Israelite

Israelite

Overview

According to the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 the Israelites were a Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

-speaking people of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

 who inhabited the Land of Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 (the modern day Israel, western Jordan, southern Lebanon and Palestinian Territories) during the monarchic period
History of ancient Israel and Judah
Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

 (11th to 7th centuries BCE).

The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל (Standard: ; Tiberian
Tiberian vocalization
The Tiberian vocalization is a system of diacritics devised by the Masoretes to add to the consonantal Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible; this system soon became used to vocalize other texts as well...

: ; ISO 259-3
ISO 259-3
ISO 259-3 is a standard for the phonemic conversion/representation of Hebrew in the Latin script. It is aimed on delivering the common structure of the Hebrew word throughout the different dialects or pronunciation styles of Hebrew, in a way that it can be reconstructed into the original Hebrew...

: ). The ethnonym
Ethnonym
An ethnonym is the name applied to a given ethnic group. Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms and autonyms or endonyms .As an example, the ethnonym for...

 is attested as early as the 13th century BCE in an Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 inscription.
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According to the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 the Israelites were a Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

-speaking people of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia , ancient Egypt, ancient Iran The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia...

 who inhabited the Land of Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 (the modern day Israel, western Jordan, southern Lebanon and Palestinian Territories) during the monarchic period
History of ancient Israel and Judah
Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

 (11th to 7th centuries BCE).

The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל (Standard: ; Tiberian
Tiberian vocalization
The Tiberian vocalization is a system of diacritics devised by the Masoretes to add to the consonantal Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible; this system soon became used to vocalize other texts as well...

: ; ISO 259-3
ISO 259-3
ISO 259-3 is a standard for the phonemic conversion/representation of Hebrew in the Latin script. It is aimed on delivering the common structure of the Hebrew word throughout the different dialects or pronunciation styles of Hebrew, in a way that it can be reconstructed into the original Hebrew...

: ). The ethnonym
Ethnonym
An ethnonym is the name applied to a given ethnic group. Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms and autonyms or endonyms .As an example, the ethnonym for...

 is attested as early as the 13th century BCE in an Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 inscription. The Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 etymologizes the name as from yisra "to prevail over" or "to struggle/wrestle with", and el
El (god)
is a Northwest Semitic word meaning "deity", cognate to Akkadian and then to Hebrew : Eli and Arabic )....

,
"God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

, the divine". The eponymous biblical patriarch of the Israelites is Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, who wrestled with a "man" who was not expressly called an angel of God, but who gave him a blessing from God, and renamed him "Israel" because he had "power with God".

The biblical term "Israelites" (or the Twelve Tribes or Children of Israel) means both a people (the descendants of the patriarch Jacob/Israel
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, and the historical population of the kingdom of Israel), and followers of the God of Israel and Mosaic law.
In Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew , also known as Israeli Hebrew or Modern Israeli Hebrew, is the language spoken in Israel and in some Jewish communities worldwide, from the early 20th century to the present....

 usage, an Israelite is, broadly speaking, a lay member of the Jewish faith
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

, as opposed to the priestly orders of Kohanim and Levites.

The name Hebrews
Hebrews
Hebrews is an ethnonym used in the Hebrew Bible...

 is sometimes used synonymously with "Israelites". For the post-exilic period, beginning in the 5th century BCE,
the remnants of the Israelites came to be referred to as Jews, named for the kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

. This change is explicit in the Book of Esther
Book of Esther
The Book of Esther is a book in the Ketuvim , the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and is part of the Christian Old Testament. The Book of Esther or the Megillah is the basis for the Jewish celebration of Purim...

 (4th century BCE). It replaced the title children of Israel.

Although most literary references to them are located in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

, there is also abundant non-biblical archaeological and historical evidence of ancient Israel and Judah
History of ancient Israel and Judah
Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of ancient Palestine. The earliest known reference to the name Israel in archaeological records is in the Merneptah stele, an Egyptian record of c. 1209 BCE. By the 9th century BCE the Kingdom of Israel had emerged as an important local power before...

