Why do Jews look like Caucasians?

So, I have been reading a lot on the history of the Hebrews and all seem to agree that Abraham was the first Hebrew and he was likely from modern day Iraq. The Hebrew people continued living and presumably mixing with local populations in the Near East until about 550 BC or so when the Diaspora occurred.

I realize that many likely migrated to Europe over the past 2500 years or so, but with the basis of being Jewish being connected to a direct descent from a female Jew, why do they all look Caucasian? I would think there would be many that looked Near Eastern, but inevitably in anything I see on TV or print from Israel, every Jew looks like a European. Or is this just the media trying to juxtapose modern Israelis from other Near Easterners?

My reason for asking is the use of the term “Palistineans”. From what I have been studying, the modern Jews ARE Palistineans.

Anyway, thanks in advance for any help.

Palestine was the name the Romans gave to Israel as a deliberate insult after the bar Kokhba revolt. It means “land of the Philistines”, roughly as if we renamed Iraq “land of the Ottomans” or “land of the Kurds”. As for Jews, there’s very little uniform about their appearance- in modern day Israel and modern day USA they range people who have centuries of semitic ancestry run the gamut from dark skinned Africans to Nordic and I believe there’s some evidence that their appearance changed frequently in the ancient world as well depending on where they were living and who they were intermarrying with (all known ethnic groups made their way to Asia Minor).

For that matter, Zacharias Moussaui could pass unnoticed down any street in Jericho or Chicago with people assuming he was born there. Arabs and Palestinians aren’t as uniform in skin-tone and characteristics as you might assume either- they range from fairskinned to darkskinned and every shade in between.

They don’t all look Caucasion. Here you go.


And who says Palestinians look all that different from Jews? Or Europeans, for that matter?

Sure, you won’t see many blond haired blue eyed Palestinians, but to me they don’t look much different than Italians, Greeks, or Spaniards. There’s been so much migration around and across the Mediterranean basin for the last 5000 years that it’s not suprising that they all look pretty much the same.

And Jews from northern Europe look more like northern Europeans simply because they mixed their genes with northern Europeans. And most of those northern European Jews who survived WW2 moved to Israel. I wouldn’t be surprised that due to this admixture they’re a quarter shade lighter on average than Palestinians.

Why exactly is this surprising?

To think that the Jews have been a completely separate people after living in Europe for 2000 years is at best to ignore all history. (At worst, it gives comfort to the notion that Jews are a race rather than a religion.)

Although strict practice does demand that lineage pass through the mother, reality is far more complicated. Jews do intermarry with people from the surrounding community and the niceties of religious doctrine aren’t always observed by all people in all places at all times.

In addition, there have been numerous periods in which Jews were forced to convert, but either kept their religion covertly or re-instituted it when the oppression passed. (See Marranos, e.g.)

Ethnically, most Jews who emigrated to the U.S., and the majority of those who went to Israel, came from eastern Europe and Russia, a place of fluid boundaries for centuries. Although there were Jewish ghettos, most Jews lived as other peasants of the time and place did, on farms and small villages. Much of what is considered Jewish in stereotyped American culture is really eastern European at base with a layer of religious cultural differences mortared on top. And the same is true for the way they looked after a thousand years of living among one another.

Well, the first reason that Jews would appear to be Caucasian is that (excepting the Falasha (from Ethiopia) and various rumored Chinese Jewish communities), Jews are Caucasian. The 19th Century ethnologists lumped everyone from Iceland and Ireland across Europe and through the Middle East and on down the Indian sub-continent as “Caucasian.”

Here is current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who, presumably, has a long history of Middle Eastern ancestry.

People come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, even when we have preconceived notions about their places of origin.

King David was of ruddy complexion, or a red head, depending on how you read Scripture. So if by Caucasian, you mean white, then biblical Jews may have been “white”. Moses’ second wife was a Kushite, or black. The female voice in Song of Songs seems to have been “black”. So biblical Jews may have been black – or, more than likely, it was a religious ethnos without common racial characteristics. I.e., Jews never did look one way or another.

