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Thread: Why is the European-vs-MENA model for Western Jews interesting?

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    Question Why is the European-vs-MENA model for Western Jews interesting?

    This is a follow up on some recent threads in this forum.

    I will start by stating the obvious/trivial.
    The Israelites were a group of Semitic-speaking tribes in the ancient Near East who, during the Iron Age, inhabited a part of Canaan, which in turn is a part of the Southern Levant. This area includes the mountain chains of Judea and Samaria, the Gallil, the adjacent East Mediterranean coastline and the mountain chain east of the Jordan river. The area of this biblical land of Israel is no more than 25K square km.

    North Africa is 4.7 million square km. (188 times larger).
    West Asia is 6 million square km. (240 times larger).
    The Middle East is 7 million square km. (280 times larger).
    The Levant, in it's narrow definition is 300K km. (12 times larger).

    These areas contained a variety of cultures and people. Some of them, especially neighboring people, the Phoenicians or the Moabites, are believed/seen as genetically close to the ancient Hebrews. This doesn't make them Hebrews though, they were distinct cultures with distinct identities. These groups are found in a 100-200 km distance from Biblical Israel. If you add the millions of sqaure kilometers mentioned above and their peoples these differences only increase, culturally and genetically.

    Taking that into consideration:

    1. What value or insight do we gain then from the EU-MENA/WANA/Levant dichotomic models?
    2. If we use a dichotomic model why not use the Israel-Everything Else model?



    Edit: typos.

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    Insofar as people group together North African with WA/Levantine, I guess it's mainly because of North Africa's current cultural affiliation with the Middle East which makes such admixture appear more "legitimate" than European admixture when searching for the Middle Eastern roots of Jews. But I think most of us on here are smart enough to make that distinction.

    Anyway our point of reference for the sources of Western Jews ought to be not Iron Age Israelites but late Second Period Judeans, who were descended not only from the Israelites but also from non-Israelite wives taken during and after the Babylonian exile, Itureans and Idumeans force converted by the Hasmoneans, and perhaps various converts from around the world who made their way to Judea during its heyday. That the people of the Second Temple period were not genetically identical to those of the First Temple period is recognized in Jewish law:

    Quote Originally Posted by Mishnah Yadayim 4 4
    On that day Judah, an Ammonite convert, came and stood before them in the house of study. He said to them: Do I have the right to enter into the assembly? Rabban Gamaliel said to him: you are forbidden. Rabbi Joshua said to him: you are permitted. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: the verse says, "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord: even to the tenth generation" (Deuteronomy 23:4). R. Joshua said to him: But are the Ammonites and Moabites still in their own territory? Sanheriv, the king of Assyria, has long since come up and mingled all the nations, as it is said: "In that I have removed the bounds of the peoples, and have robbed their treasures, and have brought down as one mighty the inhabitants" (Isaiah 10:1. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: the verse says, "But afterward I will bring back the captivity of the children of Ammon," (Jeremiah 49:6) they have already returned. Rabbi Joshua said to him: [another] verse says, "I will return the captivity of my people Israel and Judah" (Jeremiah 30:3). Yet they have not yet returned. So they permitted him to enter the assembly.
    Until we get actual Second Temple Judean samples, the best we can do is estimate the Levantine and non-Levantine WANA components of Western Jews and try to conclude how much of each is likely to come from Judeans and how much from other sources i.e. converts who never immigrated to Judea.
    Last edited by DudeTheDud; 12-08-2022 at 02:24 PM.

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    Thank you for your answer DudeTheDud. I know that many of us may differ on our take on this, and this is completely fine. For me "my" choice seems to be so natural, that I am curious what leads other people to their own choices.

    Quote Originally Posted by DudeTheDud View Post
    Insofar as people group together North African with WA/Levantine, I guess it's mainly because of North Africa's current cultural affiliation with the Middle East which makes such admixture appear more "legitimate" than European admixture when searching for the Middle Eastern roots of Jews. But I think most of us on here are smart enough to make that distinction.
    Can you expand on what you mean with "legitimate" when searching for the Middle Eastern roots of Jews? Cyrene Berbers are not related to IA Israel (or second temple) in any way or form, and neither do modern North Lybian Arabs or Berbers.