.

Terminology



Prior to a meeting with rival brother, Esau
Esau
Esau , in the Hebrew Bible, is the oldest son of Isaac. He is mentioned in the Book of Genesis, and by the minor prophets, Obadiah and Malachi. The New Testament later references him in the Book of Romans and the Book of Hebrews....

; the biblical patriarch Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

 wrestles an angel on the shores of the Jabbok and is given the name 'Israel'. Throughout the rest of the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, Jacob is referred to at times as both Jacob and Israel, depending on which aspect of his character the text means to convey.

In modern Hebrew, B'nei Yisrael ("Children of Israel") can denote the Jewish people at any time in history; it is typically used to emphasize Jewish religious identity. From the period of the Mishna (but probably used before that period) the term Yisrael ("an Israel") acquired an additional narrower meaning of Jews of legitimate birth other than Levites and Aaronite priests (kohan
Kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

im
). In modern Hebrew this contrasts with the term Yisraeli, a citizen of the modern State of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, regardless of religion or ethnicity (English "Israeli").

The Greek term Jew historically refers to a member of the tribe of Judah
Tribe of Judah
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Judah was one of the Tribes of Israel.Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BCE, Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes....

, which formed the nucleus of the kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

.
The term Hebrew
Hebrews
Hebrews is an ethnonym used in the Hebrew Bible...

, perhaps related to the name of the Habiru
Habiru
Habiru or Apiru or ˁpr.w was the name given by various Sumerian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Hittite, Mitanni, and Ugaritic sources to a group of people living as nomadic invaders in areas of the Fertile Crescent from Northeastern Mesopotamia and Iran to the borders of Egypt in Canaan...

 nomads, has Eber
Eber
Eber is an ancestor of the Israelites, according to the "Table of Nations" in and . He was a great-grandson of Noah's son Shem and the father of Peleg born when Eber was 34 years old, and of Joktan. He was the son of Shelah a distant ancestor of Abraham...

 as an eponymous biblical patriarch.
It is used synonymously with "Israelites", or as an ethnolinguistic term of the historical speakers of the Hebrew language
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 in general.

Biblical Israelites


The following is a summary of pages 18-20 of Stephen L. Wylen's "The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction"
Pentateuch
The Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 traces the Israelites to the patriarch Jacob
Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, grandson of Abraham, who was renamed Israel after a mysterious incident in which he wrestles all night with an angel. Jacob's twelve sons (in order), Reuben
Reuben (Bible)
According to the Book of Genesis, Reuben or Re'uven was the first and eldest son of Jacob with Leah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Reuben.-Etymology:...

, Simeon
Simeon (Hebrew Bible)
According to the Book of Genesis, Simeon was, the second son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Simeon. However, some Biblical scholars view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an etiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite...

, Levi
Levi
Levi/Levy was, according to the Book of Genesis, the third son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Levi ; however Peake's commentary suggests this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite...

, Judah, Dan, Naphtali
Naphtali
According to the Book of Genesis, Naphtali was the second son of Jacob with Bilhah. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Naphtali. However, some Biblical scholars view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the...

, Gad, Asher
Asher
Asher , in the Book of Genesis, is the second son of Jacob and Zilpah, and the founder of the Tribe of Asher.-Name:The text of the Torah argues that the name of Asher means happy/blessing, implying a derivation from the Hebrew term osher ; the Torah actually presents this in two variations—beoshri...

, Issachar
Issachar
Issachar/Yissachar was, according to the Book of Genesis, a son of Jacob and Leah , and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Issachar; however some Biblical scholars view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite...

, Zebulun
Zebulun
Zebulun was, according to the Books of Genesis and Numbers, the sixth son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Zebulun...

, Joseph
Joseph (Hebrew Bible)
Joseph is an important character in the Hebrew bible, where he connects the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Canaan to the subsequent story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt....

 and Benjamin
Benjamin
Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob's twelve sons, and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the Biblical account, unlike Rachel's first son, Joseph, Benjamin was born in Canaan. He died in Egypt on...

