TEL AVIV – A new study has reportedly found genetic evidence to back claims of Jewish roots made by the Bene Israel, a community in western India.
The genomes of 18 Bene Israel community members were analyzed during the study, led by Tel Aviv University together with Cornell University and published in the PLoS One scientific journal. It found that members of the community contained substantial genetic markers of an “admixed” population of having both Jewish and Indian roots.
Members of the Bene Israel community maintain that they hail from fourteen Jewish ancestors, who, according to their oral tradition, were the survivors of a shipwreck on India’s Konkan shore coast some 2,000 years ago.
“Beyond vague oral history and speculations, there has been no independent support for Bene Israel claims of Jewish ancestry, claims that have remained shrouded in legend,” said Yedael Waldman, the study’s first author. “We found that while Bene Israel individuals genetically resemble local Indian populations, they constitute a clearly separated and unique population in India.”
Only a few thousand Bene Israel members remain in the Konkan region of India today. The rest of its 20,000 strong-community live in Israel.
“In the last few decades, genetic information has become an important source for the study of human history,” said Prof. Keinan, the study’s senior author. “It has been applied several times to the study of Jewish populations across diasporas, providing evidence of a shared ancestry.”