Whether Ashkenazic (European) or Sephardic (Spanish or Middle Eastern), most Jews in fact have genetic links stemming back from Turkey, according to a controversial study released Tuesday.
Dr. Eran Elhaik of the University of Sheffield discovered Turkish, Greek, and Persian roots in genetic studies of Ashkenazic Jews, the British Independent news site reports, with "over 90%" of subjects connected to a group of Grecio-Turkish converts linked to Jews living in Babylon 2000 years ago, during the Persian Empire.
Elhaik, an Israeli researcher with a doctorate from the University of Houston, drew the conclusions using a special modeling system which maps DNA into geographic origins, named the Geographic Population Structure.
He drew the data from 367 Jews of European origin and 600 non-Jews from Asia and the Middle East.
He believes that three Turkish villages which still exist today – Iskenaz, Eskenaz and Ashanaz – were the origin cities for most of Ashkenazic Jewry, and that the name "Ashkenaz" is related to an Assyrian name for an Iron-Age Eurasian people, the Scythians.
Traditional views on Ashkenazic Jewry link Jews of Eastern European origin with areas of France and Germany; Sephardic Jews, from Spain and north Africa; and 'Eidot HaMizrach' Jews [in America often lumped together with Sephardic Jews – ed.] from India and other Middle-Eastern countries. Italian (Rome) Jews, Syrian Jews and Yemenite Jews have their own traditions and communities.