Judaism – Religion of one people, one nation

Judaism originated from and became a coherent part of Israel, “the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago”.

The current Jews, or Jewish people, are regarded as descendants of the ancient people of Israel who settled in the land of Canaan between the western coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. They trace their origin to Abraham, his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, who are referred to as the patriarchs of the Israelites. All of them lived in Canaan, latterly known as the Land of Israel. Abraham believed that there is only one God who created the universe. Ancient Jews, or the Children of Israel, consisted of 12 tribes, each descended from one of Jacob’s twelve sons.

The name Israel derives from the name given to Jacob while the name Jew derives from Judah, one of the 12 sons of Jacob. Therefore, Israel, Israeli or Jewish refer to people of the same origin.

Due to a severe famine, Jacob and his 12 sons left Canaan for Goshen in northern Egypt. While in Egypt, their descendants were said to be enslaved by the government of the Egyptian Pharaoh. After 400 years of slavery, YHWH, the God of Israel, sent the Hebrew prophet Moses of the tribe of Levi to rescue the children of Israel from bondage. According to the Bible, the Hebrews miraculously fled from Egypt (the Exodus) and returned their ancestral homeland in Canaan. This event marks the establishment of Israel as a political nation in 1,400 BC.

After the establishment, Israel was divided into 12 parts, which were governed by 12 tribes, ruled by a series of Judges. Then, the Land of Israel was transformed into a monarchy by Saul, and continued under King David and his son, Solomon. During King David’s reign, the already existing city of Jerusalem became the national and spiritual capital of Israel. Solomon built the First Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. However, after Solomon’s death, there were constant conflicts between the 12 tribes, which led to a civil war between the 10 northern tribes and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south. Subsequently, the land of Israel split into the Kingdom of Israel in the north and the Kingdom of Judah in the south.

587 BC is a milestone in Jewish history, when the land of Israel was invaded by the Babylonians. The First Temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled to Babylon (modern Iraq). From this year onwards, the region was ruled or controlled by superpower empires: Babylonian, Persian, Greek Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantines Empires, Islamic and Christian crusaders, Ottoman Empire and the British Empire.

After the exile by the Romans at 70 CE, the Jewish people fled to Europe and North Africa. In the Diaspora, they established rich cultural and economic lives, and contributed greatly to the societies where they lived. However, they continued their national culture and prayed to return to Israel through centuries. In the first half of the 20th century, there were major waves of immigration of Jews back to Israel from Arab countries and from Europe. During the British rule in Palestine, the Jewish people were subject to great violence and massacres directed by Arab civilians or forces of the neighboring Arab states. During World War II, the Nazi regime in Germany decimated about 6 million Jews creating the great tragedy of the Holocaust.

In 1948, sovereignty was retrieved by Jewish People over their ancient homeland. Declaration of independence of the modern State of Israel was announced on the day that the last British forces left Israel.

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