In a lecture I have given in 1995, I alluded to a very important point that deserves to be dealt with in depth. The following is a quotation from that lecture:I am a Christian Arab. Not all the Jews are my cousins and neither are all the Christians nor all the Muslims. My cousins are the Hebrews, the Jews who live or used to live in the Arab countries. Arabs and Hebrews are both Semitic people and both words are made up of the same Semitic three-letter root (`rb & `br ). The Jews of Europe, the Ashkenazi, are Jews but not Hebrews (Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for Germany). Nor are they Semites in the first place, a fact that points to a misuse of another term, that of anti-Semitism. As a matter of fact, the Ashkenazi Jews have no historic link to Palestine. They descend from the Khazars, a Tatar people of Turkish origin who converted to Judaism at the time of Charlemagne in the 8th century. Their homeland is located in south-eastern Russia between the Caspian and the Black seas (see map).What I was alluding to is almost a taboo subject that very few people know about. It is the subject of the Jewish Khazars, the ancestors of the Ashkenazi Jews. I wrote two Letters to the Editor (letters 94 and 100) about the origin of the Ashkenazi Jews and their relationship to the Khazars. I was not surprised when the Editor chose not to print them. This issue, however, is not unknown to scholars, particularly to Medieval historians. But the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of the educated people, and even the history teachers in high schools have never heard of the Khazars.
One of the first scholars who started to be interested in Khazar history is the orientalist Paul Eric Kahle, who was born in 1875 in East Prussia and died in 1965 in Bonn. He published The Cairo Geniza in London, Oxford University Press, 1947. His student, D. M. Dunlop, wrote The History of the Jewish Khazars, published by Princeton University Press in 1954 (pb 1967). It is considered to be an invaluable source for Khazar history. Another historian from Cambridge University, J. B. Bury, devoted a chapter on the Khazars in his book A History of the Eastern Roman Empire, published in London in 1912.
Books, Bookreviews, Articles...
1. The best way to start learning about the Khazars and their history is to read an excerpt on the subject taken from Alfred Lilienthal's book What Price Israel? (see excerpt, also in Arabic translation)
2. Another interesting article is the one written by Dr. Fayez Sayegh, a Palestinian Christian, who put the issue of the Khazars in a religious context. By refuting the Jews' divine and historic rights to Palestine, Zionism's claim becomes baseless (see article). Dr. Sayegh quotes extensively from a study by Professor Alfred Guillaume who exclusively deals with the religious aspect of the promise God made to Abraham (see study).
3. "Scholars Debate Origins of Yiddish and Migration of Jews" (New York Times of October 29, 1996) is one of those rare instances where the issue of the Khazars is treatead in the mainstream media. But notice how misleading the title is. Not only does the word Khazar not appear in the title, but it is mentioned only once in this long article and toward the end (see article). This issue of the Origin of the Yiddish Language was taken up in a three-part series by Philologos in the Jewish weekly Forward: Vocal Minority (Nov 22, 1996), The Case of Ladino (Nov. 29, 1996), and Redrawing the Yiddish Map (Dec.6, 1996).
4. The book that popularized the Khazars is the one written by Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and its Heritage, Random House, 1976. After tracing the history of this ancient empire, the author concludes that "The mainstream of Jewish migrations did not flow from the Mediterranean across France and Germany to the east and then back again. The stream moved in a consistently westerly direction, from the Caucasus through the Ukraine into Poland and thence into Central Europe. When that unprecedented mass settlement in Poland came into being, there were simply not enough Jews around in the west to account for it, while in the east a whole nation was on the move to new frontiers" (page 180). See the review of the book written by Grace Halsell.
5. The Ashkenazi Jews: A Slavic and Turkish People in Search of a Jewish Identity, by Paul Wexler, Professor of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University, 1993. In this book, Paul Wexler suggests that the great bulk of Yiddish-speaking Eastern-European Jewry have no genetic relations to the Jews of the Middle East and southern Europe and descends from Slavic (and to a lesser extent Turkish) proselytes who converted to Judaism. His argumentation is based on a linguisitc approach. He contends that, in East-European Yiddish, a number of basic Jewish ritual practices are referred to by originally Slavic words. His conclusion is that "The evidence provided by Jewish languages strongly suggests that there is little basis for the claims that the contemporary Jews of Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as their religious practices and folklores, are 'evolved forms' of the Palestinian Jews and their culture of two millennia ago. On the contrary, contemporary Jews, like their religion and folk culture, appear to be overwhelmingly of non-Jewish origin." Philologos wrote a four-part series commenting on the book in the Jewish weekly Forward : Wexler's Bombshells - Part 1 (June 4, 1993), Wexler's Conversions - Part 2 (June 11, 1993), Wexler's Conversions - Part 3 (June 18, 1993) and Wexler's Conversions - Part 4 (June 25, 1993).
6. The Jews of Khazaria, by Kevin Alan Brook, 1999. This volume traces the development of the Khazars from their early beginnings as a tribe to the decline and fall of their kingdom. It also examines the many migrations of the Khazar people into Hungary, Ukraine, and other areas of Europe. The Jews of Khazaria draws upon the latest archival, linguistic, and archaeological discoveries (see The Khazaria Info Center).
The Khazaria Info Center: http://www.khazaria.com
The Khazar Heritage: http://home6.swipnet.se/~w-66679/khazaria/index.html
Book of Ruth Proves Khazars are Legitimate Jews: http://www.advweb.com/kw/misc/misc/kw_khazar.html
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers on Soc.Culture.Jewish Section 13. Jews as a Nation
Khazar Information: http://www.daft.com/~scotto/melody/dotk.html
Khazaria Historic Maps: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/3976/
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