Answers to Quora Questions by Yair Davidiy (19 February, 2018, 4 Adar, 5778)
Is there a correlation between left-handedness and being of Jewish descent?
It is claimed that the left-handed are more commonly males. They are more artistic, more intelligent, more introverted, more accident prone, more clumsy, less physically coordinated, etc. Paradoxically in some sports they seem to have marginal advantages. The said differences are not very great and have been disputed. [I myself am left-handed and have a few of the attributes listed but not all of them.] In the Bible there are indications that left-handers were once frequent in the Tribe of Benjamin. This Tribe together with Judah and Levi make up the central body of the Jewish People with the other Tribes being present in lesser proportions. Please consider the points below and then we shall get back to Benjamin and his sinistral southpaw predilections or lack of them.
Is there a correlation between left-handedness and being of Jewish descent?
The above question was answered on Quora. Here are quotations from two of the answers:
The short story is that there is no statistically significant difference between the rates of left-handedness within white American, black American, and American Indian populations, while Hispanic American and Asian American populations have a lower rate of left-handedness to a statistically significant degree.
Jewish people are not more likely to be left handed. Jewish people have the same 10% rate of left handers as all other Americans. ...
The only correlation that has been related to a higher percentage of a particular people being left handed is related to how many people die a violent death from close attacks with hand weapons each year. The more violent the tribal society studies the higher percent were left handed.
[Here he quotes from Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond, see below]:
They tested handedness by observing tool use. The most peaceful tribes have the lowest rates. This study found that the Yanomami tribe in Venezuela had the highest rate of left handers at 22.6%. In their society 5 in 1,000 meet a violent death each year. The Eipo in Irian Jaya had a leftie rate of 20.4%. About 3 people per 1000 died a violent death per year.
The most peaceful group studied were the Jula (Dioula) people of Burkina Faso. They had a murder rate of 1 in 100,000 annually. Left-handers make up 3.4% of the population.
The Yanomami are a group of approximately 35,000 indigenous people who live in some 200-250 villages in the Amazon rainforest on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. Left-handed people 22.6%, Violent Deaths per year 0.5%
The Eipo people live in West Papua in that part of New Guinea controlled by Indonesia. Left-handed people 20.4%, Violent Deaths per year 0.3%.
The Jula (Dioula) people refers to speakers of the Mande Language in Burkina Faso which was formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta (1958-1984). They are a predominantly Muslim Negroid type people. The reported low rate of violence among them (if correct) is surprising and counter to a frequently accepted stereotype of such groups. As stated they have relatively few left-handers among them. Left-handed people 3.4%, Violent Deaths per year only 0.001%!!
Handedness, homicide and negative frequency-dependent selection
Charlotte Faurie* and Michel Raymond
Left-handers may have a frequency-dependent advantage in fights,the advantage being greater when their frequency is lower. Sports data from Western societies are consistent with this prediction. Here, we show that the frequency of left-handers is strongly and positively correlated with the rate of homicides across traditional societies. It ranges from 3% in the most pacifistic societies, to 27% in the most violent and warlike. This finding is consistent with a frequency-dependent selection mechanism maintaining left-handedness in these societies.
Benjamin in the Bible and Left-Handedness. An Inherited Trait or Not?
Left-Handed People in the Bible
Is there a genetic link to Benjamite lefties?
Biblical Views: 'Left-Handed Sons of Right-Handers' in the May/June 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, by Boyd Seevers and Joanna Klein.
In this article Seevers and Klein consider whether or not the trait of left-handedness was inherited by a large number of Benjaminites or deliberately cultivated for military advantage or a combination of both.
The Name "Benjamin" (Son of the Righthanded -Side)
When Benjamin was born his mother, Rachel, died in childbirth. Before she departed Rachel named him "Ben-Oni" which can connote both "Son of my Sorrow" and/or "Son of My Might." His father, Yaacov, however called him Benyamin meaning "Son of the Righthanded Side." Yaacov (i.e. Jacob also known as Israel) may have given him this name at a later date.
Genesis (NASB) 35:
18 It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
The name Benjamin means 'son of (my) right hand.' Was Benjamin really born left-handed? Was calling him Ben-yamin (i.e. son of the right hand) intended to balance out any negative influence being left-handed might have been associated with?
Ehud the Left-Handed Judge
One of the Judges of Israel was named Ehud or Ohed. The Moabites were oppressing Israel. Ehud saved them.
We are told that:
15 But when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for them, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a left-handed man. And the sons of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.
Ehud assassinated the King of Moab and led the Israelites in a successful war against the Moabites.
16 Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges, a cubit in length, and he bound it on his right thigh under his cloak.
21 Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly.
We saw that Ehud was from Benjamin. Ehud was left-handed. Ehud used his being left-handed to advantage in conflict.
Left-Handed Benjamin in War
Judges chapter 19 tells of a Levite who dwelt in Ephraim who had a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. The concubine left him so he went to bring her back. On their return they came to Gibeah in Benjamin and lodged in the home of an outsider who dwelt there. The men of the town demanded that the Levite be handed over to them for sexual intercourse. The Levite saved himself by seizing his concubine and giving her to them. The concubine was mass raped and died in the morning. Judges chapter 20 continues the narrative and relates how all the Congregation of Israel demanded of Benjamin that justice be done. Benjamin refused. War broke out.
On the side of Benjamin were "700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss" (Judges 20:16).
The Tribe of Benjamin after initial victories was eventually defeated. Many of the womenfolk of Benjamin had been killed in the conflict so new wives were found from the other tribes (Judges 21:12, 23). The Tribe of Benjamin later recovered somewhat and Saul the son of Kish from Benjamin became the first anointed king of all Israel. After Saul came David the son of Jesse from the Tribe of Judah. Before David became king, Saul tried to kill him. David took refuge outside of the Kingdom. There were those of Israel who gathered unto him. These included several of the kinfolk of Saul.
2 They were equipped with bows, using both the right hand and the left to sling stones and to shoot arrows from the bow; they were Saul’s kinsmen from Benjamin.
Yigal Yadin the second Chief of Staff of the IDF wrote a work, “The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands,” 1963. He proposes that each of the Israelite Tribes in the beginning had its own military specialty. We see from the above that Benjamin would have specialized in archery and the sling shot. The implication is that Benjamin may have had a higher percentage of left-handed warriors as well as those who were ambidextrous and who trained themselves to become so.
Benjamin, Left-Handedness, and the Jews in General
The Tribe of Benjamin is mainly to be found among the present-day Jewish People. Different traditions ascribe Benjaminite ancestry to Jews from Germany, or (according to other versions) from Rumania. The Jews as a whole do not have more left-handers than white people in general i.e. ca. 10–13%.
Nevertheless it may be that compared to other peoples the Jews have a marginal preponderance of qualities otherwise associated with being left-handed.
Is there some significance here or is it mere coincidence?