Monday, October 29, 2007

Abraham's Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People


New Book Examines the Promise and Perils Awaiting Those Who Seek Answers to Questions about Identity and Roots in their Strands of DNA

A recent survey published by found that 25.4 percent of respondents have turned to genetic researchers for more information about their ancestors. Roughly 11 percent have taken or sponsored a single test, while another 14.4 percent are already on their second test and third, according to the survey. In addition a staggering – 57.3 percent – plan on taking steps to learn more about their own genealogy. “Just as with conventional genealogy, the more who participate, the easier it becomes for each of us to find others who share common ancestors,” notes the survey.

This comes as no surprise to international columnist and bestselling author Jon Entine whose new book, ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People (Grand Central Publishing; $27.99 hardcover/$34.99 Canada; October 24, 2007) examines the role of genetic genealogy in resolving ancient biblical mysteries and the shared genetic makeup of people of many faiths.

One of the most exciting large scale studies of genetic genealogy analyzed the DNA of 188 Jewish males from Israel, England and North America. The results, reported in Nature, were astonishing. Analysis of the subjects’ Y chromosome markers led researchers to identify a highly unique array of six chromosomal markers – a distinct genetic signature – in 97 of the 106 who identified themselves as descendants of Cohanim, descendants of the Jewish priestly family who claim to be direct descendants of the biblical Aaron.

Jon Entine, Emmy award winning 20 year veteran with ABC and NBC News, adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former adjunct professor at Miami University in Ohio and New York University. Entine, has been awarded numerous prizes and fellowships for his journalism. He is author of the bestseller Taboo, as well as Let Them Eat Precaution and Pension Fund Politics.

In his quest for the Lost Tribes – a central narrative for Christians and Jews alike – Entine examines how discoveries in the field of genetics are awakening Christians, Mormons, Muslims and others the world over to strands of a deeply persistent and far reaching shared Israelite ancestry in far flung corners of the globe. A scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, he, introduces readers to a black African tribe, the Lemba, almost certainly of Israelite ancestry and the probable builders of the only surviving architectural wonders of any note built in pre-industrial Africa. ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN recounts how some Hispanic Americans – unknowing descendants of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition – are suddenly able to make sense of the Jewish practices their own parents and grandparents inexplicably incorporated into daily routines upon learning of genetic evidence of their own buried Jewish ancestry.

Judaism DNA is both a time machine and microscope, observes Entine, offering a fascinating journey back in history and an opportunity to reconnect with biblical ancestors. Tracking the mythic and actual migrations of Jews around the world, including Europe, South Africa, India, China and the United States (among Native Americans or Mormons), Entine examines the role of DNA in shaping ethnic and religious identity.

These advances in genetic research hold special significance for Jews and those interested in the Israelite roots of Western culture, according to the author.

“Like adoptees in search of their birth parents, Jewish men and women are besieging genetic researchers hoping to piece together the evidence of their ancestry erased during the Diaspora or Holocaust,” notes Entine.

While some search for evidence confirming ties to the Jewish Cohanim, a priestly line that traces its genetic lineage back to the time of biblical Aaron, others are on a life and death quest to determine if they carry certain disease mutations, including for breast cancer and neurological disorders, that disproportionately target Jews .

Entine’s insightful examination sheds new light on the relevance of issues of “chosen-ness,” the controversy over whether Arabs or Jews have an ancestral claim to ancient Palestine, the threat of Jewish assimilation, and more incendiary notions of racial strengths and weakness in this thought provoking book.

Those interested in learning more about what genealogists call their “deep ancestry,” will find more information about using the increasingly sophisticated tools genetic genealogy offers to probe ancestral vaults once thought lost to history in Entine’s book.

Further details about Entine and the book Abraham's Children can be found at

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