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Reflections - the hunt for the Jewish genome / Bracha Reger

Studies point to a common genetic basis for the Jews of the world, but is that the whole story?

The hunt for the Jewish genome began immediately with the publication of the results of the mapping of the human genome. There is no doubt that the characterization of the genome of the Jewish people arouses special curiosity and is of historical importance. Has a people that has existed for thousands of years, exiled from its homeland and spread everywhere but jealously guarding its heritage and religion, also guarded its genetic heritage? Over the years, the phenotypic characterizations of the Jewish "race" have proliferated, in very negative anti-Semitic stereotypes, in countless cartoons and even in computer games. On the other hand, quite a few people believe that the Jews are endowed with extraordinary qualities of creativity and excellence and that their contribution to the advancement of humanity is much greater than their relative share in the population.

But do the historical facts show that the Jews are a "race" or a people? Will the genome tell the story of the Jewish people, their origins and migrations? Are there genes that characterize people of Jewish origin?

Clues to the existence of genes that characterize Jewish populations can be obtained from genetic diseases that are common mainly among Jews, such as Tay-Sachs and breast cancer. However, it is difficult to draw clear conclusions from the results of the studies so far, and it is now accepted to assume that DNA tests alone do not reflect the true story. The variation in DNA between the Jews is very great, and in contrast there are genetic similarities between Jews and people considered non-Jews. Therefore, alongside the scientific factors, social, cultural and behavioral factors must also be taken into account.

And yet, what is the sequence of genes, or the primordial genotype from which the "Jewish race" developed? The human genome contains 22 pairs of autosomal chromosomes, two sex chromosomes (XX in women and XY in men) as well as mitochondrial DNA. The genetic heritage of men is measured according to the Y chromosome found only in males and passed from father to son, while that of women is tested according to mitochondrial DNA, which is passed from the mother to all her offspring. From these tests it became clear that the ancient origin of 80% of Jewish men is from the Middle East. In contrast, the population of Jewish women is more heterogeneous, although at least 50% also come from the Middle East. And here the question arises: "Who are these genes that were characterized as belonging to the ancient fathers and mothers of the primary Jewish dynasty? The story of Ruth the Moabite raises a question - was she a convert and great-grandmother of King David whose lineage is considered the most central. Is it possible to conclude from this that the genotype of Ruth the Moabite convert also became part of the Jewish nuclear genome?

Credit: Yehuda Crane, Jerusalem 1936
Credit: Yehuda Crane, Jerusalem 1936

The continued hunt for the Jewish genome is getting more and more complicated. It is commonly thought that the modern Jewish population comes from two large groups that separated from each other many years ago into Ashkenazim and non-Ashkenazim, or Sephardim. This division is somewhat simplistic, relying on the fact that the Ashkenazim originate from northern and eastern Europe, while the Sephardi originate from Spain and the countries of the Near East. This division is done mainly for reasons of convenience, but it is clear that these groups are not homogeneous. The Jews migrated from land to land and from country to country and their gene pool therefore changed according to the routes of their migrations and migrations. Indeed, from time to time studies are published showing surprising connections between groups of Jews who are geographically far apart. Advanced technologies, such as a review of the entire genome, are increasingly confirming the conclusion that the Jewish populations from Europe and the Middle East have common genes originating from a Jewish population that lived in the Near East 3000 years ago and then the split occurred and each population inherited genes from the environment in which they lived.

If so, although there is some common genetic basis for the Jewish people, there is still room to ask whether Jewish identity is determined by genetics or by cultural-ethnic identity.


on the notebook

Professor Bracha Reger, Emeritus Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Ben Gurion University, President of Ort Israel and Chairman of the Academic Council of Ort Israel. Served as the chief scientist of the Ministry of Health and was a member of the Council for Higher Education.

And more on the subject

Genetic ancestry, Jewish. Behar D. and Skorecki K. in Encyclopedia Judaica, second edition, vol.7 pp. 450-458

Legacy: a genetic history of the Jewish people. Harry Oster, Oxford University Press, USA; 1st edition, May 2, 2012

North African Jewish and non-Jewish populations form distinctive, orthogonal clusters. Campbell et al. in PNAS, August 6, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1204840109

20 תגובות

  1. Once again we are back to the endless nature or nurture debate. I highly recommend Ridley's book "The Father, the Son and the Garden" - and as for Israeli neo-fascism, it is definitely social and not genetic.

  2. On scientific studies and the Ashkenazi Khazar context:
    The genetic link between Jews and the people of the geographical area that was once the Khazar kingdom is weak, but not between Levites and Khazars.

    Annie Bush in my ancestry. To assume that I am a descendant of the Khazars - I understand how it shames my origin.