, become the ancestors of twelve tribes, with the exception of Joseph, whose two sons Mannasseh
Manasseh (tribal patriarch)
Manasseh or Menashe was, according to the Book of Genesis, the first son of Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On. Manasseh was born in Egypt before the arrival of the children of Israel from Canaan...

 and Ephraim
Ephraim
Ephraim ; was, according to the Book of Genesis, the second son of Joseph and Asenath. Asenath was an Egyptian woman whom Pharaoh gave to Joseph as wife, and the daughter of Potipherah, a priest of On. Ephraim was born in Egypt before the arrival of the children of Israel from Canaan...

 become tribal eponyms.

Jacob and his sons are forced by famine to go down into Egypt. When they arrive they and their families are 70 in number, but within four generations they have increased to 600,000 men of fighting age, and the Pharaoh of Egypt, alarmed, first enslaves them and then orders the death of all male Hebrew children. The God of Israel reveals his name to Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, a Hebrew of the line of Levi; Moses leads the Israelites out of bondage and into the desert, where God gives them their laws and the Israelites agree to become his people. Nevertheless, the Israelites lack complete faith in God, and the generation which left Egypt is not permitted to enter the Promised Land.

Former Prophets
Following the death of the generation of Moses a new generation, led by Joshua
Joshua
Joshua , is a minor figure in the Torah, being one of the spies for Israel and in few passages as Moses's assistant. He turns to be the central character in the Hebrew Bible's Book of Joshua...

, enters Canaan and takes possession of the land in accordance with the curse placed upon Canaan by Noah. Yet even now the Israelites lack strength in God in the face of the peoples of the land, and periods of weakness and backsliding alternate with periods of resilience under a succession of Judges. Eventually the Israelites ask for a king, and God gives them Saul
Saul
-People:Saul is a given/first name in English, the Anglicized form of the Hebrew name Shaul from the Hebrew Bible:* Saul , including people with this given namein the Bible:* Saul , a king of Edom...

. David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

, the youngest (divinely favoured) son of Jesse
Jesse
Jesse, Eshai or Yishai, is the father of the David, who became the king of the Israelites. His son David is sometimes called simply "Son of Jesse" ....

 of Bethlehem
Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank of the Jordan River, near Israel and approximately south of Jerusalem, with a population of about 30,000 people. It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority and a hub of Palestinian culture and tourism...

 would succeed Saul
Saul
-People:Saul is a given/first name in English, the Anglicized form of the Hebrew name Shaul from the Hebrew Bible:* Saul , including people with this given namein the Bible:* Saul , a king of Edom...

. Under David the Israelites establish the kingdom of God, and under David's son Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

 they build the Temple where God takes his earthly dwelling among them. Yet Solomon sins by allowing his foreign wives to worship their own gods, and so on his death the kingdom is divided in two.

The kings of the northern kingdom of Israel are uniformly bad, permitting the worship of other gods and failing to enforce the worship of God alone, and so God eventually allows them to be conquered and dispersed among the peoples of the earth; in their place strangers settle the northern land. In Judah some kings are good and enforce the worship of God alone, but many are bad and permit other gods, even in the Temple itself, and at length God allows the Judah to fall to her enemies, the people taken into captivity in Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, the land left empty and desolate, and the Temple itself destroyed.

Ezra-Nehemiah-Chronicles
Yet despite these events God does not forget his people, but sends Cyrus, king of Persia
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 as his messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

 to deliver them from bondage. The Israelites are allowed to return to Judah and Benjamin, the Temple is rebuilt, the priestly orders restored, and the service of sacrifice resumed. Through the offices of the sage Ezra
Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

 Israel is constituted as a holy community, holding itself apart from all other peoples, bound by the Law.

