Ana Sayfa -----
Kurds are the Closest Relatives of Jews
In 2001, a team of Israeli, German, and Indian scientists discovered
that the majority of Jews around the world are closely related to
the Kurdish people -- more closely than they are to the
Semitic-speaking Arabs or any other population that was tested. The
researchers sampled a total of 526 Y-chromosomes from 6 populations
(Kurdish Jews, Kurdish Muslims, Palestinian Arabs, Sephardic Jews,
Ashkenazic Jews, and Bedouin from southern Israel) and added extra
data on 1321 persons from 12 populations (including Russians,
Belarusians, Poles, Berbers, Portuguese, Spaniards, Arabs, Armenians,
and Anatolian Turks). Most of the 95 Kurdish Muslim test subjects
came from northern Iraq. Ashkenazic Jews have ancestors who lived in
central and eastern Europe, while Sephardic Jews have ancestors from
southwestern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. The
Kurdish Jews and Sephardic Jews were found to be very close to each
other. Both of these Jewish populations differed somewhat from
Ashkenazic Jews, who mixed with European peoples during their
diaspora. The researchers suggested that the approximately 12.7
percent of Ashkenazic Jews who have the Eu 19 chromosomes -- which
are found among between 54 and 60 percent of Eastern European
Christians -- descend paternally from eastern Europeans (such as
Slavs) or Khazars. But the majority of Ashkenazic Jews, who possess
Eu 9 and other chromosomes, descend paternally from Judeans who
lived in Israel two thousand years ago. In the article in the
November 2001 issue of The American Journal of Human Genetics,
Ariella Oppenheim of the Hebrew University of Israel wrote that this
new study revealed that Jews have a closer genetic relationship to
populations in the northern Mediterranean (Kurds, Anatolian Turks,
and Armenians) than to populations in the southern Mediterranean (Arabs
A previous study by Ariella Oppenheim and her colleagues, published
in Human Genetics in December 2000, showed that about 70 percent of
Jewish paternal ancestries and about 82 percent of Palestinian Arabs
share the same chromosomal pool. The geneticists asserted that this
might support the claim that Palestinian Arabs descend in part from
Judeans who converted to Islam. With their closer relationship to
Jews, the Palestinian Arabs are distinctive from other Arab groups,
such as Syrians, Lebanese, Saudis, and Iraqis, who have less of a
connection to Jews.
A study by Michael Hammer et al., published in PNAS in June 2000,
had identified a genetic connection between Arabs (especially
Syrians and Palestinians) and Jews, but had not tested Kurds, so it
was less complete.
Many Kurds have the "Jewish" Cohen Modal Haplotype
In the 1990s, a team of scientists (including the geneticist Michael
Hammer, the nephrologist Karl Skorecki, and their colleagues in
England) discovered the existence of a haplotype which they termed
the "Cohen modal haplotype" (abbreviated as CMH). Cohen is the
Hebrew word for "priest", and designates descendants of Judean
priests from two thousand years ago. Initial research indicated that
while only about 3 percent of general Jews have this haplotype, 45
percent of Ashkenazic Cohens have it, while 56 percent of Sephardic
Cohens have it. David Goldstein, an evolutionary geneticist at
Oxford University, said: "It looks like this chromosomal type was a
constituent of the ancestral Hebrew population." Some Jewish rabbis
used the Cohen study to argue that all Cohens with the CMH had
descended from Aaron, a High Priest who lived about 3500 years ago,
as the Torah claimed. Shortly after, it was determined that 53
percent of the Buba clan of the Lemba people of southern Africa have
the CMH, compared to 9 percent of non-Buba Lembas. The Lembas claim
descent from ancient Israelites, and they follow certain Jewish
practices such as circumcision and refraining from eating pork, and
for many geneticists and historians the genetic evidence seemed to
verify their claim.
However, it soon became apparent that the CMH is not specific to
Jews or descendants of Jews. In a 1998 article in Science News, Dr.
