May 19, 2000

A DEAR friend, one of the few people who was kind to me during an awful childhood year as a kibbutz boy, called this week.

Her name is Sarah, and she is a fervent woman. I told her once that, if she had been born Russian she would have been a Cossack, and if she had been born Japanese she would have been a Samurai.

But she was born Jewish, on a kibbutz, and she is an Arab-hater. Sarah was the girl who chased off the bigger boys when they threw sticks at me and saved handfuls of bread from her plate when I was too sullen and sulky to eat with the families.

She spoke to me like I was a little stupid, a city boy who would never understand how human nature was when it had been stripped down to raw components. She still speaks to me that way.

In Sarah’s eyes, it is an Israeli’s duty to detest the war-loving people of Syria and Iraq, the spies of Jordan and Lebanon, the Saudi and Kuwaiti gluttons. To hate especially the cheating Palestinians, the lying land-robbers who hide behind a shield of children.

She hates them with a mild reasonableness. She tells me that to spare them an inch of trust or sympathy would be a betrayal of her ideals, and her parents’ hard work and the dreams of her whole race.

She asks me, mildly, reasonably, whether the ordinary people of Europe, including the British, spared an inch of sympathy for the Jews who were obliterated by the Nazis. Today I told her about the findings of Michael Hammer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, which showed the Semitic gene pool has been almost constant for the past 4,000 years.

Since the time of the Pharoahs, the children of Abraham have maintained their racial characteristics. The essential factors in our biological make-up are no different today than they were in early Biblical days.

Long before Solomon and David, our nature was defined. Sarah, naturally, was delighted by the report. She questioned me closely as I explained that Hammer had studied and compared the genes of more than 1,300 men and boys, from all over the Semitic world.

The seven Jewish groups — Ashkenazi, Roman, North African and Ethiopian, Kurdish, Iraqi, Iranian and Yemenite — all showed a consonance of the Y chromosome so clearly that only one conclusion could be drawn: they all shared a common male ancestor. There was a patriarch. And the Bible calls him Abraham. Excited and amused, Sarah still tried to keep her control of our conversation and the whole friendship. She is always in charge when we talk.

‘‘Anyone could have told you this,’’ she said. ‘‘Read your Torah, we don’t need genetics to prove the scriptures.’’

‘‘I have read the Torah,’’ I replied.‘‘And I think Abraham had two sons. Right? It wasn’t only Isaac. That’s where the Jewish line started.

‘‘But Isaac had an older brother. Ishmael. And the Arabs claim common descent from Ishmael, so Arab and Jew, we’re all descended from Abraham.

‘‘Tell me if I’ve got this wrong, but doesn’t a devout Muslim revere Abraham, El Khalil, the Friend of God, above anyone in the Bible?’’

‘‘You ask me about the Koran, I have no idea,’’ Sarah snapped, ‘‘but I can tell you that anything an Arab says to a Jew is a lie.’’

‘‘It isn’t what Arabs say. I’m still with the University of Arizona. The geneticists looked at 29 populations. Not just Jews — Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Druze, Saudis, and Semitic clusters in Gambia and Germany and Russia and Egypt and Austria . . . even here in Britain.

‘‘And along the Y chromosome line, we are all virtually identical.’’

‘‘Listen to this,’’ I said, ‘‘this is Dr Harry Ostrer, director of the Human Genetics Programme at New York University School of Medicine: ‘Jews and Arabs are all really children of Abraham’. That’s the scientific view.’’

Sarah was silent for a long time. ‘‘Like you said,’’ she answered finally, ‘‘it’s all in the Torah.’’

Another pause. ‘‘But how come we don’t diverge more over 4,000 years?’’ The single father of all these nations, so clearly described in Holy literature for thousands of years, seems an impossibility to a 21st century mind — even one steeped in Orthodoxy and insular politics.

But the Tucson study is not the only piece of research to show that Earth’s six billion people are all descended from a very small family.

Biologist Brian Sykes, professor of Human Genetics at Oxford’s Institute of Molecular Medicine, believes all Westerners are descended from just seven women who lived between 8,000 and 45,000 years ago — well before the time of Abraham.

He is so confident that maternal or mitochondrial DNA from one of these seven can be found in any European that he has given each of the types a name —Ursula, Xenia, Tara, Helena, Katrine, Valda and Jasmine.

The latter is the most likely mother of most Semites — born in Syria after the Ice Age, Jasmine’s people learned that seeds grew into plants and so became the planet’s first farmers.

Animals were domesticated, instead of being hunted in the wild. And nomadic traditions passed away.

Jasmine’s tribe settled in the Middle East. After thousands of years a man was born who rejected pagan gods and worshipped the one true deity — even willing to sacrifice his beloved son. And the rest, as they say, is scripture.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
Visit him at and e-mail him at [email protected]


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