    Quote Originally Posted by DudeTheDud View Post
    Anyway our point of reference for the sources of Western Jews ought to be not Iron Age Israelites but late Second Period Judeans, who were descended not only from the Israelites but also from non-Israelite wives taken during and after the Babylonian exile, Itureans and Edomites force converted bythe Hasmoneans, and perhaps various converts from around the world who made their way to Judea during its heyday. That the people of the Second Temple period were not genetically identical to those of the First Temple period is recognized in Jewish law
    If that is the case, that late second temple period Israelites were not "genetically identical" to to those of first temple period, shouldnt it be then exactly the reason to focus on First Temple period IA Israelites as the basis in a dichotomic model? We would have two advantages for this choice:

    1. Limit the amount of foreign genome introduced to the model base which could be introduced again at a later time (and probably did).
    2. IA Israelites are simply the original Israelite population, closest to the ethnogensis of that nation. All future additions are what they are, additions, regardless of when or where they happened. Said otherwise, is there no equivalency between accepting Edomite-Babylonian-Moabite-Itureans-Etc converts and accepting any other group of local converts at a later point of time? Why is the Second Temple, or the "Sanheriv Mingling" is the correct time for an alternative base? Isn't it a random choice? We could just as well agree on "Alexander´s mingling" (as in the Macedonian one), no?

    Going back to the original question, what insights do you gain from using the Second Temple base in a dichotomic model instead of a First Temple one?
    At any rate - Second Temple is far more "correct" than MENA/WANA/Levant (in my eyes), so relatively speaking we are splitting hairs now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DudeTheDud View Post
    Insofar as people group together North African with WA/Levantine, I guess it's mainly because of North Africa's current cultural affiliation with the Middle East which makes such admixture appear more "legitimate" than European admixture when searching for the Middle Eastern roots of Jews. But I think most of us on here are smart enough to make that distinction.

    Anyway our point of reference for the sources of Western Jews ought to be not Iron Age Israelites but late Second Period Judeans, who were descended not only from the Israelites but also from non-Israelite wives taken during and after the Babylonian exile, Itureans and Idumeans force converted by the Hasmoneans, and perhaps various converts from around the world who made their way to Judea during its heyday. That the people of the Second Temple period were not genetically identical to those of the First Temple period is recognized in Jewish law:



    Until we get actual Second Temple Judean samples, the best we can do is estimate the Levantine and non-Levantine WANA components of Western Jews and try to conclude how much of each is likely to come from Judeans and how much from other sources i.e. converts who never immigrated to Judea.
    Another reason is because of gene flow into the ancient Levantine samples. Either way I don't think they should cluster North Africans with the Middle East, at best you can put North Africa&arabs as one category

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    Quote Originally Posted by DudeTheDud View Post
    Anyway our point of reference for the sources of Western Jews ought to be not Iron Age Israelites but late Second Period Judeans, who were descended not only from the Israelites but also from non-Israelite wives taken during and after the Babylonian exile, Itureans and Idumeans force converted by the Hasmoneans, and perhaps various converts from around the world who made their way to Judea during its heyday. That the people of the Second Temple period were not genetically identical to those of the First Temple period is recognized in Jewish law [...] Until we get actual Second Temple Judean samples, the best we can do is estimate the Levantine and non-Levantine WANA components of Western Jews and try to conclude how much of each is likely to come from Judeans and how much from other sources i.e. converts who never immigrated to Judea.
    The diaspora began before the destruction of the Second Temple. Strabo as quoted by Josephus:

    114And Strabo himself bears witness to the same thing in another place, that at the same time that Sylla passed over into Greece, in order to fight against Mithridates, he sent Lucullus to put an end to a sedition that our nation, of whom the habitable earth is full, had raised in Cyrene; where he speaks thus:115“There were four classes of men among those of Cyrene; that of citizens, that of husbandmen, the third of strangers, and the fourth of Jews. Now these Jews are already gotten into all cities; and it is hard to find a place in the habitable earth that hath not admitted this tribe of men, and is not possessed by them
    http://lexundria.com/j_aj/14.105-14.126/wst

    Isaac Abravanel:
    In his commentary on Zechariah xii. 7, after remarking with approval, that the words 'the House of David' occurring there are explained by the Commentators as meaning 'the seed of David and his family', he continued thus: 'to Spain also after the destruction of the first Temple', so writes R. Isaac ben Jehuda ibn Giat', there came two families of the House of David, one, the family of the children of Daud, which settled in Andalusia, the other, the family of the children of Abarbanel, which settled in Seville, of which is my humble family
    https://www.jstor.org/stable/1450129...o_tab_contents

