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Scientists reveal Jewish history's forgotten Turkish roots

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Israeli-born geneticist believes the Turkish villages of Iskenaz, Eskenaz and Ashanaz were part of the original homeland for Ashkenazic Jews

New research suggests that the majority of the world’s modern Jewish population is descended mainly from people from ancient Turkey, rather than predominantly from elsewhere in the Middle East.

The new research suggests that most of the Jewish population of northern and eastern Europe – normally known as Ashkenazic Jews – are the descendants of Greeks, Iranians and others who colonized what is now northern Turkey more than 2000 years ago and were then converted to Judaism, probably in the first few centuries AD by Jews from Persia. At that stage, the Persian Empire was home to the world’s largest Jewish communities.

According to research carried out by the geneticist, Dr Eran Elhaik of the University of Sheffield, over 90 per cent of Ashkenazic ancestors come from that converted partially Greek-originating ancient community in north-east Turkey.

From the 690s AD onwards, anti-Jewish persecution by the Christian Byzantine Empire seems to have played a part in forcing large numbers of Jews to flee across the Black Sea to a more friendly state – the Turkic-ruled Khazar Empire with its large Slav and other populations.

By the 730s, the Khazar Empire had begun to convert to Judaism – and more people converted to the faith.

But when the Khazar Empire declined in or around the 11th century, some of the Jewish population almost certainly migrated west into Central Europe. There, as Yiddish-speaking Jewish merchants came into contact with central  European, often German-speaking, peoples, they began to replace the Slav words in Yiddish with large numbers of German and German-derived words, while retaining some of its Slav-originating grammar. Many Hebrew words also appear to have been added by that stage.

chopped cont DS

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