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Index / Peoples /
Semitic peoples

Present Semitic peoples
Historic Semitic peoples

Peoples of the Middle East distinguished primarily from speaking a Semitic language. Commonly, the Semitic homeland is the Middle East, stretching down to Yemen and including Sinai. It meets is northern boundary with Turkey and northern Iraq, and its eastern boundary with the Iran and the Indian Ocean. In the north, Turkic peoples take over, in Iraq and Iran Iranian peoples begin to dominate.
The term is incosistent, and there are several definitions. Over the millenniums, ethnic groups have adopted Semitic languages, making it pointless to distinguish Semitic people solely on language. Still, there are tens of millions of people that consider themselves as part of a people using a Semitic language, but without being so ethnically. The clearest border as such is Egypt, where the former language, Coptic, is not Semitic. Today, nobody speaks Coptic, all those calling themselves Egyptians also consider themselves Arabs and they speak Arabic.
Judaism is another case that creates challenges, as many non-Semitics have converted to the religion over the centuries. These, in most cases, consider themselves Semitics, creating a highly inaccurate category, where religion, ethnicity and identity is mixed into one main group that has no parallels with any other Middle Eastern group. Jews of modern Israel, originate from many different regions, usually sharing ethnic similarities with their former neighbours, and not in between Jews. Jews can be blacks as well as blongs, with all types of facial charateristics and colours of hair.

By Tore Kjeilen