JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Re: Palestinian Jews #general

Judith Romney Wegner

Has anyone ever read any accounts of people who are Jewish according
to Halacha who are Palestinians* (or other Arabs) because their mothers
were Jews?

I have been in touch with one such individual whose mother's mother
married an Arab many years ago and lived in an Arab town. I think
this is a very interesting subject. I think I read somewhere that
there is a clan of Palestinians on the West Bank who claim Jewish

David Goldman

David's question is indeed an interesting one, because Jewish law (quite
anomalously and for insufficiently researched historical reasons) defines
Jewishness matrilineally while Islamic law (more normally for patriarchal
cultures, including European ones in earlier times) defines it
patrilineally. Consequently, as a matter of Islamic and Jewish law
respectively, the child of an Arab father and a Jewish mother will
automatically be perceived as an Arab and by the father and his family
(and, by Islamic law, as a Muslim, if that is the father's religion -- some
Arabs are Christians, of course) and will automatically qualify as a Jew
by Jewish law! This gives the child a theoretical choice when he or she
grows up.

However, in real life, such marriages normally resulted in the couple
settling down in the father's home town or village, so the child was
normally raised as a Muslim (or Christian if that was the father's faith)
and either way the likelihood of his or her choosing later on to become a
Jew is rather remote. (I'm not saying it never happens, of course.) And
certainly as a matter of Jewish law, it is possible, provided that the
individual can prove that the Jewish ethnicity (or orthodox conversion) of
his mother.

A marriage between a Jewish man and a Muslim woman would be far less likely
to occur -- because her family would not countenance it and Arab girls were
and are traditionally far more under the control of their families than
were Jewish girls >from secular families. But the child of such a marriage
would not be considered a Jew unless he or she converted to Judaism (or
unless the mother had converted before conception of the child).

Judith Romney Wegner

*It is worth noting that before 1948, virtually the only people who
actually defined themselves as "Palestinian" were Jews residing in that
country, who had been issued Palestinian passports by the British Mandate
authorities! (I have seen more than one such passport.) An Arab resident
back then would have been equally entitled to such a passport, but
proportionately fewerArabs than Jews living in Palestine travelled abroad;
and culturally speaking, it was not routine for any Arab to define himself
as a Palestinian back then, even if for convenience he had acquired a
Palestinian passport >from the mandate authorities.)