Friday, November 12, 2010

Modern Khazaria

I've been intensely reading this book called "The Thirteenth Tribe" by Arthur Koestler. It's about the history of Eurasia since medieval times, in regards to the emergence and geographical movement of Jews, or at least people who consider themselves as such, and everyone else who came into contact with them. The book is an anthropological gold mine. It adds a lesser known dimension to all the theories concerning our ethnic origins.

Then again, there is the simple fact that human beings are 99.9% genetically identical and .1% diverse. So what's all the fuss about the .1%? Well, in my opinion, our external differences really don't matter, and I'd even dare to call myself an avid xenophile. But as a Jew, or at least someone raised secularly, yet informed their entire lives both by maternal and paternal relatives that they are in fact a Jew, I find it necessary to ask, "how so?" No doubt I feel Jewish and most would say I "look Jewish." Still the question remains. Where did my ancestors live throughout the centuries and with whom did they commingle?

All I know is that my dad's side is entirely Romanian, as far back as we can trace, and my mom's side is a mix of Polish and Ukranian, with the exception of my mom's mom's mom. She's a Colombian hybrid of mostly Spaniard Catholic roots, with a dab of Mestizo (indigenous Amerindian), and she's about a century old (still alive.) She married a Jew who escaped from the Bolshevik Revolution in the Ukraine and somehow landed in Colombia, hence she become one of the first ever, fully-certified Colombian converts to Judaism. Since that was like three generations ago, and the family has remained closely tied with the rabbinical community in Bogota and Medellin, it is safe for me to presume that this crucial ingredient to my Jewry is valid.

Mind you I'm paying lip service to some orthodox notion, which brings me back to the book I'm reading. It declares that in the 8th century a Shamanistic (Turkic) empire that sat between the Black and Caspian seas converted to Judaism in order to gain equal respect from its two Abrahamic neighbors (the Muslim Caliphate and the Christian Byzantium), and that the Ashkenazim of today are mostly their descendants, as opposed to the almost mythical pure-bred Semitic lineage. The truth is none of this really even matters because to be a Jew is something from deep down inside. It's a soul thing, not an ethnic (or religious) one.

However, I still hold on to this general inquiry about universal Jewish identity because I have always sensed a sort of racialist hypocrisy in the way many European Jews tend to view the Jews of Arab nations, and indeed their view of Arabs in general (not to mention gentiles in general.) Whatever happened to the integrity and definition of the word "semitic"? And I'm not even delving into all the other directions and amalgamations occurring throughout Jewish history, which are all mentioned in the book. All I know is this: a chosen people are a people chosen by the creator to carry out the responsibility of improving the world on behalf of all humanity, not for self-serving interests and in the name of exclusivity.

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