Tribes and peoples



Although most traditional interpretations of Jewish history view the Israelites as the ancestors of both the Kingdom of Israel and that of Judah, which arose only after David's rule, and Hebrews as an alternative name for them, the text makes a distinction between groups labeled Hebrews, Judahites, and Israelites. Israelites consistently refers to Saul's forces. It also is used to refer to the supporters of the rebellions against David's reign, in contrast to his supporters. Judahites consistently refers to David's supporters during the rebellions against his rule, in contrast to the rebels. Hebrews is consistently used to designate a group distinct from both Israelites and Judahites, and who sometimes take the side of the Philistines against Israel and Judah. It is weakly associated with Jonathan initially, and then more strongly with David's band of outlaws. However, this labeling appears to be only for convenient grouping, since there are several textual examples that clarify that the Hebrews are of the same people as the Israelites: I Samuel 13:3-4, I Samuel 13:19-20, and I Samuel 14:11-12.

Hasmonean conversions



After the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 Judah (Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

: יְהוּדָה Yehuda) remained a province of the Persian empire. This continued into the following Hellenistic period
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

, when Yehud was a province sometimes of Ptolemaic Egypt and sometimes of Seleucid Syria, but in the early part of the 2nd century BCE a revolt against the Seleucids led to the establishment of an independent Jewish kingdom under the Hasmonean
Hasmonean
The Hasmonean dynasty , was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE, the dynasty ruled semi-autonomously from the Seleucids in the region of Judea...

 dynasty. The Hasmoneans adopted a deliberate policy of imitating and reconstituting the Davidic kingdom, and as part of this forcibly converted to Judaism their neighbours in the Land of Israel. The new Israelites included Nabatean groups such as the Zabadeans and Itureans, the peoples of the former Philistine cities, the people of Galilee, and the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites.

"Israelites" in modern Judaism


In the Hellenistic and early Roman periods (i.e., around the time of Christ), and despite the exclusivism championed by the Book of Ezra, Judaism became a proselytising religion. As proselytised (and conquered) groups were assimilated into the Israelite lineage the old tribal divisions fell into disuse, and the major divisions within Judaism thus became:
  • Kohanim (descended from the lineage of Aaron
    Aaron
    In the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, Aaron : Ααρών ), who is often called "'Aaron the Priest"' and once Aaron the Levite , was the older brother of Moses, and a prophet of God. He represented the priestly functions of his tribe, becoming the first High Priest of the Israelites...

    , the first High Priest in the time of Moses)
  • Levites (other descendants of Levi)
  • Israelites


This threefold division of the Jewish people persists to this day. To avoid confusion with the broader use of the term Israelite or the modern term Israeli, a member of the Israelite, as opposed to Levite or Aaronite, lineage is usually referred to as a Yisrael (an Israel) and not a Yisraeli (which could mean Israelite in the broader sense or in modern Hebrew, an Israeli).

Jews


Jews (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים‎, Yehudim), also known as the Jewish people, are an ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. Converts to Judaism have been absorbed into the Jewish people throughout the millennia. There are distinct ethnic divisions among Jews, most of which are primarily the result of geographic branching from an originating Israelite population, and subsequent independent evolutions. According to the Books of Chronicles
Books of Chronicles
The Books of Chronicles are part of the Hebrew Bible. In the Masoretic Text, it appears as the first or last book of the Ketuvim . Chronicles largely parallels the Davidic narratives in the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings...

 chapter 9 line 2, the Jews who took part in The Return to Zion
The Return to Zion
The Return to Zion is a term that refers to the event written in the biblical books of Ezra-Nehemiah in which the Jews returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian exile following the decree by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great, the conqueror of the Babylonian empire in 538 BC, also known...

 (whom modern Jews are originated from) are stated to be from the Tribe of Judah
Tribe of Judah
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Judah was one of the Tribes of Israel.Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BCE, Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes....

