There are those who claim that present day Jews are not the descendants of the original Hebrews and therefore have no claim to the land. This claim also discredits the idea that the modern State of Israel could be part of the Messianic return, the ingathering of the exiles predicted by the prophets. For those willing to listen to scientific proof, this claim has been entirely discredited by recent studies in genetics.
Perhaps the strongest voice claiming the present day Jews settling in Israel are not descended from the original Hebrews is Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand. In his international best-seller, The Invention of the Jewish People (2008), he asserts that the Jews of today did not originate in the Mediterranean and that a “nation-race” of Jews never existed.
Jews today, he claims, share a common religion but not a common ethnic background. His book argues that there is no evidence of the expulsion of the Jews from ancient Israel, and therefore it never happened, meaning that the diaspora is a modern invention.
He claims that Judaism was a religion which arose outside of Israel based on massive conversions that continued until the rise of Christianity in the fourth century and that most Jews today are the descendants of people who lived elsewhere in the world, the products of conversion.
Sand equates the Jews’ longing for Israel, what he calls “the mythical Kingdom of David”, with other European nationalist movements. The significant difference according to Sand is that the holy land was to be longed for but not lived in until the divinely sent Messiah arrives.
Sand’s theory has becoming a lightning rod for controversy, attracting criticism as well as high praise. His book received the “Prix Aujourd’hui” in France and has been translated into more languages than any other Israeli book. Haaretz called it a “success for Israel”. Eric Hobsbawm, a Jewish retired professor of history and fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, selected Sand’s book as one of his “Books of the Year” for 2009.
However, Professor Sand has also been criticized for his methodology and how he relates to sources and physical evidence. In addition, he admits that this area of history is not his expertise. But without a doubt, the strongest objection to Sand’s rebuttal of modern Jewish claims on the land of Israel comes from recent developments in the area of practical genetics.
In 2010, Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, published a study concluding that many “geographically and culturally distant Jews still have more genes in common than they do with non-Jews around them,” and that such genes were of “Levantine origin”. Ostrer said, “I would hope that these observations would put the idea that Jewishness is just a cultural construct to rest.”
Sand replied to the genetic study’s refutation by saying, “Hitler would certainly have been very pleased.”
Breaking Israel News spoke to Bennett Greenspan about the genetic aspect of Judaism and how it relates to the Jewish claim to the Land of Israel. Greenspan founded Family Tree DNA, the first American company to offer genealogical DNA testing directly to the general public, and his conclusions are based on a database of hundreds of thousands of genetic samples .
“On the Y-DNA test that tracks the paternal line, 75-85% of Jews have a Semitic ancestry, that is to say they are from the Middle East. ‘Semitic’ may also include Turkey and Northern Syria, going back 3,000 years,” Greenspan explained.
He said that according to the genetic results, “I am a Jewish Arab. The world has Christian Arabs, Muslim Arabs, and Jewish Arabs. The difference is that 2,000 years ago, the Muslim Arabs didn’t yet have a religion, and the Jewish Arabs did. Our Temple was defiled, the Jews revolted, and we got beat. The Jews were exiled from our land by the superpower of the day.”
“Shlomo Sand is wrong when he says that Jews are no more related to other Jews in other places in the world than to Christians or Muslims,” Greenspan stated unequivocally to Breaking Israel News. “The genetic facts do not at all support that theory, and do support the opposite. The genetic evidence is strikingly clear.”
Sand’s premise, even when he wrote the book, was outlandish to many critics. His reason for taking such an untenable stance was that he believed a common ethnic basis for Judaism “nourishes anti-Semitism”. However, by denying Jewish ethnicity in an attempt to prevent anti-Semitism, Sand’s thesis has become a battle cry for haters of Israel.
The creation of the modern State of Israel has once again made Judaism a national identity and not just a religion limited to the occasional visit to the synagogue. The scattered children of Abraham have gathered together as an unmistakeable result of God’s covenant. Science has proven this to be undeniably true.