A new genetic study presents valuable information about the origin of the Indian Bene Israel community, connecting it to other Jewish communities. Haaretz reports:
Bene Israel family. Photo taken in 1961 (Eliyahu Herkovitz)
The new study, which was published about two weeks ago in the scientific journal PLOS ONE asserts that the community originated in one of the Jewish communities in the Middle East. According to the researchers, they arrived in India 19 to 33 generations ago — 600 to 1,000 years ago — much later than estimates of community members. Over 70,000 members of the Bene Israel community live in Israel today, making it the largest Indian Jewish group in the world.
The researchers scanned the genetic markers of 18 community members and with the use of advanced tools compared them to those of 486 people from 41 different population groups, including Indians, Pakistanis and Jews from many diasporas (Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Ashkenaz — northern France and western Germany — Libya, Djerba, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria) along with several samplings from all over the world, including non-Jewish Middle Eastern populations.
The rich representation of Indian populations demonstrated that although genetically there is great similarity between the Bene Israel and other Indian groups, its members have a genetic component not found on the Indian spectrum, hinting a different origin. Other analyses demonstrated that this origin is apparently Jewish.
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