 (alongside the Tribe of Simeon
Tribe of Simeon
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Simeon was one of the Tribes of Israel.Following the completion of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite tribes after about 1200 BC, Joshua allocated the land among the twelve tribes...

 that were absorbed into it), the Tribe of Benjamin
Tribe of Benjamin
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Benjamin בִּנְיָמִין was one of the Tribes of Israel.From after the conquest of the land by Joshua until the formation of the first Kingdom of Israel in c. 1050 BCE, the Tribe of Benjamin was a part of a loose confederation of Israelite tribes...

, the Tribe of Levi (Levites and Priests) and also from the tribes of Ephraim
Tribe of Ephraim
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Ephraim was one of the Tribes of Israel. The Tribe of Manasseh together with Ephraim also formed the House of Joseph....

 and Manasseh
Tribe of Manasseh
According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Manasseh was one of the Tribes of Israel. Together with the Tribe of Ephraim, Manasseh also formed the House of Joseph....

 (which some biblical scholars consider to be a referring name describing the remaining population of the Northern Kingdom of Israel from all ten tribes who were not exiled during the ten tribes exile
Assyrian captivity of Israel
The Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian monarchs, Tiglath-Pileser III and Shalmaneser V. The later Assyrian rulers Sargon II and his son and successor, Sennacherib, were responsible for finishing the twenty year demise of Israel's northern ten tribe kingdom. Sennacherib...

; they had stayed to live in their homes and later joined the Israelites of the Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

 at the time of King Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

, and formed the Jews of the Babylonian Exile era).

Ashkenazi Jews


Ashkenaz is the Hebrew word for "Germany". There are several populations which have lived in Germany at some point in the past 1,000 years and fall under the umbrella term for the group. There is evidence that Jews had settled in Germany since the Roman Era
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

; they were probably merchants who followed the Roman Legions during their conquests. Some Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 are the descendants of Jews who migrated into northern France and Germany around 800–1000 CE, and were later sent into Eastern Europe. Many Ashkenazic Jews are also Sephardic in origin as a result of diaspora from the Spanish Inquisition. In this sense "Ashkenazi" refers to religious practice, appropriated over time, rather than to a strict ethno-geographic division.

Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler CBE was a Hungarian author and journalist. Koestler was born in Budapest and, apart from his early school years, was educated in Austria...

 claimed in his book "The Thirteenth Tribe
The Thirteenth Tribe
The Thirteenth Tribe is a book by Arthur Koestler, which advances the thesis that Ashkenazi Jews are not descended from the historical Israelites of antiquity, but from Khazars, a Turkic people...

" (1976) that Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of central European Khazars
Khazars
The Khazars were semi-nomadic Turkic people who established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, with the capital of Atil and territory comprising much of modern-day European Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the northern Caucasus , parts of...

 who converted into Judaism during the 8th century. Koestler argued that by proving Ashkenazi Jews to have no connection with the biblical Jews, European anti-Semitism would lose all basis. In 2006, a study by Doron Behar and Karl Skorecki of the Technion and Ramban Medical Center in Haifa, Israel demonstrated that: 1) the vast majority of Ashkenazi Jews have some Middle Eastern ancestry; 2) Ashkenazi Jews share a common ancestry with other Jewish groups of European origin; and 3) only 5%-8% of the European Ashkenazi Jews (according to recent studies) were found to have originated in non-Jewish European populations. Dr. David Goldstein, a Duke University geneticist and and director of the Duke Center for Human Genome Variation, has noted that the Technion and Ramban team confirmed that genetic drift played a major role in shaping Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA, therefore mtDNA studies fail to draw a statistically significant linkage between modern Jews and Middle Eastern populations, however, this differs from the patrilineal case, where Dr. Goldstein said there is no question of a Middle Eastern origin.

Sephardic Jews


Sephardim are Jews whose ancestors lived in Spain or Portugal, where they lived for possibly as much as two millennia before being expelled in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs (see Alhambra decree
Alhambra decree
The Alhambra Decree was an edict issued on 31 March 1492 by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain ordering the expulsion of Jews from the Kingdom of Spain and its territories and possessions by 31 July of that year.The edict was formally revoked on 16 December 1968, following the Second...