    Obadiah 1:20, & comments by Rashi:

    And this exiled host of the children of Israel who are [with] the Canaanites as far as Zarephath and the exile of Jerusalem which is in Sepharad shall inherit the cities of the southland.
    Rashi:

    And this exiled host: Heb. הַחֵל. Jonathan renders: This people. הַחֵל, An expression of a host. Cf. (Isa. 36:2) “And he came (sic) to Jerusalem with an army (חֵיל) of a great multitude,” which deals with Rabshakeh, only that this one is missing a “yud.” It is also possible to explain גָלֻת הַחֵל as “the exile of this valley.”

    who are [with] the Canaanites as far as Zarephath: The exile which is of the children of Israel who were exiled from the ten tribes to the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath

    and the exile of Jerusalem which is in Sepharad: who are of the people of Judah who were exiled to Sepharad - they shall inherit the cities of the southland, which are in the southern part of Eretz Israel. The exegetes claim that Zarephath is the kingdom called France in French.

    Sepharad: Jonathan renders: Spain.
    https://www.chabad.org/library/bible.../Chapter-1.htm

    The same goes to Iraqi Jews:

    The narrative establishing the antiquity of the Babylonian Jewish community is central to Iraqi Jews’ sense of identity. The narrative posits an uninterrupted Jewish presence in the Babylon of once, beginning more than 2,500 years ago, from the time of the destruction of the First Temple and the Judean exile in the 6th century BCE until the mass Jewish emigration from Iraq in the mid-20th century. It suggests that Iraqi Jews are the descendants of the Jews of ancient Babylon, making the legacy of the great Jewish community of ancient times – the seat of the prosperous cultural center that helmed Jewish cultural growth for hundreds of years – an indelible part of the history of modern Iraqi Jewry.
    https://www.quest-cdecjournal.it/the...centuries-c-e/

    All periods (& ancient samples from the dispersed communities too) should be tested so as to get to safer conclusions, not just from the Second Temple period.
    Last edited by Piquerobi; 12-08-2022 at 04:19 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gentica277282 View Post
    Another reason is because of gene flow into the ancient Levantine samples. Either way I don't think they should cluster North Africans with the Middle East, at best you can put North Africa&arabs as one category
    Indigenous north africans are not Arabs. And shouldn't be classified as Arabs and certainly don't plot with Arabs.

    Maybe a typical Algerian does who is of mixed ancestry due to events in history but there are still plenty of Moroccans who don't have any arab ancestry as well as levantines who don't as well

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vinshlusen View Post
    Can you expand on what you mean with "legitimate" when searching for the Middle Eastern roots of Jews? Cyrene Berbers are not related to IA Israel (or second temple) in any way or form, and neither do modern North Lybian Arabs or Berbers.
    It's about perception. For the same reason a Moroccan Arab and a Lebanese Arab are considered as part of the same ethnicity despite being very different genetically, intuitively Levantine Jews mixing with North Africans is perceived as less of a departure from their roots than mixing with Europeans. Of course 2000 years ago North Africa would have had much closer ties to Spain and Italy than to the Middle East (at least after the Phoenicians dwindled), but people project the reality they know onto the past.

    If that is the case, that late second temple period Israelites were not "genetically identical" to to those of first temple period, shouldnt it be then exactly the reason to focus on First Temple period IA Israelites as the basis in a dichotomic model? We would have two advantages for this choice:

    1. Limit the amount of foreign genome introduced to the model base which could be introduced again at a later time (and probably did).
    2. IA Israelites are simply the original Israelite population, closest to the ethnogensis of that nation. All future additions are what they are, additions, regardless of when or where they happened. Said otherwise, is there no equivalency between accepting Edomite-Babylonian-Moabite-Itureans-Etc converts and accepting any other group of local converts at a later point of time? Why is the Second Temple, or the "Sanheriv Mingling" is the correct time for an alternative base? Isn't it a random choice? We could just as well agree on "Alexander´s mingling" (as in the Macedonian one), no?

