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The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage Hardcover – April 5, 1976
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(fortunately) presented in a popularised, non academic fashion. I highly recommend
it to anyone interested in getting closer to the truth regarding the origin of the
vast majority of 'Jews' in the world today. These issues are however politically
sensitive and this inevitably results in controversy.
The commonly available theory of the origin of the Ashkenazis, or East-European
Jews, is the Renanian Theory (see e.g. Wikipedia). Namely, the Ashkenazis would
descend from refugees of Crusade- and Black-Death-time persecutions of 'authentic'
Jews from western Germany who sought a new life in faraway Poland. However, this
theory does not hold to antropomorphic considerations, considerations of numbers
of refugees and size of ensuing communities in the East and, most importantly,
to a lingustic analysis of the ashkenazi Yiddish language (which points rather
to a Southeast-Germany, Slavic and Turkik origin of that idiom). The standard
theory also does not explain most of the peculiar customs and surnames of the
Ashkenazis and their historical and economical development in continuous conflict
with the populace of the host countries.
Koestler, following an earlier proposal by Hugo von Kutschera (1910) - but also
in accordance with Jewish Encyclopedia pre-1917 articles - rekindles the Khazar
Theory of the ashkenazi origins in this book.Read more ›
(There is also an unusual novel on these folk "The Dictionary of the Khazars" - have a look at that on Amazon and see what you think).
The obvious question, which had been asked by many people prior to Koestler, is to what extent the Khazars are the ancestors of the Ashkenazic Jews. Koestler suspected it is to a great extent.
I think there is substantial evidence that many Khazars did in fact convert to Judaism. And there is also some evidence that the initial number of Jews who wound up in the major Jewish population centers of Eastern Europe via the Middle East and Germany was rather small. That suggested to Koestler that the presumably more numerous Khazars dominated the Jewish population in Eastern Europe 1000 years ago and that they are the principal ancestors of today's Ashkenazic Jews. However, it seems that recent scholarship has not given much support to this guess. On the contrary, genetic evidence has strongly indicated that the small number of Jews coming from Germany may well have been by far the main ancestors of today's Ashkenazim.
As Koestler feared, his hypothesis has been quoted by those trying to find an excuse to deny present-day Israelis their rights to their homes. That is why Koestler explains that whether the genes of Israel's people are of Khazar, Spanish, Roman, or Semitic origin is irrelevant. It "cannot affect Israel's right to exist - nor the moral obligation of any civilized person, Gentile or Jew - to defend that right."
In any case, I found the book interesting.
In the process of telling this tale, Koestler concludes that the conversion of the Khazars, which seems to be historically documented, explains the significant presence of Jews in Eastern Europe at the end of the Middle Ages (since extant records do not show them arriving from the Mediterranean world, or even western Europe, in any great numbers in ancient or later times). This theory is a quite rational one though it poses problems for Orthodox Jewry since the premise of the faith depends so much (though not exclusively) on the historical link to Abraham, a Semite. Complicating the matter is the suspicion that the Khazar conversion may not have been a 'kosher' one. Orthodox Jews have not, accordingly, been quick to embrace the Khazar thesis and others tend to shy away from it for this and other reasons. However, the facts do seem to indicate that modern Jews are a mixture of many different genetic influences (just look at the physical evidence).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just ask yourself this question, do they line up with the old testament hebrews in the bible?
curses and blessings
The Thirteenth Tribe
Arthur Koestler was born in Budapest, studied science and psychology in Vienna, and became a foreign correspondent for various European newspapers. Read more
The Keostler books that I have read (including this one) have all been stimulating and well written. Read morePublished 13 months ago by gary
I found the outlined historical data difficult to keep with; however, it did shared some light on a subject I've been interested in for a long time. Read morePublished on February 7, 2014 by Floyd W. Johnson, Jr.
See Johns Hopkins University geneticist Dr. Eran Elhaik, Ph.D. and his recent, definitive genetic study on the issue at hand entitled "The Missing Link of Jewish European Ancestry:... Read morePublished on May 7, 2013 by Brent
THE KHAZARS - FACT OR FICTION?
Jewish opponents of the Khazar theory of the origins of Eastern European Jewry have developed a rather standard defense to the Khazar Jew... Read more
When I first heard of Arthur Koestler's thesis -- that the Ashkenazi Jews might be largely descended from remnants of the Khazar Empire -- I was intrigued. Read morePublished on January 27, 2011 by Alex Lint
Arthur Koestler was a brilliant figure who wrote easily and well in three languages: Hungarian (he was born and grew up in Budapest), German and English. Read morePublished on September 25, 2010 by R. SELIG