Genetic citizenship: DNA testing and the Israeli Law of Return

The Israeli State recently announced that it may begin to use genetic tests to determine whether potential immigrants are Jewish or not. This development would demand a rethinking of Israeli law on the issue of the definition of Jewishness. In this article, we discuss the historical and legal context of secular and religious definitions of Jewishness and rights to immigration in the State of Israel. We give a brief overview of different ways in which genes have been regarded as Jewish, and we discuss the relationship between this new use of genetics and the society with which it is co-produced. In conclusion, we raise several questions about future potential impacts of Jewish genetics on Israeli law and society.

Can DNA Testing Tell Me If I am Jewish?

Both the Maternal DNA Test (mothers ancestry) and Paternal DNA Test (fathers ancestry) show your genetic family line, where in the world your genetic ancestors lived and if these areas were common to Jewish populations.Most Jewish populations lived in a few specific areas of the world. If your genetic line comes from one of these areas then it indicates your genetic family line could be Jewish. In addition, both tests come with access to Jewish comparative databases which contain records for Ashkenazim and Sephardim, as well as Levites and Cohanim.However, nothing in your DNA can tell you if you belong to the Jewish, or any other belief system. The reason is that a belief system does not come from your DNA, a belief is something that a person chooses to believe in that is outside of themselves and not from themselves.For example, if a child was born to “Jewish” parents but was never told they where “Jewish” their DNA code would be the same but they would not have the “Jewish” belief system.Taking this one step further they could then choose to believe in another belief system or in nothing at all. In all cases the underlying DNA code remains the same.

Ancestry Testing For Jewish Roots in Detail

Around 170,000 years ago the DNA codes of each human were very similar, something that can be shown in the DNA code of any individual in the world. As the human race chose to separate further, migrating around the world in an effort to create a “better” life this further separation created more separations/variations in the DNA code of each person.An ancestry DNA test today can show where your genetic ancestors lived by identifying how many steps of separation have been taken (how much the DNA code has changed). The more steps, the more specific the test results can be, for example, stating that your ancestry was from Northern Ireland. The fewer steps of separation the wider the area of ancestry, such as Western Europe. Each combination of steps created its own DNA pattern. Individuals who chose to believe in the Jewish religion originally stayed in one area of the world, this area has its own unique DNA pattern.But NOT all people living in that area chose to be Jewish.Therefore a DNA test can present where your genetic ancestors lived and if they were from an area common to Jewish populations but it is impossible to identify what type of belief system they chose to belong to because a belief does not come from you or your DNA but from something outside of you.
Using state of the art DNA testing, we are launching the world’s most advanced ancestry DNA test. To find out more information and register your interest, please visit:

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