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Jews (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים, ISO 259-2: Yehudim, Israeli pronunciation: [jehuˈdim]) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, although its observance varies from strict to none.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Israel (incl. occupied territories)||6,558,000–6,958,000|
|Related ethnic groups|
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|Jews and Judaism|
Jews originated as an ethnic and religious group in the Middle East during the second millennium BCE, in a part of the Levant known as the Land of Israel. The Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt appears to confirm the existence of a people of Israel somewhere in Canaan as far back as the 13th century BCE (Late Bronze Age). The Israelites, as an outgrowth of the Canaanite population, consolidated their hold in the region with the emergence of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Some consider that these Canaan-sedentary Israelites melded with incoming nomadic groups known as the "Hebrews". The experience of life in the Jewish diaspora, from the Babylonian captivity and exile (though few sources mention this period in detail) to the Roman occupation and exile, and the historical relations between Jews and their homeland in the Levant thereafter became a major feature of Jewish history, identity, culture, and memory.
In the following millennia, Jewish 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). Prior to World War II, the global Jewish population reached a peak of 16.7 million, representing around 0.7 percent of the world population at that time. During World War II, approximately 6 million Jews throughout Europe were systematically murdered by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Since then, the population has slowly risen again, and as of 2018[update], was estimated to be at 14.6–17.8 million by the Berman Jewish DataBank, comprising less than 0.2 percent of the total world population. The modern State of Israel is the only country where Jews form a majority of the population.
Jews have significantly influenced and contributed to human progress in many fields, both historically and in modern times, including in science and technology, philosophy, ethics, literature, politics, business, art, music, comedy, theatre, cinema, architecture, food, medicine, and religion. Jews wrote the Bible, founded Christianity, and had an indirect but profound influence on Islam. In these ways, Jews have also played a significant role in the development of Western culture.