Skorecki indicated (in an interview) that some non-Jews also possess
the Cohen markers, and that the markers are therefore not "unique or
special". The CMH is very common among Iraqi Kurds, according to a
1999 study by C. Brinkmann et al. And in her 2001 article, Oppenheim
wrote: "The dominant haplotype of the Muslim Kurds (haplotype 114)
was only one microsatellite-mutation step apart from the CMH..." (Oppenheim
2001, page 1100). Furthermore, the CMH is also found among some
Armenians, according to Dr. Levon Yepiskoposyan (Head of the
Institute of Man in Yerevan, Armenia), who has studied genetics for
many years. Dr. Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin wrote: "The suggestion
that the 'Cohen modal haplotype' is a signature haplotype for the
ancient Hebrew population is also not supported by data from other
populations." (Zoossmann-Diskin 2000, page 156).
In short, the CMH is a genetic marker from the northern Middle East
which is not unique to Jews. However, its existence among many Kurds
and Armenians, as well as some Italians and Hungarians, would seem
to support the overall contention that Kurds and Armenians are the
close relatives of modern Jews and that the majority of today's Jews
have paternal ancestry from the northeastern Mediterranean region.
The Jewish Kingdom of Adiabene in Ancient Kurdistan
In ancient times, the royal house of Adiabene and some of the common
people of Adiabene converted to Judaism. The capital city of
Adiabene was Arbela (known today by Arabs as Irbil and by Kurds as
Hawler). King Izates became closely attached to his new faith, and
sent his sons to study Hebrew and Jewish customs in Jerusalem. His
successor to the throne was his brother Monobazos II, who also
adopted Judaism. In her 2001 study, Oppenheim references the kingdom
of Adiabene, but suggests that while Adiabene's conversion to
Judaism "resulted in the assimilation of non-Jews into the community...
This recorded conversion does not appear to have had a considerable
effect on the Y chromosome pool of the Kurdish Jews." (Oppenheim
2001, page 1103). Some of the Jewish Adiabenians may have eventually
converted to Christianity.
Research has just begun into the ancient ties between Kurds and Jews.
It would be interesting to see if the various Jewish groups have as
strong a family tie to Kurds in the maternal lineages as they do in
the paternal lineages. Preliminary studies indicate that Jewish
populations in eastern Europe and Yemen have maternal origins that
contain much more non-Israelite ancestry than their paternal origins.
Despite this admixture with other groups, the Jewish Judean people
ultimately began their existence in an area within or nearby
Kurdistan, prior to migrating southwest to Israel. This exciting
research showing that Kurds and Jews may have shared common fathers
several millennia ago should, hopefully, encourage both Kurds and
Jews to explore each others' cultures and to maintain the friendship
that Kurds and Jews enjoyed in northern Iraq in recent times (as
chronicled in Michael Rubin's recent article "The Other Iraq"). As
Rubin indicates, the Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani once
visited Israel and met with Israeli government officials. Rubin
refers to the Iraqi Kurds' "special affinity for Israel" and writes
that "In the safe haven of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Jews and Israel are
remembered fondly, if increasingly vaguely." Let us hope that this
relationship can be renewed and strengthened.
Brinkmann, C., et al. "Human Y-chromosomal STR haplotypes in a
Kurdish population sample." International Journal of Legal Medicine
112 (1999): 181-183.
Brook, Kevin A. The Jews of Khazaria. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson,
Hammer, Michael F., et al. "Y Chromosomes of Jewish Priests." Nature
385 (January 2, 1997): 32.
Hammer, Michael F., et al. "Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish
Populations Share a Common Pool of Y-chromosome Biallelic Haplotypes."
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS) 97:12 (June
6, 2000): 6769-6774.
Oppenheim, Ariella, et al. "High-resolution Y chromosome haplotypes
of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs reveal geographic substructure and
substantial overlap with haplotypes of Jews." Human Genetics 107(6)
(December 2000): 630-641.
Oppenheim, Ariella, et al. "The Y Chromosome Pool of Jews as Part of
the Genetic Landscape of the Middle East." The American Journal of
Human Genetics 69:5 (November 2001): 1095-1112.
Rubin, Michael. "The Other Iraq." Jerusalem Report (December 31,
Siegel, Judy. "Genetic evidence links Jews to their ancient tribe."
Jerusalem Post (November 20, 2001).
