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Genetic Union, Political Disunion, Religious Reunion?
According to a new genetic survey that was published last week, it seems that Arabs and Jews are extremely closely related...

May   |   2000   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

... Wherever in the world they now live, Jewish men carry the same Y chromosome as Palestinians, Syrians or Lebanese. “Arabs and Jews are all really children of Abraham and all have preserved their Middle Eastern genetic roots over 4000 years,” asserted Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Programme at New York University School of Medicine. His scientific team analysed regions of the Y chromosome in 1371 men from twenty nine populations world-wide. The Y chromosome passes largely unchanged down the male line.

The results, published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, evince that the genetic difference between Arab and Jewish populations is extremely small. In fact, the difference is considerably smaller than that between North and South African populations - to take just one broad example. The study also confirms that both Arabs and Jews owe their genes to a common ancestor population that predated the Jewish religion.

Now, why I am referring to this study in my weekly article? Quite simple, really! I had been away from the Holy Land for the past fortnight, having participated in a number of meetings alongside the Middle East Council of Churches. Upon my return to Jerusalem last Monday, I was confronted by battlefields everywhere! Whether in northern cities of Jenin and Ramallah, in the southern cities of Bethlehem and Gaza or in Jerusalem itself, violent confrontations were taking place between Palestinians and Israelis. The streets had become combat fields where stones and burning tyres challenged rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, where anger and frustration on the one hand generated force and defensiveness on the other, and where one stereotype endeavoured to outmatch another! And I wondered if this scenario defined the so-called Oslo process, and if human life, human worth and human value - calibrated as much in terms of dignity and justice as in co-existence and security - have been cheapened to this aberrant and deviate degree?

That same night, I sat in front of the box and watched the latest news showing in graphic detail the bloody battles and killing fields that claimed many God-endowed lives. I recalled the study that had recently been published in New York confirming that Palestinians and Israelis share near-identical genetic codes and trace their ancestry to a common forefather Abraham who was notable for his faith and obedience to God. How could those two peoples, proud adherents to three religions passed down the ages by prophets and sages, refuse to overstep their differences and toil together toward the common good - peace? Christianity, Judaism and Islam - despite their fundamental theosophical differences - share nonetheless a firm belief in the oneness of God and a recognition of the other - who happens also to be a next-door neighbour in this small parcel of land. How can they allow greed, arrogance and revisionism to blinker their better senses and to wield such a deleterious influence over their daily lives?

As I retired to bed that first night after I had returned to Jerusalem, I wanted to pray that a plane will fly me out of this land to more pacific pastures! But that would have been the easier - some would add cowardly - solution. Instead, I prayed for cooler heads to prevail so that fairer solutions could be found to the conflict that is sundering our biblical land. Surely, sharing a common forefather should act as an additional incentive toward this common goal - peace? Or are the two peoples of the Holy Land much too much alike - genetic codes and all - that they perceive the shadow of the other in the mirror?

Is it possible that this genetic union can perhaps also herald religious - and dare I add - political union? But the morning did not bring any solutions with it! The morning did not make me any wiser either! The challenge of the stalemate remained unchallenged!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2000   |   May


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