Monday, December 7, 2009

A New History

The New York Times reviews a recently released, highly controversial book entitled The Invention of the Jewish People by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand. According to the review:

Since Professor Sand’s mission is to discredit Jews’ historical claims to the territory, he is keen to show that their ancestry lines do not lead back to ancient Palestine. He resurrects a theory first raised by 19th-century historians, that the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, to whom 90 percent of American Jews trace their roots, are descended from the Khazars, a Turkic people who apparently converted to Judaism and created an empire in the Caucasus in the eighth century. This idea has long intrigued writers and historians. In 1976, Arthur Koestler wrote “The Thirteenth Tribe” in the hopes it would combat anti-Semitism; if contemporary Jews were descended from the Khazars, he argued, they could not be held responsible for Jesus’ Crucifixion.

By now, experts who specialize in the subject have repeatedly rejected the theory, concluding that the shards of evidence are inconclusive or misleading, said Michael Terry, the chief librarian of the Jewish division of the New York Public Library. Dr. Ostrer said the genetics also did not support the Khazar theory.

It is an interesting article about a topic I have never had a chance to study in-depth. I am a descendant of the Vidals of Catalonia who were Sephardic Jews, known to be descended from the ancient Hebrews, a fact I have always found marvelous to ponder.



MadMonarchist said...

I have heard this theory before but never gave it much serious consideration. The Jews, ever since ancient times, have given great emphasis to bloodlines and family history (lots of them in the Bible) and I trust that the Jews themselves know better who their ancestors were than some outsider looking at historic tidbits from here and there.

xavier said...


So do you still speak and understand Catalan? :)
Vidal is also a popular name is Occità


elena maria vidal said...

MM, that is a very good point, although some of the scholars who adhere to such a theory are themselves Jewish, such as Koestler.

Xavier, I did study Catalan briefly in school but never mastered it although I was in Barcelona briefly in the 1980's.

tubbs said...

A great theory for both anti-zionists and anti-semites.

For the anti-zionists, it further reduces the legitimacy of Isreali claims to Palestinian real estate.

For the anti-semite, it denies the very basis of western laws, morals, mores, western civilization itself. For the christian anti-semite(oxymoron?) it's wonderful; he/she can hate the ehtnic group of the Incarnate God, His Mother, and His immediate followers...because, hey, today's Jews aren't real Jews, right?

Though I hold the Khazar theory suspect, I'm not saying it's false - just kinda dangerous.

EM, WOW!!!!... that is a most illustrious bloodline! And being sephardic, just could be related to one of my most admired heroines of all times, that gutsy, chutzpah-filled gal from Avila!!

Matterhorn said...

You have a very special background!

elena maria vidal said...

Yes! St. John of the Cross was probably part Jewish, too, on his mother's side.

Julygirl said...

Undoubtedly Jews at the time of and before the time of Christ lived outside the traditional homeland of Judea. They lived in areas of Northern Africa as well as various parts of Europe. However to narrow the vast numbers of European Jews to having come from one small area limits the historical fact of the Diaspora dating from 70 AD when Roman General Titus flattened Jerusalem as prophecied by Jesus, leaving it uninhabitable. However a remnant remained in the area to survive through the centuries.

xavier said...

Thanks. St Teresa d'Avila was from a converso family- a prominent one if I remember right.

In any case, I doubt very much that the Jews were descended from the Khazars. I agree with Mad Monarchists that the Jews are pretty reliable as to who they are and where they came from.