Tuesday, August 7, 2012

DNA tests confirm, Jews of Africa belong to the Jewish race

North African Jews

The Jewish people across the world all have very close DNA similarities, according to a new study.

North African Jews are more closely related to Jews around the world, rather than of their non-Jewish neighbors in North Africa, a new study of DNA has found.

In addition, their DNA carries a record of their migrations through the centuries. Some parts of their DNA dates back to the ancient people of the Middle East believed to have migrated to North Africa more than 2,000 years ago, while other bits are connected to Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled to North Africa after their expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century, the study authors have said.

The finding is consistent with other research showing that the Jews of Europe and the Middle East share more DNA with each other than with external groups, said Dr. Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and author of the report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Jews tend to be more interconnected than they are to non-Jews, including non-Jews living in their same area, which is true in all regions," he said.

Ostrer previous work has focused primarily on DNA samples collected from American Jews. Hoping to "catch up" and present a fuller picture of Jewish history and diversity, he and his colleagues analyzed DNA samples from 145 people of Jewish origin from North Africa, from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Djerba which is an island off the coast of Tunisia and Libya.

Comparing the DNA genetic data obtained from a variety of other Jewish groups and non-Jews, they found that the Jewish populations of North Africa have clearly genetic patterns more similar to European and Middle Eastern Jews than non-Jews who currently live in region. The data indicates that, once established in their communities, Jews in this region did not marry their non-Jewish neighbors.

The scientists also found that North African Jews formed two main groups, Morocco and Algeria Jews
shared more DNA with the European Jews as was seen by Tunisia, Libya and Djerba.

This is probably due to the fact that Jews living in West Africa married with Sephardic Jews who fled there after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the 15th century, the researchers wrote.
Yeshiva University historian Lawrence Schiffman said that the results are well aligned with the historical record.

"It's exciting to see what we know from the history books and that all of it is backed by genetics," he said.

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