The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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Issues of Jewish History as Reflected in Modern Egyptian Historiography · 233

later, their number in the Roman Empire amounted to seven million. That
means in his view that the huge demographical increase was not due
to natural propagation but due to the joining of various ethnic groups
during those five hundred years. The emirates of Ḥimyar and Ḥidyab
converted to Judaism in antiquity,^6 and tribes from the Arabian Peninsula
as well as barbaric tribes from North Africa converted to Judaism for
various reasons.^7
Another popular claim used by Ḥamdan and other researchers in or-
der to break the genealogical bond between the contemporary Jews and
the biblical Children of Israel was the theory of the Khazars, which says
that most of the European Jews are the descendants of the Khazarian peo-
ple. This theory was already presented in the 1950s by none other than
the Jewish historians Nathan Pollack and Arthur Koestler.^8 That drove
Zubayda ̔Aṭa to the conclusion that not only did the Hebrew race mingle
with the Canaanite nation in antiquity but that the bond of contemporary
Jews with Palestine is also doubtful. She explains it by the fact that the
meaning of the Khazar theory is that most contemporary Jews do not
belong to the Semitic race at all: “This proves that the forefathers of the
Jews arrived from beyond the Volga and not from Trans-Jordan, nor from
the Land of Canaan but from the Caucasus.”^9 It should be mentioned
here that the implications of this argument on the Israeli/Arab conflict
are very obvious in the Palestinian historiography, as bitterly expressed
by the Palestinian historian Saleḥ al-Rukub: “The Arab Palestinians, the
true descendants of Abraham, have been replaced by another nation who
have nothing that attaches them to this land.”^10
Moreover, some historians trace the movements of the Sons of Abra-
ham from the end of the nineteenth century bce up to now, in the attempt
to sever the bond between biblical Jews and modern Jews. Therefore,
they make a strong distinction between four terms: Hebrews, Children of
Israel, Sons of Moses, and Jews. The Hebrews are defined as a group of
nomad tribes which arrived in Canaan under the leadership of Abraham.
This was the name given to them by the local nations due to the fact that
in their language it meant that they came from across a river or a desert.
Some researchers identify this group with what is known in the classical
sources as ̔Apiru (Habiru), emphasizing their inferior origin.
The second group is the Children of Israel, the sons of Jacob, who lived
in Canaan and migrated to Egypt during the years of famine. According
to these researchers, Jacob’s children assimilated with the Egyptians to

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