Thomas, Mark G., et al. "Y Chromosomes Traveling South: the Cohen
Modal Haplotype and the Origins of the Lemba -- the 'Black Jews of
Southern Africa'." American Journal of Human Genetics 66:2 (February
Traubman, Tamara. "Study finds close genetic connection between Jews,
Kurds." Ha'aretz (November 21, 2001).
Travis, J. "The Priests' Chromosome? DNA analysis supports the
biblical story of the Jewish priesthood." Science News 154:14 (October
3, 1998): 218.
Zoossmann-Diskin, Avshalom. "Are today's Jewish priests descended
from the old ones?" HOMO: Journal of Comparative Human Biology
51:2-3 (2000): 156-
thesis on the "Tribal Chieftains and their Jewish Subjects
in Kurdistan: A Comparative Study in Survival is highly
original and makes a significant contribution to the general
history of We Jewish diaspora.
The aim of the author of the
thesis was exhaustively to describe the relations between
the Kurdish chiefs and their Jewish subjects daring the
first part of the 20th
century in northwestern Iraqi Kurdistan... Mr.
has undertaken the study of precisely this recent history of
a few Jewish communities which lived in the former,
prestigious principality of
in northwestern Iraqi Kurdistan. He did this remarkably well.
His documentation is based on firsthand information, and is
of the highest value. Mr.
collected his data from men and women from various areas of
where they had lived either in cites or villages, and most
of whom had immigrated to Israel in the 1950s.
He interviewed more than 50 people, many more than once.
These discussions, which add up to hundreds of hours of
interviews, most of which were taped, were then analyzed and
classified. The task of gathering and ordering all this
fieldwork was immense, and the candidate is to be
congratulated on the methodology that he chose. This part of
thesis, concerning Jewish life in
well complements the Impressive work of the pioneer
The Jews of Kurdistan, First edition 1940, revised edition
1993, completed and edited par Raphael
Wayne State University Press, Detroit.] Chapter II, which
deals with the Jews, Kurds and Arabs between 1941 and 1952
is important because it raises the issue of the emerging
conflict between the Zionist movement and the incipient
national movements in the Arab countries. This problem,
which was aggravated by the establishment of the Stale of
Israel in 1948, was profoundly to affect the situation of
the Jews in the Arab countries. However, in Iraqi Kurdistan
the Kurdish chiefs, who Were concerned by the conflict only
indirectly, were not willing to break ties forged with the
Jewish communities over the course of thousand of years of
coexistence, which on the whole were useful to them,
particularly when the Jews, in contrast to the Christians,
as we see later in Mr.
thesis, could not be suspected of harboring sympathy for the
European enemy. Many
and Kurdish chiefs regretted the massive departure of the
Jews for Israel in the early 1950s.. Note, in particular,
the ties which united the
dynasty to the Jewish people, which Mr.
describes at length and so well in several chapters of his
thesis. These were not one-way ties, for even today, in
spite of the departure of nearly the whole Jewish population
of Kurdistan for Israel, the links have not been
definitively broken, and there are many Kurds who recognize
their debt to the Jews.. In order to defame the Kurds in the
eyes of the
a thesis is now circulating in Turkey which proves the
Jewish origin of the
(Israels everlasting strategy and the Kurds),
Istanbul, 244 p. ] Questioned about this, an eminent member
of the family, not in the least upset, told me; So much the
better. I am convinced of our Jewish origins. Chapters III
to VI describe in detail the daily lives of the Jewish
during the first half of the 20th
century.. The candidate tried to be exhaustive: the result
of his quest for oral documentation was considerable. This
huge amount of information has not only been well classified,
hut the candidate succeeded in making it a smooth and
agreeable read. This detailed study has made a major
contribution to the study of the recent history of the
region of Iraqi
thesis is highly original in both subject and method. The
project he undertook is a significant one, in an academic area
where there is still a dearth of knowledge, and his work
complements the previous research which does exist. He made
excellent methodological choices both in doing an impressive
number of first hand interviews, a in the careful and detailed
way he treated the material he obtained; his data is highly
valuable. His work is an important contribution to the study of
the Jewish diaspora, to the study of the
of the Kurdish Jews, to the study Jewish relations with
and Christians in Iraqi Kurdistan, and to the study of Iraqi
Kurdistan itself. I highly commend this thesis, and congratulate