Based on a previously unexplored source, this book transforms the
way we think about the formation of Jewish identity This book tells
the story of the earliest Jewish diaspora in Egypt in a way it has
never been told before. In the fifth century BCE there was a Jewish
community on Elephantine Island. Why they spoke Aramaic, venerated
Aramean gods besides Yaho, and identified as Arameans is a mystery,
but a previously little explored papyrus from Egypt sheds new light
on their history. The papyrus shows that the ancestors of the
Elephantine Jews came originally from Samaria. Due to political
circumstances, they left Israel and lived for a century in an
Aramean environment. Around 600 BCE, they moved to Egypt. These
migrants to Egypt did not claim a Jewish identity when they
arrived, but after the destruction of their temple on the island
they chose to deploy their Jewish identity to raise sympathy for
their cause. Their story-a typical diaspora tale-is not about
remaining Jews in the diaspora, but rather about becoming Jews
through the diaspora.
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