Jewish history

History of the Jews, and their nation, religion and culture / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Jewish history is the history of the Jews, and their nation, religion, and culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions, and cultures.

According to Jewish tradition, Jacob, shown wrestling with the angel in this painting by Rembrandt, was the father of the tribes of Israel.

Jews are originated from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah, two related kingdoms that emerged in the Levant during the Iron Age.[1][2] Although the earliest mention of Israel is inscribed on the Merneptah Stele around 1213–1203 BCE, religious literature tells the story of Israelites going back at least as far as c. 1500 BCE. The Kingdom of Israel fell to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in around 720 BCE,[3] and the Kingdom of Judah to the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE.[4] Part of the Judean population was exiled to Babylon. The Assyrian and Babylonian captivities are regarded as representing the start of the Jewish diaspora.

After the Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered the region, the exiled Jews were allowed to return and rebuilt the temple; these events mark the beginning of the Second Temple period.[5][6] After several centuries of foreign rule, the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire led to an independent Hasmonean kingdom,[7] but it was gradually incorporated into Roman rule.[8] The Jewish-Roman wars, a series of unsuccessful revolts against the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple,[9] and the expulsion of many Jews.[10] The Jewish population in the Land of Israel gradually decreased during the following centuries, enhancing the role of the Jewish diaspora and shifting the spiritual and demographic center from the depopulated Judea to Galilee and then to Babylon, with smaller communities spread out across the Roman Empire. During the same period, the Mishnah and the Talmud, central Jewish texts, were composed. In the following millennia, the diaspora communities coalesced into three major ethnic subdivisions according to where their ancestors settled: the Ashkenazim (Central and Eastern Europe), the Sephardim (initially in the Iberian Peninsula), and the Mizrahim (Middle East and North Africa).[11][12]

Byzantine rule over the Levant was lost in the 7th century as the newly established Islamic Caliphate expanded into the Eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, North Africa and later into the Iberian Peninsula. Jewish culture enjoyed a golden age in Spain, with Jews becoming widely accepted in society and their religious, cultural, and economic life blossomed. However, in 1492 the Jews were forced to leave Spain and migrated in great numbers to the Ottoman Empire and Italy. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, Ashkenazi Jews experienced extreme persecution in Central Europe, which prompted their mass migration to Poland.[13][14] The 18th century saw the rise of the Haskalah intellectual movement. Also starting in the 18th century, Jews began to campaign for Jewish emancipation from restrictive laws and integration into the wider European society.

In the 19th century, when Jews in Western Europe were increasingly granted equality before the law, Jews in the Pale of Settlement faced growing persecution, legal restrictions and widespread pogroms. During the 1870s and 1880s, the Jewish population in Europe began to more actively discuss emigration to Ottoman Syria with the aim of re-establishing a Jewish polity in Palestine. The Zionist movement was officially founded in 1897. The pogroms also triggered a mass exodus of more than two million Jews to the United States between 1881 and 1924.[15] The Jews of Europe and the United States gained success in the fields of science, culture and the economy. Among those generally considered the most famous were Albert Einstein and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Many Nobel Prize winners at this time were Jewish, as is still the case.[16]

In 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, the Jewish situation became severe. Economic crises, racial anti-Semitic laws, and a fear of an upcoming war led many to flee from Europe to Mandatory Palestine, to the United States and to the Soviet Union. In 1939, World War II began and until 1941 Hitler occupied almost all of Europe. In 1941, following the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Final Solution began, an extensive organized operation on an unprecedented scale, aimed at the annihilation of the Jewish people, and resulting in the persecution and murder of Jews in Europe and North Africa. In Poland, three million were murdered in gas chambers in all concentration camps combined, with one million at the Auschwitz camp complex alone. This genocide, in which approximately six million Jews were methodically exterminated, is known as the Holocaust.

Before and during the Holocaust, enormous numbers of Jews immigrated to Mandatory Palestine. On May 14, 1948, upon the termination of the mandate, David Ben-Gurion declared the creation of the State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. Immediately afterwards, all neighboring Arab states invaded, yet the newly formed IDF resisted. In 1949, the war ended and Israel started building the state and absorbing massive waves of Aliyah from all over the world. As of 2022, Israel is a parliamentary democracy with a population of 9.6 million people, of whom 7 million are Jewish. The largest Jewish community outside Israel is the United States, and large communities also exist in France, Canada, Argentina, Russia, United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. For statistics related to modern Jewish demographics, see Jewish population.