    Going back to the original question, what insights do you gain from using the Second Temple base in a dichotomic model instead of a First Temple one?
    I'm not sure what you're trying to say. Jews first immigrated from Judea to the West during the Second Temple period, so that's the reference we want for figuring out their Judean ancestry. Maybe once we get samples we'll see that actually a straight First Temple reference fits better than a Second Temple one, indicating that the origins of the Western Diaspora are much earlier than we thought, who knows. But the genetic development of Israelite civilization from LBA ethnogenesis and until the Second Temple period, while interesting in its own right, is a separate issue from what we're discussing here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Piquerobi View Post
    The diaspora began before the destruction of the Second Temple. Strabo as quoted by Josephus:


    http://lexundria.com/j_aj/14.105-14.126/wst

    Isaac Abravanel:

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/1450129...o_tab_contents

    Obadiah 1:20, & comments by Rashi:



    Rashi:


    https://www.chabad.org/library/bible.../Chapter-1.htm

    The same goes to Iraqi Jews:


    https://www.quest-cdecjournal.it/the...centuries-c-e/

    All periods (& ancient samples from the dispersed communities too) should be tested so as to get to safer conclusions, not just from the Second Temple period.
    Agree in general (I quoted that Strabo passage myself on this forum a few days ago lol) but Sepharad as Spain is pseudo-history and medieval commentators are not exactly a reliable source here. FWIW the earliest extra-biblical reference to Sepharad is by Jerome who says it's the Jewish name for Crimea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DudeTheDud View Post
    Insofar as people group together North African with WA/Levantine, I guess it's mainly because of North Africa's current cultural affiliation with the Middle East which makes such admixture appear more "legitimate" than European admixture when searching for the Middle Eastern roots of Jews. But I think most of us on here are smart enough to make that distinction.

    Anyway our point of reference for the sources of Western Jews ought to be not Iron Age Israelites but late Second Period Judeans, who were descended not only from the Israelites but also from non-Israelite wives taken during and after the Babylonian exile, Itureans and Idumeans force converted by the Hasmoneans, and perhaps various converts from around the world who made their way to Judea during its heyday. That the people of the Second Temple period were not genetically identical to those of the First Temple period is recognized in Jewish law:



    Until we get actual Second Temple Judean samples, the best we can do is estimate the Levantine and non-Levantine WANA components of Western Jews and try to conclude how much of each is likely to come from Judeans and how much from other sources i.e. converts who never immigrated to Judea.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mishnah Yadayim 4 4
    On that day Judah, an Ammonite convert, came and stood before them in the house of study. He said to them: Do I have the right to enter into the assembly? Rabban Gamaliel said to him: you are forbidden. Rabbi Joshua said to him: you are permitted. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: the verse says, "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord: even to the tenth generation" (Deuteronomy 23:4). R. Joshua said to him: But are the Ammonites and Moabites still in their own territory? Sanheriv, the king of Assyria, has long since come up and mingled all the nations, as it is said: "In that I have removed the bounds of the peoples, and have robbed their treasures, and have brought down as one mighty the inhabitants" (Isaiah 10:1. Rabban Gamaliel said to him: the verse says, "But afterward I will bring back the captivity of the children of Ammon," (Jeremiah 49:6) they have already returned. Rabbi Joshua said to him: [another] verse says, "I will return the captivity of my people Israel and Judah" (Jeremiah 30:3). Yet they have not yet returned. So they permitted him to enter the assembly.

    Thank you
    That is a very famous Mishnah which serves as the Halakhic basis for a variety of קולות qulot, leniencies, in Jewish Law and practice.
    While we recognize in synagogue practice those whose tradition identifies them as Kohanim ( priestly descendants), and Leviyim ( Levite descendants) when personal circumstances may require a Beyt Din (Rabbincal Court) to seek a humane solution (i.e. helping people marry who at first glance might be deemed prohibited), this verse and a variety of practical Halakhah derived from it allows Batey-Din to discreetly arrive at lenient but rock-solid rulings which allow people to remain in the traditional community without a shadow of legal impropriety. The operative concept is that conquest by Sanhheriv has rendered our yihhus ( genealogy) less than fully reliable, and thus inadequate as the basis for penalty/prohibition.
    Last edited by Targum; 12-08-2022 at 05:35 PM.

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Yahudu_Tablets

    An important thing to say is that according to the Al Yahudu Tablets
    Philistines and another Arab tribe were exiled to Babylon together with the Judeans

    (The exiled Arab tribe is not mentioned in the English version of Wikipedia, but it is mentioned in the Hebrew version.
    The name of the Arab tribe is probably Adbaʿal)

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