Kurds are one of the oldest and largest ethnic groups in the Middle East. For hundreds of years, they have called home an area encompassing parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Armenia. Distinctive Kurdish communities have maintained Kurdish culture and language in a number of countries, often in the face of hatred and violence from neighboring ethnic groups and central governments. Many Jewish communities in Kurdish lands claim they have lived there for over 2,500 years, ever since the Jews of the northern kingdom of Israel were sent into exile there. The Old Testament records in 2 Kings 15:17-22 30 that Hoshea became the last king of Israel and that the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III made him pay tribute to him. After Tiglath-pileser died (727), 2 Kings 17:1-6 Hoshea revolted against the new Assyrian king, Shalmaneser, who then invaded Israel taking Hoshea prisoner, and tried to take the city of Samaria. Eventually, "the king of Assyria (Sargon II) captured Samaria (722 BC) and exiled Israel to Assyria. He settled them in Halah and Habor (northern Syria today), by the Gozan River (tributary of the Euphrates River), and in the cities of Media (Northwestern Iran today)" (Kings II, 17:1-6). These sites are currently listed within the Kurdish region. Between 1949 and 1952, a series of airlifts, called "Operation Ezra and Nehemiah" brought over 120,000 the Jewish Kurds, mainly from Iraq to Israel. The majority of the Kurdish Jews today define themselves as Israeli and have adopted Hebrew as their primary language. Many of the older Kurdish Jews continue to speak Kurdish dialects in accordance with the region they came from in Kurdistan. The Jewish Kurds in Israel maintain a strong cultural loyalty to their homeland. The largest concentration of Kurdish Jews lives in the Katamonim neighborhood located in south Jerusalem where they have their own synagogues and schools.
Life was hard for many of the Kurdish immigrants who came to Israel as they were farmers accustomed to rural life and had to adjust to urban lifestyles. Currently there are over thirty agriculture settlements that have been started by Jewish Kurds. Many worked in construction, selling produce and a number opened Kurdish restaurants which remain popular among the Jewish people in Jerusalem. Often when people go to a Kurdish restaurant, they are warmly greeted by people who work there. They often hear Kurdish music and singing in the background. New customers are introduced to the many types of succulent Kurdish dishes available to them. Kurdish Jewish women are known for keeping wonderful recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Siske, is a favored Kurdish pastry stuffed with beef and vegetables. The people feel that food gives them an opportunity to connect with others and make friends. The younger Kurdish Jews have pursued education and work in areas of medicine, computer software and business. Kurdish Jewish people keep close family connections. An important part of Kurdish-Jewish life is found in their celebration of Saharane (sahar in Kurdish means–the crescent moon or spring moon). This is a festival that takes place over a few days usually at the closure of Passover. Traditionally it marks the end of winter and the coming of spring. Just as they did in their historic homeland, Kurdish communities gather and spend their days enjoying each other, singing, dancing and eating their traditional foods. Known for their warm hospitality they always invite guests to join them.
Many Kurdish Jews in Israel firmly acknowledge their Jewish heritage in accordance with the ways of the Torah and Talmud, both part of the Old Testament. They practice their oral traditions as written about in the Mishnah and celebrate Jewish High Holidays. Their love of music is expressed in their worship through the chanting of parts of the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms through a unique melodic style. Often, they sing biblical songs in Aramaic which was the traditional written language of their Old Testament scripture. Although they acknowledge their Jewish identity many Kurdish people in Israeli are by nature political and secular. The younger generations are mostly concerned with education, jobs and financial success.
Kurdish Israeli Jews have faced strong antisemitism in their homeland and coming to Israel has allowed them to enjoy their culture and spiritual roots. They are hard workers who tend to place importance on secular achievement. They need Messianic Believers to present God’s word to them through the understanding of their Messiah Jesus who was Jewish and fulfilled the prophecies so people would have his guidance in life and the peace that transcends all understanding.
* Scripture Prayers for the Jew, Kurdit in Israel.
Pray the gospel will reach the Kurdish Jewish people in Israel through Christian radio, friendships, music and Messianic Jewish believers. Pray that these people will be open to asking questions related to the gospel through caring Christians reaching out to them. May their doubts be erased through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Kurdish Israelis will understand that they can accept Jesus without denying their Jewish identity. Pray for a major movement to Christ among this people group.
|Profile Source: Joshua Project|
|People Name General||Jew, Kurdit|
|People Name in Country||Jew, Kurdit|
|Natural Name||Kurdit Jew|
|Population this Country||9,200|
|Population all Countries||9,200|
|Progress Scale||1 ●|
|Frontier People Group||Yes|
|GSEC||1 (per PeopleGroups.org)|
|Pioneer Workers Needed||1|
|Alternate Names||Kurdim; Kurdistani Jew; Kurdit Jew; Lishana Deni|
|Region||Africa, North and Middle East|
|National Bible Society||Website|
|Persecution Rank||Not ranked|
|Location in Country||Jerusalem and vicinity, including Maoz Tsiyon Source: Ethnologue 2010|
Primary Language: Lishana Deni
|Bible Translation ▲||Status (Years)|
|Possible Print Bibles|
|Forum Bible Agencies|
|National Bible Societies|
|World Bible Finder|
|Resource Type ▲||Resource Name|
|Primary Religion:||Ethnic Religions|
|Major Religion ▲||Percent|
|Christianity (Evangelical 0.00 %)||
|Other / Small||
|Christian Segments ▲||Percent|