); they subsequently migrated to North Africa Maghreb and Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 (both at the time considered safe havens for Jews). In the Ottoman Empire the Sephardim mostly settled in the European portion of the Empire, and mainly in the major cities such as: Istanbul
Istanbul
Istanbul , historically known as Byzantium and Constantinople , is the largest city of Turkey. Istanbul metropolitan province had 13.26 million people living in it as of December, 2010, which is 18% of Turkey's population and the 3rd largest metropolitan area in Europe after London and...

, Selânik and Bursa. Selânik, which is today known as Thessaloniki and found in modern-day Greece, had a large and flourishing Sephardic community as was the community of Maltese Jews in Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

. Others settled in Italy, the Netherlands and Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

. A large population of Sephardic refugees who fled via the Netherlands as Marrano
Marrano
Marranos were Jews living in the Iberian peninsula who converted to Christianity rather than be expelled but continued to observe rabbinic Judaism in secret...

s eventually settled in Hamburg and Altona Germany in the early 16th century, eventually appropriating Ashkenazic Jewish rituals into their religious practice (see above). One famous figure from the Sephardic Ashkenazic population is Glückel of Hameln
Glückel of Hameln
Glückel of Hameln was a Jewish businesswoman and diarist, whose account of life provides scholars with an intimate picture of German Jewish communal life in the late-17th-early eighteenth century Jewish ghetto...

. Others among those who settled in the Netherlands, were some who would again relocate to the United States, establishing the country's first organized community of Jews and erecting the United States' first synagogue. Other Sephardim remained in Spain and Portugal as anusim (forced converts to Catholicism), which would also be the fate for those who had migrated to Spanish and Portuguese ruled Latin America.

Mizrachi Jews


Mizrahim are Jews descended from the Jewish communities of the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and the Caucasus. The term Mizrahi is used in Israel in the language of politics, media and some social scientists for Jews from the Arab world and adjacent, primarily Muslim-majority countries. This includes Iraqi Jews, Syrian Jews, Lebanese Jews, Maghreb Jews , Yemenite Jews, Persian Jews, Afghan Jews, Bukharian Jews, Kurdish Jews, Mountain Jews, Georgian Jews and Ethiopian Jews.

Yemenite Jews


Temanim are Jews living in Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 whose geographic and social isolation from the rest of the Jewish community allowed them to develop a liturgy and set of practices that are significantly distinct from those of other Oriental Jewish groups; they themselves comprise three distinctly different groups, though the distinction is one of religious law and liturgy rather than of ethnicity.

Karaite Jews


Karaim
Karaite Judaism
Karaite Judaism or Karaism is a Jewish movement characterized by the recognition of the Tanakh alone as its supreme legal authority in Halakhah, as well as in theology...

 are Jews living mostly in Egypt, Iraq, Crimea
Crimean Karaites
The Crimean Karaites , also known as Karaim and Qarays, are a community of ethnic Turkic adherents of Karaite Judaism in Eastern Europe...

 and Israel. They are distinguished by the form of Judaism they observe. Rabbinic Jews of varying ethnicities have affiliated with the Karaite community throughout the millennia. As such, Karaite Jews are less a Jewish ethnic division, than they are members of a particular branch of Judaism. Karaite Judaism
Karaite Judaism
Karaite Judaism or Karaism is a Jewish movement characterized by the recognition of the Tanakh alone as its supreme legal authority in Halakhah, as well as in theology...

 recognizes the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 as the single religious authority of the Jewish people. Linguistic principles and contextual exegesis are used in arriving at the correct meaning of the Torah. Karaite Jews strive to adhere to the plain or most obvious understanding of the text when interpreting the Tanakh. By contrast, Rabbinical Judaism regards an Oral Law
Oral law
An oral law is a code of conduct in use in a given culture, religion or community application, by which a body of rules of human behaviour is transmitted by oral tradition and effectively respected, or the single rule that is orally transmitted....

