Ancient remains from Canaan in the Israel Museum (Photo: The Judean)

One interesting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been completely abandoned in recent decades due largely to the strong Islamification of the local Palestinian population; that solution was the cultural integration of Diaspora Jews and local Muslims into one united group known as Israelis. While the Muslim and early Ottoman empires who ruled the land of Israel for centuries did indeed allow for expanded non-Jewish migration into the region, according to some, many of those in today's local Palestinian communities have their roots in Judaism. Yes, there are many in the Palestinian population whose ancestors were 'Judeans' and were forcefully converted to Islam or Christianity, or just chose to do so, and the DNA surveys and analysis back this claim up. In the early years of modern Zionism, this fact held the secrets of how to prevent an endless conflict, and pursuing it further was of deep interest to many key players such as David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and many others. 

It is largely accepted in the academic world that with the collapse of the Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, not all Judeans, now referred to as Jews, were forcefully evacuated from the Land of Israel. Many Jews were able to hide in the mountainous regions of Samaria and Galilee, specifically around the Safed area and Mount Meron, while many others were actually kept in Judea by the Romans to help monitor the various trade routes which were crucial for the Empire’s economy. In time, many of these Jews became disconnected from their brethren in the Diaspora and even detached from their Israelite-Judean roots, making them vulnerable to religious persecution and forced conversions by the newly emerged Byzantine Empire and the Arab conquests that followed. 

As the centuries passed and the reluctant acceptance of Arab culture became a reality, most of these former Judeans who were now Muslims forgot their deep-rooted connection to Israel and Judaism. While this was the rule, there were exceptions. One of the largest and most studied examples of a modern “Palestinian” family recognizing and maintaining their Jewish heritage comes from the Makhamra clan. The large family’s origins are disputed, with some experts claiming they came to Israel as Spanish Jews fleeing the Inquisition while others, including a number of Makhamra members, claim they were Jews who fled Judea towards the southeast after the Temple’s destruction, heading to Arabia returning to the land during the rise of Muhammad and the subsequent Islamic expulsion of Arabian Jews in the 7th century. 

The Makhamras, who currently live in the hills near Hebron have maintained a number of Jewish traditions including the lighting of candles around the time of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and a refusal to eat Camel meat which is permitted in Islam but not Judaism. Their surname which is of an Arabic dialect, according to the family's own account, translates into “Wine-Makers,” which is a profession considered Haram (prohibited) in Islam but definitely would make sense for a Jewish family where wine was and is essential to many of the rituals. The Makhamras join a number of other modern-Palestinian clans who claim some sort of Jewish heritage, many of who have presented their ancient Menorahs and ancient Psalms scriptures to Israeli governments throughout the years. 

Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Israel’s longest serving President, and a renowned scholar, was completely fascinated by revealing more depth to this connection between Jews and who they defined at the time as their Arab enemies. He was under the impression that nationalizing the term ‘Israelite’ into a broad definition of all those with a clear connection to the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob could be the solution for peace in the modern State of Israel, and perhaps the entire Middle East.  

Ben-Zvi’s curiosity was joined by that of Israel's first President, David Ben-Gurion, who saw the importance of “educating” the local Bedouin population on their Jewish heritage. An entire program to “Judaize” the Bedouin communities was implemented, right before the famous General Moshe Dayan harshly rejected the idea, under the assumption that it would infuriate Israel’s hostile Islamic neighbors. 

The connection between Jews and Palestinians is not merely supported by scholars of history and politicians eager to bring about peace in the land, but as mentioned above, by hard science through many deep-diving scientific studies. In 2012, Harry Ostrer, a professor of pediatrics and pathology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, and Karl Skorecki, Director of Medical and Research Development at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, determined that “the closest genetic match to most of the Jewish identified DNA groups were the Palestinians, Israeli-Bedouins, and Druze (in addition to some Southern European communities, like those in Cypress).”

Decades have passed since Ben-Zvi and Ben Gurion’s efforts, and the rebirth of an intense new wave of Islamification during the first and second Intifadas has even further distanced Palestinian nationalists from openly accepting their ancestors' cultural and religious alignment. However, perhaps specifically in these times, when it seems all hope is lost for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is important to reexamine history and be reminded of the close-shared values both people share. The love of the land, the fear of the one and only God, and the constant journey in search of peace. 

Sign Up For The Judean Newsletter

I agree with the Terms and conditions and the Privacy policy