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The Jewish Roots of Kurdistan


The history of Judaism in Kurdistan is ancient. The Talmud holds that Jewish deportees were settled in Kurdistan 2800 years ago by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser. As indicated in the Talmud, the Jews were given permission by the rabbinic authorities to allow conversion from the local population. They were exceptionally successful in their endeavor. The illustrious Kurdish royal house of Adiabene, with Arbil as its capital, was converted to Judaism in the course of the 1st century BCE, along with, it appears, a large number of Kurdish citizens in the kingdom (see Irbil/Arbil in Encyclopaedia Judaica). 

The name of the Kurdish king Monobazes (related etymologically to the name of the ancient Mannaeans), his queen Helena, and his son and successor Izates (derived from yazata, "angel"), are preserved as the first proselytes of this royal house (Ginzberg 1968, VI.412). [But this is chronologically untenable as Monobazes' effective rule began only in CE 18. In fact during the Roman conquest of Judea and Samaria (68-67 BCE), Kurdish Adiabene was the only country outside Israel that sent provisions and troops to the rescue of the besieged Galilee (Grayzel 1968, 163) - an inexplicable act if Adiabene was not already Jewish].

Many modern Jewish historians like Kahle (1959), who believes Adiabene was Jewish by the middle of the 1st century BCE, and Neusner (1986), who goes for the middle of the 1st century CE, have tried unsuccessfully to reconcile this chronological discrepancy. 

All agree that by the beginning of the 2nd century CE, at any rate, Judaism was firmly established in central Kurdistan.

Like many other Jewish communities, Christianity found Adiabene a fertile ground for conversion in the course of 4th and 5th centuries. Despite this, Jews remained a populous group in Kurdistan until the middle of the present century and the creation of the state of Israel. At home and in the synagogues, Kurdish Jews speak a form of ancient Aramaic called Suriyani (i.e., "Assyrian"), and in commerce and the larger society they speak Kurdish. Many aspects of Kurdish and Jewish life and culture have become so intertwined that some of the most popular folk stories accounting for Kurdish ethnic origins connect them with the Jews. 

The tombs of Biblical prophets like Nahum in Alikush, Jonah in Nabi Yunis (ancient Nineveh), Daniel in Kirkuk, Habakkuk in Tuisirkan, and Queen Esther and Mordechai in Hamadân, and several caves reportedly visited by Elijah are among the most important Jewish shrines in Kurdistan and are venerated by all Jews today.

Further Readings and Bibliography: Encyclopaedia Judaica, entries on Kurds and Irbil/Arbil; Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 5th cd. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968); Jacob Mann, Texts and Studies in Jewish History and Literature, vol. I (London, 1932); Yona Sabar, The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982); Paul Magnaretta, "A Note on Aspects of Social Life among the Jewish Kurds of Sanandaj, Iran," Jewish Journal of Sociology Xl.l (1969); Walter Fischel, "The Jews of Kurdistan," Commentary VIII.6 (1949); Andre Cuenca, "L'oeuvre de I'Aflance Israelite Universelle en Iran," in Les droits de I'education (Paris: UNESCO, 1960); Dina Feitelson, "Aspects of the Social Life of Kurdish Jews," Jewish Journal of Sociology 1.2 (1910); Walter Fischel, "The Jews of Kurdistan, a Hundred Years Ago," Jewish Social Studies (1944); Solomon Grayzel, A History of the Jews (New York: Mentor, 1968); Paul Kahle, The Cairo Geniza (Oxford, 1959); Jacob Neusner, ludaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism in Talmudic Babylonia (New York; University Press of America, 1986).



Kurdistan the Birthplace of the Babylonian Talmud

Under the rule of the Jewish Queen Shlomis Alexandra (also known as Shlomtzion,  the widow of King Yannai, grandson of Judah the Maccabee) 76-66 BCE, and under the advice of her brother Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach, the Pharisees (Rabbinical Jews) split with the Sadducees and other militant Jewish groups. Although the Pharisees opposed Roman rule, they preferred academic study to military revolt. 

In the years prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, this rift in approach to Rome increased to the point of open conflict with Rome and between the militants themselves.  The Hellenists sought to assimilate or appease Rome through adopting its culture.  The Pharisees sought to preserve the spiritual heritage of Judaism through academies and study.  The Herodians, Sadducees and their Jordanian converts plotted revolt.   Even though the first revolt resulted in the destruction of the Temple, there was some recovery.  The second revolt under Bar Kochba in 135 CE, however, was utterly crushed by Rome.  There was a Jewish majority in Israel for hundreds of years after this, but Israel as a autonomous political entity ceased to exist. 

After these events, the split became geographical.  The militant Jews headed south to Jordan and Southern Arabia, eventually founding the Jewish State of Himyar (the Biblical Sheba) in what is now Saudi Arabia and Yemen, still retaining the name "Iudean" or what has come down to us as "Jews". They practiced a modified form of nationalistic Judaism that was eventually transformed into Islam by the Prophet Mohammed.  The Rabbinic Jews moved first east, then north and eventually to Babylon. 

Even after crushing the various Judean revolts, the Romans allowed the Pharisees to establish centers of learning in Yavneh (near modern Tel Aviv) and later in the Galilee and Golan heights.  The Roman conversion to Christianity under Constantine and its associated intolerance, combined with the military aggressions of the Jews of Southern Arabia led to a series of decrees essentially making Judaism an illegal religion. 

Babylon, specifically the area near what is now called Kurdistan, provided a safe haven for Rabbinic - but not militant - scholars.    The Babylonian Talmud reflects a society preponderantly based agriculture and crafts.  They were learned in Jewish Studies and had produced in the past the books of Ezekiel, Daniel and Tobit.  At the beginning of the 3rd century CE, Babylon became the main center of Rabbinic studies. Academies were founded by R. Samuel at Nehardea and by Rav at Sura. In the later 3rd century, the academy of Pumpedita was founded to replace that at Nehardea (destroyed in 261 CE).  The importance of these communities was further enhanced with the abolition of the Israeli Patriarch (Local Ruler) in 425 CE, when Babylon became the spiritual center for all Jewry.

Chart: A History of the Jewish People, by H.H. Ben-Sasson, p381





Nasil Türkler'in Türkiye'si, Gürcüler'in Gürcistan'i, Ermeniler'in Ermenistan'ı varsa Kürtler'in de Kürdistan'i olmalidir.


Eğer tüm Kürdlerin ortak bir bağımsızlık hareketi gelişirse ki, bu şimdi mümkündür,  ABD ve AB devletleri uzun süredir sürdürdükleri Arap - Türk yanlısı politikalarını değiştirmek durumunda kalacaklardır ve böylece ilk Kürdistan devletinin ortaya çıkması sağlanacaktır.
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