The Largest-Ever Study of Medieval Jewish Genetics Shows a Population More Diverse Than Expected

By studying the DNA of 37 13th- and 14th-century Jews buried in the German city of Erfurt, and comparing it to modern information about Ashkenazi genetics, a group of scientists have found some groundbreaking results. Among much else, they found that one woman had the same BRCA-1 gene—which can cause breast or ovarian cancer—carried by many Ashkenazi women today. Amanda Borschel-Dan reports:

According to research being hailed as “the largest ancient Jewish DNA study so far,” published Wednesday in the prestigious Cell science journal, by the 14th century Ashkenazi Jews had already received most of their main sources of genetic ancestry. When compared with the DNA markers of modern Ashkenazi Jews, there have been few changes to the genome in the centuries that have followed.

Through careful analysis, . . . an international team of over 30 interdisciplinary researchers found that the Jews of Erfut “were noticeably more genetically diverse than modern Ashkenazi Jews,” according to the co-author Shai Carmi. “An even closer inspection revealed that the Erfurt population was divided into two groups: one with more European ancestry compared to modern Ashkenazi Jews, and one with more Middle Eastern ancestry,” said Carmi. . . . [T]he results also indicated that the “founder event” or “bottleneck” that is evident in modern Ashkenazi Jewry’s DNA predated the establishment of the Erfut community, potentially by a millennium.

The central German city was a thriving Jewish center in the Middle Ages and boasts one of the oldest still-standing synagogues in Europe. The Jewish community settled there in the 11th century; a massacre decimated the community in 1349 but Jews lived in the area until a final expulsion in 1454. At this time, a granary was constructed on top of the graveyard, sealing in the remains of thousands of Jews.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ashkenazi Jewry, Genetics, Jewish history

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security