Any good book on ancient tribes and their migrations (Celts, Arians, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Thracians – that kind of stuff) will tell you that world ethnic groups have been fluid for at least a few thousand years.

Here is a picture of Bashar al-Asad, the president of Syria. Note the blue eyes.

Thanks for all the of the great replies. Especially tomndebb for his erudite correction. :slight_smile:

I figured as much. Now my question is why do only the ones that look European make the news covers and tv screens? And why do most Americans think that the Jews “invaded” Palestine and took it from its rightful owners? If I was in charge of Israeli PR, I would be stressing that Jews ARE Palestineans. That fact seems to get missed by most.

This part isn’t true. That’s the traditional/Biblical story but it’s unsupported by archaeological evidence. Modern archaeologists now believe that the cultural group called “Israelites” arose from indegenous Canaanite tribes within Palestine.

If that’s the case then Mexicans are Texans and we have no right to keep them out. Mexicans should be allowed to bulldoze the residents of Texas out of their homes and force them to live behind barbed wire.

Then there’s all those North American Indians to worry about as well.

Oh shutup.

Are you talking about Israeli Jews? If so, it’s probably because most of the elite in Israel are the descendents of Northern European Jews, or the Ashkinazim. There are plenty of other Jews in Israel from other parts of the world, and if you go there you will see a broad spectrum of appearances, including Jews who look just like their Arab neighbors.

Did you ever notice that most of the Mexican politicians don’t look much like the illegal immigrants who sneak into the US? That’s because they are largely of Europena ancestry while the lower classes are of more mixed ancestry (European, Indian, African). It’s not exaclty the same as the situation in Israel, but similar.

I dont want to get in a big argument here so I will just cite the source I am using. Most of my education has come from the book The Bible and the Ancient Near East by Cyrus Gordon. It is a very informative book that I have enjoyed very much. But in no way do I pretend to be able to back up his assertions personally.

As for the Mexican/Texan thing, I just dont agree. The Texans (and I am one) fought for their independence and won it. Just like probably 99% of the current nations on the earth. Lots of Jews moved to Palestine after WWII and declared their independence from Britain. They were then attacked by their neighbors on the basis of religious intolerance. And they won.

I am not Jewish.

And are you guys always this prickly on the boards?

Nope. Just on topics that involve religion, politics, and anything else people feel strongly about.

How do you have the ability to navigate your way to The Straight Dope, yet not have a clue about the subject you are asking about, how to research it online or how to post your queries without being provocative? Autistic? Idiot Savant? Educate me.

Hey ease up on the guy. GQ isn’t the place for insults like that.

From everything I’ve heard, the situation with the Russian Jews and the Sefardi Jews in Israel is comparable to that in Mexico - A lot of the Russians supposedly look down on the dark-skinned Jews from Arab countries like the Yemenite Jews and are extremely racist towards them, and the latter live largely in poverty and suffer discrimination from the European Jews. In addition, I’ve heard that there are more and more non-Jewish Russians moving to Israel, using a tiny amount of technically Jewish heritage to get their ticket over there, and many of them are even forming skinhead and neo-Nazi groups. I am not an expert on Israel but I have read and heard about this strange phenomenon.

They fought for their independence from what? Who are the “Texans” who fought for this “independence?” Were they indegenous to Texas or did they move into somebody else’s land and just steal it?

I didn’t wonder or care if you were. I’m not anti-Israel (though I have my criticisms). I was just trying to point out that you can’t really make a case for sovereign claims on land based on remote ancestry. If we were to apply that logic uniformly, we’d have to clear two continents of caucasians.

This is one of the more civil forums. You should browse the Pit sometime. :wink:

I don’t know what edition you’re reading but the book was first written in 1953, and the entire field of archeology has been turned upside-down since then.

One thing we know for a certainty is that the Jews are not Palestinians. Not now, not ever in history. I don’t know if you’re getting this notion from Gordon or not, but you need to rid yourself of it. It’s historic nonsense.

Hate to break it to you, but there were as many Mexicans at the Alamo as there were Texans. If you really had been there (as you claim) you’d know that.