the first people who established the western settlements of North Africa more than 2,000 years ago. Together with Phoenician merchants, they established the historic city of Carthage, today’s Tunis. The most venerable genetic traces uncovered in the study of North African Jews reinforce historical accounts of Jewish settlement under the Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt, in the year 300 BCE.
But ultimately, it seems we all came from the Middle East. And as Moby brays, we are all made of stars.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.