    I also believe that the Talmud is not a pile of nonsense even though it contains racism, prejudice and nonsense.
    It must be remembered that it was written 2000 years ago by the standards of that time. What happened with it today is another matter.
    When you review what the ancient world had to offer, 2 cultures come to mind: Hellenistic and Jewish. Magad Talmud
    It includes jurisprudence and logic, and even discussions in the spirit of game theory, and morality.

    For enlightened secularists who wish to encounter the Talmud from a neutral point of view: the series "Sages" by Rabbi Dr.
    Bnei Lau, and the series "Talmud for Children". I believe both in the Big Bang, and in the fact that the Bible was written by humans,
    and in something that is not perceived by us called God and that the Talmud is not nonsense. The truly in-depth among the secular have only one readable Talmud (the Talmud is not readable for a secular and neither are its interpretations in my opinion) and it is the Jerome Shoshenstein edition. Those who believe in this Talmud cannot claim that these are nonsense. I actually believe that in the distant past, this was the source of the inquisitiveness of Jewish scientists. This is the main one, although it was redirected to something else.

    Is it enough to read "Treatise Baba offers?" Two hold a tallit, and see the wisdom
    and the amazing sensitivity in bringing people to an agreement with the judge, while maintaining their dignity. I have no problem
    If there is a study that will say that I am a direct descendant of Bnei Israel but of living Jews. And I still feel a national affinity for Israel. I have no problem if they prove to me that Moses was not created and that we were Canaanites who believed in one God.

    I have a problem with the concept of the chosen people, which claims that the others are inferior, but I am proud of this religion from which
    The other great religions grew. I am angry at the injustices and damage that religions have caused - but they have also brought good.
    Contradictions live side by side in our world.

  3. "If so, although there is some common genetic basis for the Jewish people, there is still room to ask whether Jewish identity is determined by genetics or by cultural-ethnic identity." ??

    I did not understand what is meant by "Jewish identity", everyone knows that there is a possibility of conversion, that is, it does not depend on a genome, so what is meant by "identity"?

  4. It's just amazing to read the comments here…
    For a moment I thought I had arrived at an Islamist movie on YouTube.
    The degree of racism and hatred for Jews from within the Jews themselves, should be a research topic in itself.
    I don't know many peoples like that...
    I have never heard the Germans accuse themselves of "murderous genes" despite their history...
    Perhaps this is an inherited cognitive disease like other genetic diseases that characterize Jews...

  5. Snofkin - the definition of a Jew (if there will ever be a consensus on it) is not a genetic definition, maybe in the days of Hitler it could have been pushed to this dark corner. But nowadays, if there are people who want to push in this direction, they are a very tiny minority.

    Yaron, extra ordinary claims require extra ordinary evidence

    Come on, you couldn't even find a normal nickname for yourself.
    What an abysmal hatred for Jews and Judaism. You are definitely proof that at least some Jews have feelings of inferiority.

  6. Surely this is not a result of studying Talmud, unless there is evidence that studying nonsense with obsessive meticulousness and trying to reconcile delusional, disgraceful and cruel things with a changing reality, etc., etc. - contributes to intelligence in a special way.

    The Talmud and its ilk are a collection of terrible nonsense, without reason, without sensitivity, without beauty, without pleasantness. He can only degrade humanity and not improve it.

    What's more, those who know "scholars", must be aware of their crooked thinking, tendency to misrepresent/lie, cunning cunning, etc.

  7. So in fact the Nobel prizes to a large extent belong to the Khazars.

    Because if the Ashkenazi Jews (mainly secular of course) are the ones who reached high achievements in science and not others, then it must be attributed to the Khazarian genes.

    It is interesting that this doge is always given, even though Jews often stood out for cultural disgust and corruption.

    Jews = feelings of inferiority.

  8. The article is good but too simplistic. There are layers that do not appear here.
    Comparative genetic studies were carried out between the Khazars and the Jews. It is very possible that the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jews today are descendants of Khazars.

    There are 22% Jews in the Nobel Prize, while their proportion in the world population is 0.2%. This is a statistic that requires reference. In medicine, a 5% difference between a control group and a placebo group is not ignored. Here there is a little more than 22 divided by 0.2. Is it cultural or genetic. You preferred not to get into it - but then don't write an article about it. If you take it upon yourself - please refer to all the issues. Is it possible that the "Moshe" family included common genes that are not in the population. There is no doubt that Moshe was unique. It's not that weird. In the Golan Heights a tombstone was found that documents the house of David and the elimination of his 2 descendants by Ataliah = for those who doubt the veracity of the biblical story. I was a follower of Professor Yisrael Finkelstein myself (argued about the reduction of Beit David's correctness) and I still cherish his work. There is evidence of a minister of treasure in the days of the Pharaoh of the story of Joseph, named Joseph. Is the source
    for statistics, is a 2000-year-old in-depth Talmudic study, a unique heritage in the world that has gone bad, or
    which is genetic.

