Q. I just had a discussion with someone who claims that the Jews in Israel are impostors. Now I do not believe this for the simple fact, that God has brought those Jews back in the land. So if God considers them to be Jews, then they are Jews. I was just caught off guard by this as I had never heard of this. Can you help me understand this?
A. This is a claim sometimes made by those who dispute the legitimacy of modern Israel’s claim to the Promised Land.
But according to Judaism 101, an online encyclopedia of facts about Judaism, Jews in Israel today can be divided into three major groups. The Ashkenazi are the descendants of Europeans who converted to Judaism hundreds of years before WW2. Sephardic Jews are descendants of Jews from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East, and Mizrachi Jews are descendants of Jews from North Africa and the Middle East. (Smaller subgroups are Yemenite, Ethiopian and Oriental.)
A little more than half of all Jews in Israel are Mizrachim, descended from Jews who have been in the land since ancient times or who were forced out of Arab countries after Israel was founded in 1948. Many Sephardic Jews are also descendants of the original 12 tribes. Based on this it would appear that your friend’s assertion is incorrect.