WHAT WERE THE ETHNIC ORIGINS OF EARLIEST ISRAEL?
The bible looks at the early Israel as migrant slaves from Egypt who spent most of their time as pastoral nomads in the wilderness before eventually fighting their way to occupy Palestine highlands. However, archeological evidence and ancient textual evidence are not fully in agreement with the bible on the composition and origin of Israel. This piece highlights the main ethnic groups constituting early Israel and their origins.
The earliest Israel was also called “Children of Israel” or “Israelites”. They were considered to have inhabited parts of the land in Canaan during the 15th to the 6th BCE and evolved over time to Jews and the Samaritans who moved further to inhabit Judea, Galilee and Samaria territories. The bible looks at the earliest Israel as descendants of Jacob and the populations who lived in the United Kingdom of Judah and Israel. In the post-exilic period starting at the genesis of 5th century BCE, the remnants of the original Israelite tribes were known as Jews consisting of Judah, Simeon, Levi and Benjamin tribes. The Samaritans consisted of Manasseh, Ephraim and Benjamin tribes.
From the ancient times, the ethnic groups of earliest Israel further broke down into several groupings in the Middle Ages. Jews and its sub-tribes were the most prominent of all the ethnic groups. One of the prominent groups is the Ashkenazi Jews. This was an ethnic group believed to have originally originated from the medieval communities of Jews in the Rhineland Valley. In modern day geography, their origin lies somewhere between Germany and northern parts of France. They are considered more as a sub-set of the Jewish religious cultures than as an ethno-geographic division tribe. This means they became erased over time as the religious practices changed or fused with others.
Sephardic Jews are considered to be those who lived either in Portugal or Spain for about 100 years before being expelled by Catholic Monarchs in 1492 and moving to Maghreb, the Christian Europe and several parts of the Ottoman Empire. The Mizrahi Jews on the other hand were descendants from the Middle East who mainly originated from what was commonly known as ‘Babylonian Jewry’ during the classic period. In modern times, they consist of the Iraqi Jews, the Lebanese, Kurdish, Georgian, Mountain, Persian and Afghan Jews. The other groups of significant numbers worth mentioning even today include modern Samaritans, Anusim, Assyrians, Circassians, Armenians, Copts, Druze, Maronites, Bedouin and other Israeli Arabs.
From a biblical standpoint, the ethnic origin of earliest Israel was Egypt. They escaped from slavery in Egypt and moved into different areas in Europe, Middle East and even The United States. The Jews were the most prominent of all the ethnic groupings and had several sub-tribes. Other perspectives disagree with the biblical position but do not provide evidence of the same. So it can be comfortably concluded that they descended from Egypt.