4 Palestinians Claim Descent From Jews Forced to Convert

Israeli researcher believes group is among hundreds of thousands of 'unrecognized' Palestinian Jews.

Four Palestinians from the Hebron Hills contacted a group of rabbis on Tuesday and claimed to be the descendents of Jews who were forced to convert to Islam.

The Palestinians were accompanied by Zvi Mesini, a researcher who wrote a book on the subject and assisted them in learning more about Judaism. According to the Palestinians, their families had removed mezuzahs from their doors in order to avoid harassment by their neighbors.

One of the Palestinians said he kept a tefillin he received from his father's uncle and another told the rabbis that his family had once secretly lit candles on the Sabbath and for Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.

Mesini told the rabbis, members of a group called the New Sanhedrin, that he believes hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are descended from Jews.

"Such evidence renders the conflict redundant," Mesini said. "It proves that Judea and Samaria belongs to both the recognized Jews and the unrecognized Jews."

Mesini accused authorities of being indifferent to his findings.

The New Sanhedrin is known as a right-wing organization that claims to be the rightful successors of the supreme Jewish court of antiquity. Its goal is to create a state based upon Jewish law that will replace the current State of Israel.