 (codified and recorded in the Mishnah
Mishnah
The Mishnah or Mishna is the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions called the "Oral Torah". It is also the first major work of Rabbinic Judaism. It was redacted c...

 and Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

s) as being equally binding on Jews, and mandated by God. In Rabbinical Judaism, the Oral Law forms the basis of religion, morality, and Jewish life. Karaite Jews rely on the use of sound reasoning and the application of linguistic tools to determine the correct meaning of the Tanakh; while Rabbinical Judaism looks toward the Oral law codified in the Talmud, to provide the Jewish community with an accurate understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures.

There are approximately 50,000 adherents of Karaite Judaism, most of whom live in Israel, but exact numbers are not known, as most Karaites have not participated in any religious censuses. The differences between Karaite and Rabbinic Judaism go back more than a thousand years. Rabbinical Judaism originates from the Pharisees
Pharisees
The Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought among Jews during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty in the wake of...

 of the Second Temple period. Karaite Judaism may have its origins in the Sadducees
Sadducees
The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Ancient Israel during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BC through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society...

 of the same era. Unlike the Sadducees who recognized only the Torah as binding, Karaite Jews hold the entire Hebrew Bible to be a religious authority. As such, the vast majority of Karaites believe in the resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the dead
Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatologies, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to...

. Karaite Jews are widely regarded as being halachically Jewish by the Orthodox Rabbinate. Similarly, members of the rabbinic community are considered to be Jews by the Moetzet Hakhamim, if they are patrilineally Jewish.

Anusim



During the Jewish diaspora
Jewish diaspora
The Jewish diaspora is the English term used to describe the Galut גלות , or 'exile', of the Jews from the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Iudaea and later emigration from wider Eretz Israel....

, Jews who lived in Christian Europe were usually attacked by the local population and were portrayed by many Anti-semites motives, many of them were forced to convert to Christianity by the local population or by the religious leadership
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, and were called by Jews: "Anusim
Anusim
Anusim is a legal category of Jews in halakha who were forced or coerced to abandon Judaism against their will, typically while forcibly converted to another religion...

" ('forced-ones'), they continued practicing Judaism in secret, while living outside as ordinary Christians. The most known case of "Anusim" was the one of the Jews of Spain and Jews of Portugal (although "Anusim" were also in other European countries). On the Muslim countries
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, many Jews were forced to convert to Islam by force over the years since the rise of the Islamic religion, and the most known case of those conversion was the case of Mashhad
Mashhad
Mashhad , is the second largest city in Iran and one of the holiest cities in the Shia Muslim world. It is also the only major Iranian city with an Arabic name. It is located east of Tehran, at the center of the Razavi Khorasan Province close to the borders of Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Its...

 Jews, that lived as ordinary Muslims in Persia towards the neighbour population but kept practicing Judaism secretly, and eventually made an Aliyah
Aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

 and returned being Jewish in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Many Anusim's descendants left Judaism over the years. On December 2008, genetic test showed that 19.8% of the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 are originated from the Anusim.

Samaritans


The Samaritan
Samaritan
The Samaritans are an ethnoreligious group of the Levant. Religiously, they are the adherents to Samaritanism, an Abrahamic religion closely related to Judaism...

s, who were once a comparatively large group but are now a very small ethnic and religious group of not more than about 700 people who live in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

, regard themselves as descendants of the tribes of Ephraim (named by them as Aphrime) and Manasseh (named by them as Manatch). Samaritans adhere to a version of the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, known as the Samaritan Pentateuch
Samaritan Pentateuch
The Samaritan Pentateuch, sometimes called Samaritan Torah, , is a version of the Hebrew language Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, used by the Samaritans....

, which differs in some respects from the Masoretic text
Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...

, sometimes in important ways, and less so from the Septuagint.

Samaritans do not regard the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 as an accurate or truthful history, and regard only Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 as a prophet. They have their own version of Hebrew and their own script for writing Hebrew, which, is descended directly from the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet
Paleo-Hebrew alphabet
The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet , is an abjad offshoot of the ancient Semitic alphabet, identical to the Phoenician alphabet. At the very least it dates to the 10th century BCE...

