Who Are We?
Shlomo Gila (mid 1800s)
The earliest known ancestor of the Gila family
A marine biologist with a PhD who invented an eco-friendly concrete, and in 2019 was awarded the prestigious EU Women Innovators award. Great great granddaughter of Shlomo Gila
Served as an Israeli spy in Lebanon. It is said that members of the 'Gila' family were on the kill list in Lebanon for a while afterwards
A member of the Gila family served in a commando unit in the IDF
The Gila family is originally Urfali Jews (Urfalim), a group of Jews who settled in the city of Urfa in Turkey likely around 2500 years ago. This is assumed because they are missing notable prayers from the second temple period. When the Jews were expelled from Israel after the fall of the first temple, most eventually returned to Israel. Notably, several Levite families did not return, while the Kohanim (descendents of Levite priests) returned and gained favor over other Levite families. Anyway, some of these Levite communities never returned to Israel, and never learned these notable prayers. The Urfalim, a predominantly Levite community, is believed to be one of these communities, and therefore their origin traces back to before the second temple, or roughly 500-600 BCE. Nowadays, members of the community, including members of the Gila family, follow Sephardic customs.
Most of the Urfali Jews arrived in the 1500s to Urfa and immigrated from Iraq, Aleppo, or other communities in Turkey. A biography by Harun Bozo, an Urfali Jew, goes into detail about which families immigrated into the city 500 years ago, and lists surnames of many of these families. The surname 'Gila' is not mentioned, suggesting that perhaps we were one of the original families in Urfa. If you have any more historical information about the Gila family in Urfa, please contact us and share!
Most of the Urfalim fled to Israel in 1896 after major riots in Urfa in late 1895. They passed through Aleppo, Syria on the way, and some of them stayed there, only immigrating to Israel later. This is what the Gila family did. When my mother told her grandmother about my father, her grandmother commented on my father's last name Gila, noting that the Gila family was a major presence in Aleppo, where she was from. My grandfather Avraham was born in Syria, and his father Itzhak was born in Urfa.
The Urfali Synagogue in Jerusalem
Our Last Name
'Gila' is not a common Jewish surname, or surname in general for that matter. As far as I know, all Jewish members of the Gila family were originally from the city of Urfa, which further suggests that we didn't immigrate to Urfa in the 1500s like most other Urfalim, and that rather we were one of the original Urfa families. In any case, when members of the Gila family arrived in Israel (in the 1920s and 1930s), their last name was not accepted as a Jewish last name. Instead, we were just given the last name 'Mizrachi', a generic Jewish last name, on our legal documents. After we became more established, most of us changed our name back to Gila, although a few of us remained Mizrachi. One of our members, Ya'akov (Ubi), son of Yosef Shlomo Gila, son of Shlomo Gila wanted to run for Knesset, so he changed his surname to 'Gil', a much more recognized Jewish name, to improve his odds. Some of the descendants of him and his siblings maintain this surname.
What's Up With the Inbreeding?
In the third traced generation of the Gila family (two generations under Shlomo Gila), I identified 7 cases of inbreeding! I wouldn't be very surprised if I missed one. This occurred either between first cousins or first cousins once removed, in the case of children of Rachel, daughter of Moshe. Moshe was likely the eldest son of Shlomo, and thus his eldest daughter, Rachel, was of similar age as some of her uncles.
What about genetic diseases? The likelihood of genetic diseases between cousins is only increased two-fold, so is still not very high. To the extent of my knowledge, none of the children of these families suffered any such problems.
In any case, what's up with all the inbreeding? I spoke with Ora Gil, daughter of Amelia (Milo) Gila and Shlomo Yosef Gil (Gila) in 2022, and amongst many things, we spoke about her parents, two cousins. She shared with me that their parents lived in Syria in the early 1900s. They became of child-bearing age in the late 1910s through the 1920s, while the British Mandate for Palestine took effect in 1918. In this period, it was easier for Jewish men to enter Israel than for women. Their parents were part of a large group of ten siblings who created deals between themselves about how the eldest son of one of them will marry the eldest daughter of the other. So these ten siblings' kids, all cousins to each other, were from a very young age (the age of 2 or so) already destined to marry with their cousins. In the case of Amelia and Shlomo, Shlomo at a young age rode on a donkey from Jerusalem, Israel, to Aleppo, Syria, and married his cousin Amelia, bringing her back to Israel with him. They lived happily together, had 6 kids, with Shlomo living until he was ~57, and Amelia until she was ~94. You can see Amelia and shlomo in the portraits on the right hand of the page.
There are also several curious cases where different members of the Gila family shared spouses from the same families. The most notable case is the Navama family. The matriarch of the Gila family, Shlomo Gila's wife Rechama was a member of this family. Aaron Shlomo Gila (Rechama's son)'s wife Pnina Leah (Lulu), was also a member of this family. Their daughter Margalit (Margol) Gila's husband, Avraham, was also a Navama. Moshe Shlomo Gila (another of Rechama's son)'s daughter, Rachel Gila married Menashe, another member of the Navama family. Interestingly, while everyone seems to agree that Rechama is from Urfa, Turkey, the rest are all from Baghdad, Iraq. There are not many records from the middle east in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so I cannot identify how or even whether these people are connected. However, it is very likely that these members of the Navama family are indeed connected, in which case this may be more cases of inbreeding. If you have any more information regarding these cases, please contact us!
Portraits of Amelia (Milo) Gila and Shlomo Yosef Gil, cousins from the Gila family who married each other
There is also the case of the Dichi family. Yosef Shlomo Gila's wife, Rachel Dichi, is the aunt of Rachel Muchtar, Yosef Gila (son of Yitzhak)'s wife. In this case, these are two separate branches of the family (Yosef's branch and Yitzhak's branch), so Rachel Muchtar and Yosef (son of Yitzhak) were not related genetically, so this is not a case of inbreeding. Nevertheless, it is curious how there are two cases of Yosef's marrying Rachel's, where in both cases the Yosef was from the Gila family and the Rachel from the Dichi family.