    The genetic correlation between Palestinians and Jews. Has it existed since the days of the Mishnah and the Talmud?
    the priests Are they with a 4000 year genetic heritage? Do they have an ancestor - Aaron?

    There is a Russian Jewish professor (Khitin or Hisin) who writes books that only the Russian Jewish sector reads, but there he is not a negligible professor - if you want I will give you his name. He did a genetic study and came to the conclusion that there are 2 living mothers: that of the Jews and that of everyone else. Here his research starts to become esoteric but it does not spoil the previous finding. According to his opinion, there were aliens here who carried out a race improvement that was successful in chimpanzees who would be servants to the masters' race. From the first, which did not reduce the "measure of intelligence" given to monkeys - the Jews came out, and in the second they produced a lesson and reduced the measure of intelligence - and everything else came out. He doesn't call it wisdom - but the willingness to bring
    in account options (open mindedness). Ridiculous - but I must point out that it is interesting.

  9. Can genetic tests be used to determine if a certain person is Jewish? This has implications for the Law of Return, not to mention old Muslims in the country who may actually be Jews who converted to Islam.

  10. What a mix of racism in the comments.

    June, and the Russians are a race? The British? Germans? What is the definition of race anyway? And who even mentioned race in the article?

    To 10. If we ignore your shallow response that oozes sticky racism, there are still solid numerical facts of the success of individuals whose family or they saw themselves as part of the Jewish people, which is hundreds of percent greater than many ethnic groups who lived together with those individuals and had the same starting data, statistically, This anomaly requires an explanation before throwing into the virtual air of the blog's shallow tolerance for sniffers.

    To my daughter, it's a fact that you entered the article. So you are also at least a little interested. In any case, your zero-sum enlistment for certain studies is out of place. There are also studies that try to cure diseases. There is no reason to reduce the fields of science to the linear line that you or I think is the most important. All the more so that already today there are medical consequences which are based on ethnic genetics. And the country is making great progress in predicting and preventing diseases that are peculiar to those with a Jewish genome.

  11. The real Jewish genes are in Afghanistan and created the Taliban rule, based on Jewish law.
    And a similar character can be seen in ultra-Orthodox from Russia and "sneniks".
    Note that the Afghans are even more horrifying than the Israelis.

    All the successful ones among the Jews and those who reached impressive achievements, did not see themselves as Jews specifically and did not attribute special importance to their Judaism or "chosen people". They succeeded, because of a lot of motivation and sometimes after getting used to engaging in over-diligence - horrible and horrifying idle swans that in the "holy" books, suddenly became one of the people, among "non-Jews" and succeeded in spite of... and not because of.

  12. The Jews are not a race genetically

    In the period after the destruction of the Second Temple, pagans all over the Roman Empire were converted under the influence of their neighbors to the Jews, and there was also a phenomenon of the conversion of slaves and slave girls who were owned by wealthy Jews

    There are known cases of the collective conversion of nations such as the Khazar kingdom in Russia, the Hamyar kingdom in Yemen, Berber tribes in the Maghreb and more

    After that with the collapse of the pagan world and the takeover of Christianity and Islam during periods of pogroms and extermination they would kill men and rape Jewish women and this is best known for the invasions of the Tatars and Cossacks in Russia and Ukraine

    Every Jew contains a genetic load of the tribe of Judah but also a foreign genetic load as explained above and therefore Jews are genetically similar to one degree or another even to populations from their countries of origin

  13. to Yossi Yaari,
    Thanks for the movie
    I did not know of its existence.

    To David,
    Even if they were Arabs - they did not buy the shockers with their own money.
    "Tnuva" is responsible for everything that happens in this slaughterhouse.

  14. And I forgot to add: we can be really proud of our Jewish genome, after they showed in "Chalbotek" the abuse of prims, abuse that is not only despicable in itself, it is also a violation of an agreement with the marketed Australia. If the Jewish genome is mainly a 'Tahman' genome, surely it is desirable to stop looking for it.

  15. It is clear that the continued hunt for the Jewish genome is getting more and more complicated! And it's not just Ruth the Moabitess, after all the tribes of Israel also lived beyond the Jordan, where the state of Jordan is today, so at least half of the residents of Jordan are Jewish by origin; So what does that mean? And for what purpose is the whole matter of the Jewish genome being studied at all? What does this research want to achieve? If you start calculating the migration of the Jews from the day Jerusalem was destroyed, then there are enough writings to study the matter. Perhaps it is better to invest the biological resources in the search for a solution to diseases and not in the search for Jews in Timbuktu.

  16. Professor Reger...a good but short article...
    Can you elaborate more?
    1. Especially about groups of Jews with similar backgrounds but a great geographical distance...
    2. Regarding the origin of 20 percent of the men and 50 percent of the women. The people of origin are not from the Middle East, so where are they from (Europe or Asia)?


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