, unlike the Jewish script for writing Hebrew which is a stylized form of the Aramaic alphabet the Jews adopted during their captivity in Babylonia.

The Samaritans consider themselves Bnei Yisrael ("Children of Israel" or "Israelites"), but do not regard themselves to be Yehudim (Jews). They view this term "Jews" as a designation for followers of Judaism, which they assert is a related but altered and amended religion brought back by the exiled Israelite returnees which is not the true religion of the ancient Israelites, which according to them, Samaritanism is.

Judaism regards the Samaritans as descendants of the northern tribesmen whom the Assyrians settled in the territory they conquered from the kingdom of Israel. Since one of those tribes was the Cutheans, this is the name used for the Samaritans in the Talmud. Both the Bible and external sources such as Josephus record intermarriage between Jews and Samaritans in the Hellenistic period.

Modern DNA evidence has proven both most of the world's Jews and the Samaritans have a common ancestral lineage to the Israelites, largely on the paternal lines in both cases. Maternally, both Jews and Samaritans have very low rates of intermarriage with local host (for Jews, local populations in their host diaspora regions) or alien (for Samaritans, foreigners resettled in their midst in attempts by ruling foreign elites to obliterate national identities) populations. Both populations' DNA results indicate the groups having had a high percentage of marriage within their respective communities; in contrast to a low percentage of interfaith marriages.

Historical Israelites


The name Israel first appears c. 1209 BCE, at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the very beginning of the period archaeologists and historians call Iron Age I, in an inscription
Merneptah Stele
The Merneptah Stele — also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah — is an inscription by the Ancient Egyptian king Merneptah , which appears on the reverse side of a granite stele erected by the king Amenhotep III...

 of the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah
Merneptah
Merneptah was the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years between late July or early August 1213 and May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records...

. The inscription is very brief and says simply: "Israel is laid waste and his seed is not". The hieroglyph accompanying the name "Israel" indicates that it refers to a people, most probably located in the highlands of Samaria.

Over the next two hundred years (the period of Iron Age I) the number of highland villages increased from 25 to over 300 and the settled population doubled to 40,000. There is general agreement that the majority of the population living in these villages was of Canaanite origin. By the 10th century BCE a rudimentary state had emerged in the north-central highlands, and in the 9th century this became a kingdom. The kingdom was sometimes called Israel by its neighbours, but more frequently it was known as the "House (or Land) of Omri." Settlement in the southern highlands was minimal from the 12th through the 10th centuries, but a state began to emerge there in the 9th century, and from 850 onwards a series of inscriptions are evidence of a kingdom which its neighbours refer to as the "House of David."

See also

  • Bible
    Bible
    The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

  • Gentile
    Gentile
    The term Gentile refers to non-Israelite peoples or nations in English translations of the Bible....

  • Half Jewish
  • House of Israel (Ghana)
  • Israeli Jews
  • Israelis
  • Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy)
  • Noahides
    Noahide Laws
    The Seven Laws of Noah form the major part of the Noachide Laws, or Noahide Code. This code is a set of moral imperatives that, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humankind...

  • Shavei Israel
    Shavei Israel
    Shavei Israel is an Israeli-based Jewish organization that reaches out to descendants of Jews around the world and aims to strengthen their connection with Israel and the Jewish people. Founded by Michael Freund, Shavei Israel locates lost Jews and hidden Jewish communities and assists them with...

  • Tribal allotments of Israel
    Tribal allotments of Israel
    According to the Book of Joshua, Joshua divided the newly conquered land of Canaan into parcels, and assigned them to the Tribes of Israel by lot. The Book of Joshua describes the parcels by giving landmarks along the borders, or in some cases by listing the included cities...

  • Kaifeng Jews
    Kaifeng Jews
    The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in the Henan province of China, for hundreds of years. Jews in modern China have traditionally called themselves Youtai in Mandarin Chinese which is also the predominant contemporary Chinese language term for...