The massive immigration of over a million Jews from all parts of the world into Israel during the last 60 years that is still continuing today (Figure 9.1) provided an opportunity for genetic anthropological studies of the diverse ingathering groups. These led to an appreciation of how heterogeneous is each of these communities, and how much they differ genetically from each other and their previous host populations (Goldschmidt, 1963; Ramot et al., 1973; Bonné-Tamir et al., 1978, 1979). In these studies over the last 28 years various genetic polymorphisms, including red cell and leucocyte (HLA) antigens, serum protein groups and red cell enzyme systems, were used to construct the genetic profiles of each community.
While many studies recognised some degree of affinity between the major Jewish populations (Bonné-Tamir et al., 1979; Karlin et al., 1979; Kobylianksy et al., 1982), the amount of admixture between them and their neighbours remained controversial. Discrepancies in results are due in part to the use of different loci; for example up to 100% admixture of Ashkenazim with other East European peoples was estimated when using the ABO alleles but 0% admixture when the HLA alleles were utilised (Cavalli-Sforza & Carmelli, 1979; Motulsky, 1980). Different methods in deriving admixture rates also yielded contradictory results (Morton et al., 1982; Wijsman, 1984).
A new era in the study of genetic variation began in the 1980s when methods were developed to study polymorphisms directly in the DNA molecules (Botstein et al., 1980).