View Full Version : The Jews of Kurdistan

10-08-13, 22:31
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.

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 and Bedouins).

10-08-13, 22:41
According to this, it would appear that Jews are connected heavily to Kurds. In fact, the northern Iraqi province of adiabene (centred around modern day Nineveh) was Jewish (Kurdish to be more precise) and helped the judaeans/Canaanites. This district was situated between the Lycus and Caprus rivers.

11-08-13, 09:12
Interesting, thank you!

12-08-13, 19:07
Please give an original citation instead of copy+pasting. Are you getting these from here (http://www.kurdistanica.com/?q=book/export/html/105) and here (http://www.2001translation.com/Kurds_and_Jews.htm)?

The proposal these two articles seem to suggest is that Kurds are closely related to Jews, largely because of the conversion of the rulers of Adiabene.

To begin with, the 2001 conclusion that Jews and Kurds are incredibly closely related is not supported by later, more detailed autosomal studies, like this one from Dodecad (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Ish7688voT0/TR8ox_MI6qI/AAAAAAAADIE/zEcyBpR0U8s/s1600/MDS1600.png). That study showed that different Jewish groups often did not cluster particularly closely, often tending more toward their host populations. Iraqi Jews in that study clustered closest to Syrian Arabs and Lebanese Arabs, with a slight tilt toward Assyrians. Kurds clustered closest to Iranians, and were closer to Georgians and Turks than to any Jewish population (although Uzbek Jews are not that much farther away).

But beyond that, the idea that the conversion of the rulers of Adiabene could affect modern Kurdish populations is a bit farfetched. The rulers of Adiabene were likely Iranic, but not likely Kurdish in particular; more likely, they were Median or Mannaean in origin (i.e. cousins of Kurds only). The common people were probably largely Assyrian; the ancestors of the Kurds at that time were much more likely to have lived to the north, probably in Corduene. The rulers of Adiabene are thought to have fled to modern Iranian Azerbaijan before the Kurds settled near Nineveh in large numbers. So regardless of whether Jewish input is being proposed for the rulers of Adiabene only, or if that input is being proposed to have extended to the common people, we wouldn't expect the conversion of the rulers of Adiabene to have influenced any modern Kurdish/Jewish kinship.