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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Could Iraqis Have Jewish Roots?

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                        

The Assyrians took Samaria, the capital of Israel, in 721 BCE.  27,290 Israelites were taken to Assyria and Media, and replaced them with Syrian and Babylonian prisoners.

Jews have been taken away in several exiles to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia from 605 to 562 BCE, had a victory over the Assyrian-Egyptian alliance in 605 BCE at Carchemish.  He had conquered all the lands from the Euphrates River to the Egyptian frontier, including Judah, the Jewish state.

8 years later, in 597 BCE, after Judah revolted, he sent contingents of soldiers who captured Jerusalem.  They replaced the young King Jehoiachin (597 BCE at age 18, reigned for 3 months and 10 days  before he was removed).  with Nebuchadnezzar's choice, Zedekiah (597-586 BCE who became king at age 21, swearing allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar) , and then exiled 8,000 of the local aristocracy to Babylon.  Zedekiah's real name was Mattaniah and took the name of Zedekiah when he was appointed King.  He was the son of King Josiah who had been king of Judah from 637-608 BCE when his father, King Amon (638-637 BCE) , was murdered.
Nebuchadnezzar's account of these events is preserved in the British Museum.  8 years later, Zedekiah rebelled against them.  11 years later, Nebuchadnezzar's forces, led by Nebuz-Aradan, invaded Judah again and re-captured Jerusalem in 586 BCE.  This time they destroyed the Temple and the cities were laid wasted.  Then they exiled masses of the population.  Since so many were already exiled Jews, they probably were again moved somewhere else, maybe farther away .  Young king Jehoiachin was taken to Riblah, in Babylonia where Nebuchadnezzar had him killed.  Jehoiachin was the son of King Jehoiakim.

The Lost 10 tribes of Israel had been also taken to Babylon in the Assyrian Empire attack in 721 BCE.  Now descendants must have mingled with the new exiles, even after Cyrus permitted them to return to Israel.  Towns in Babylon that had entire Jewish populations were Nehardea, Nisibis and Mahoza.  The Babylonian Jews remained in touch with the Jerusalem Jews and even supplied some of their leaders such as Hillel, who was born in Babylon.  He was one who moved to Judah.  He wrote "The Golden Rule in its negative form:  Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you."   

During the Roman occupation, the Babylonian Jews rose against the emperor, Trajan.  The Jews of Babylon were under both the Persian and Parthian rule.  They had a certain amount of their own internal autonomy and were led by an exilarch of Davidic descent who was the king's representative.  The community was governed by a council of elders.  The Babylonian Talmud came out of this era and show that the population was into agriculture and crafts.  They were schooled in Jewish studies and had produced Ezekiel, Daniel, and Tobit (a book of the Apocrypha telling of  the blind Tobit, an exile from the tribe of Naphtali, who sent his son , Tobias to Persia to collect a debt.  On the way he met Sarah who he marries and is cured of his blindness-written in 2nd to 1st centuries BCE.

  Babylon was the center in the 3rd Century CE of rabbinic studies.  There were persecutions in the 5th century which led to the Jewish revolt under Mar Zutra II but was finally captured and  killed after 7 years.  The Jews were under difficult conditions until the 7th century Arab conquest in 637 CE.  The Jews helped the Arabs take over because they had been treated so badly by the Sassanid persecutions.  After the Arabs took over, Jews expelled from Arabia settled in Kufa.  For centuries, Iraq was the center of Jewish life.  .  .

Babylon or Babylonia, formerly called Mesopotamia,  was an ancient state of western Asia, known in the Bible as the land of Shinar or of the Kasdim (Chaldees).  It is written in Genesis that it was the cradle of humanity and where the Tower of Babel took place.  Babylonian literature contains a story of the Flood.  Abraham was born in Ur of the Chaldeans, but he moved to Eretz Yisrael where he later had to fight it out with Amraphel, King of Shinar (Gen. 14)  The prophets considered Babylon as a symbol of insolent pagan tyranny, a symbolism that continued to be used by later writers of the Apocalypse and the New Testament.  It seems to me that Iraq has gone from bad to worse these days.

Could the Babylonians of today have Jewish roots?  Possibly, some could, but I believe that they stayed away from the main population when they were taken there.  Being there have been several cities of entire populations being Jewish makes me think that they didn't mix in the general population and the general population left them alone. However, they were taken to Babylon in two time periods.  The 1st wave was 2,735 years ago.  The 2nd wave came 2,611 years ago and the 3rd wave was 2,600 years ago.  That was a very long time ago and a mixing of the 2 cultures must have taken place over time.   Only DNA testing can tell us more about their roots.  The Y haplogroups (male line) found in Iraq today have been E (10.8%), F, G, I, J (58.3%), K (8.6%) and R (2nd largest group).  J1 is the haplogroup of many Arabs and also one branch of it is called the Cohen gene, found in Jewish people of which most are also Cohens in the synagogues.  
" J-12f2 is the most represented in the Iraqi Y chromosomes."  "It has been found that Y-DNA Haplogroup J2 originated in northern Iraq (AncientAssyria)  There are Jews who also have J2.  

Psalm 137 tells the history of the Jews in exile in Babylon the first time ..  "The psalm is a hymn expressing the yearnings of the Jewish people in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. The rivers of Babylon are the Euphrates river, its tributaries, and the Tigris river (possibly the river Habor, the Chaboras, or modern Khabur, which joins the Euphrates at Circesium

By the rivers of  Babylon, there we sat and also wept when we remembered Zion.  On the willows within it we hung our lyres.  For there our captors requested words of song from us, with our lyres [playing]joyous music, sing for us from Zion's song!  How can we sing the song of Hashem upon the alien's soil?  If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.  Let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to recall you, if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy.  Remember, Hashem, for the offspring of Edom, the day of Jerusalem;  for those who say, Destroy!  Destroy!  to its very foundation.  O violated daughter of Babylon, praiseworthy is he who repays you in accordance with the manner that you treated us.  Praiseworthy is he who will clutch and dash your infants against the rock.  

We are taught that the memory of Jerusalem must come first, no matter what the occasion of personal joy is.   This is where the custom of a groom at his wedding steps on a glass after the ceremony in memory of Jerusalem.  Is it no wonder, then, that Jerusalem means so much to us?    

Resource: The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Tanach, The Stone Edition (The Torah/prophets/writings, 24 books of the Bible)

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