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Genes and the Jewish Diaspora


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The Diaspora, ( Greek: Dispersion) Hebrew Galut (Exile),  started with the dispersion of Jews among the Gentiles after the Babylonian Exile and then to the Jews or Jewish communities scattered “in exile” outside Palestine or present-day Israel. Although the term refers to the physical dispersal of Jews throughout the world, it also carries religious, philosophical, political, and eschatological connotations, as the Jews perceive a special relationship between the land of Israel and themselves. Interpretations of this relationship range from the messianic hope of traditional Judaism for the eventual “ingathering of the exiles” to the view of Reform Judaism that the dispersal of the Jews was providentially arranged by God to foster pure monotheism throughout the world.

King Solomon created the wealthiest and most powerful central government the Hebrews would ever see, but at a high cost. Land was given away to pay for his extravagances and people were sent into forced labor. When he died, between 926 and 922 BCE, the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam, and revolted.

From this point on, there would be two kingdoms of Hebrews:  Israel in the north and Judah in the south. They remained as separate states for over two hundred years.

In 722 BCE, the Assyrians conquered Israel. So conquered territories remained pacified  many were forced to move to other parts of their empire. Assyrians were then sent to the conquered territory.  This scattering of the ten tribes throughout their empire is thought of as a proto-Diaspora ("diaspora"="scattering"). They then virtually disappeared from history and are called "the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel."  

Around the 1st century CE the estimated 5,000,000 Jews living outside Judea looked to Judea as the centre of their religious and cultural life.outnumbered the Judean Jews even before the destruction of Jerusalem in CE 70. Thereafter, the chief centres of Judaism shifted from country to country (e.g., Babylonia, Persia, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Russia and the United States – diasporas). Jewish communities gradually adopted distinctive languages, rituals, and cultures. Some submerged themselves in non-Jewish environments more completely than others. While some lived in peace, others became victims of violent antisemitism.

In 63 BCE, Judea became a protectorate of Rome, and in 6 CE was organized as a Roman province. In 135 CE, Hadrian’s army defeated the Jewish armies and Jewish independence was lost. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called Aelia Capitolina  where Jews were forbidden to live and the country’s name was changed from Judea to Syria Palestina.

During the Middle Ages, the Jews had divided into distinct regional groups the Ashkenazi Jews who immigrated to Central and later Eastern Europe, the Sephardi Jews who settled in Iberia and later North Africa, and the Mizrahi Jews who had remained in the Babylon after the destruction of the First Temple.

Today, Jews hold widely divergent views about the role of Diaspora Jewry and the desirability and significance of maintaining a national identity. While the vast majority support the Zionist movement (the return of Jews to Israel), some extreme Orthodox Jews oppose the modern nation of Israel as a godless and secular state, defying God’s will to send his Messiah at the preordained time.

The maps on the Video/Maps page show what happened .

The reasons for the Diaspora at any time depended upon local culture and often had the following pattern

Arrival - Laws created against the Jews - Voluntary Leaving/Expulsion - Readmission
(this pattern would frequently be repeated in the same place.)

 for example from the British Library

The first significant migration of Jews to England came after the Norman Invasion in 1066. By the late 1200s, England had a small Jewish population of around 3000 people. Throughout this period, the Jews suffered from anti-Semitic prejudice, often scapegoated or wrongly accused of crimes. There were frequent riots against them, in which their property was destroyed and citizens murdered. Many Jews were employed as money lenders. The Jews took these jobs because the Christian Church traditionally ruled that usury (money lending for interest) was illegal for Christians, but not for Jews. The Jews were taxed heavily, so the wealth earned in the usury trade benefited the Crown directly. By the late 1200s, a series of laws had been created restricting the rights of the Jewish people. For instance, they were not allowed to own land, and after death their money went, not to their children, but directly to the Crown. In 1275 King Edward I passed a law forbidding the Jews from usury. They were entitled to earn a living as tradesmen or farmers, but were not allowed to be part of guilds or to own farmland. The Jews became poor and the king could no longer collect taxes from them. Many hundreds were arrested, hanged or imprisoned. And then finally in 1290, they were banished from England altogether. Jews were not allowed to return to England until 1656.

Other examples are Germany, the Inquisition, and leaving Russia at the end of the 19th century for Palestine.  The Video page graphic lists expulsions to the end of the 19th century.

Research has been and is being undertaken on Genes and the Diaspora.




Who are the Jews? a race? a religion? a culture? a way of life ? each definition is valid, yet each is elusive, none quite cap­turing the Jewish spirit. Until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, it would clearly have been impossible to call them a nation; they were the Diaspora: the dispersed ones from the land to which they are now returning. (The Diaspora  - Keller)

They are unique in world history.  They became stateless following their defeat in 135CE by the Romans. In 1948 - almost 2,000 years later - the United Nations created Israel allowing them to return home.

This declaration was met by the invasion of neighbouring  states intent on its abolition. Go to Israel to see how it survived.  

This return happened after the Holocaust when 6,000,000 Jews where murdered by the Nazis.

An attempt has been made to provide misleading information about this return.  Their arguments are described in Denial.  These arguments reflect misleading information about the Jews that  had circulated during the previous 2.000 years. See antisemitism

So, what is a Diaspora, when was the first Diaspora, how did the Jews stay together, return after 2,000 years and create the only democracy in the Middle East?     

Go to

Expulsion of Jews From Arab States

Countries to see the effect of the Diaspora on each country

Marranos  How they lived as ‘secret Jews’

Belmonte  1917, these Portuguese Jews thought they were the last Jews in the world

Jewish Diaspora Links

Stories to see the effect of the Diaspora on individuals