This book examines what we know or think we know about Jewish origins. It attempts to determine the common origin of the Jews, one that connects all of them into a single people, religion, or community—the very beginning of their collective story. This is the first book to trace the history of the various approaches that have been applied to the question, including genealogy, archaeology, psychology, sociology, linguistics, and genetics. It also considers why ascertaining an origin for the Jews has proved problematic, noting the difficulty of defining what we mean by the Jews and the difficulty of pinpointing what we mean by an origin. Finally, it discusses the politics of the scholarly search for the origin of the Jews and asks whether such a search played a role in anti-Semitism and if it is helping to feed the Israeli–Palestinian conflict today.
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