Jews (by -1208) are a people who in ancient times spoke Hebrew and practised Judaism. Many Jews alive today do neither. That is because you can be Jewish either by faith (believing in Judaism) or, some say, by race (your mother was Jewish). They first appear in Ancient Egyptian records in -1208, their god in -1363.
There are not many Jews and never have been. For much of their history they did not even have a country of their own, yet their effect on mankind has been profound. Much of mankind, in fact, gets its ideas about religion from the Jews, either through Christianity or Islam, which are both rooted in Judaism.
In -1200 or so, Moses led the Jews out of Egypt where they had been slaves for hundreds of years. He was taking them back to Israel where they had lived before, the Promised Land, promised by God.
On the way Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai and talked to God. He received God’s laws and delivered it to the Jews. There were over 600 of them. The first ten are known as the Ten Commandments. All of the laws are written down in a book now known as the Bible, the holy book of the Jews (and later, with additions, of the Christians).
Moses never lived to see the Promised Land. When the Jews got there they found other people living in their old land. On orders from God the Jews killed them and took back their land. It took 200 years but by -1000 David entered Jerusalem and was crowned king. His son Solomon built the Temple of God, full of gold.
The way the Bible tells it the Jews then turned their backs on God, so God let the Assyrians and then the Babylonians take their land and carry the Jews off to other lands. Those taken to Babylon called it the Babylonian Captivity.
Most never returned to Israel, but some did. But except for a short period under the Maccabees, they lived under foreign rulers: Persians, Greeks and at last Romans.
The Romans found the Jews to be troublesome. They had to keep too much of their army in Israel to keep the peace. The Jews rose up against them twice. After the second time, in +135, the Romans forced the Jews out of Israel. They did not come back again in large numbers till the 1800s.
They went to Asia, Africa and Europe. Some went to live in the trading towns along the Rhine. Over time they moved east and settled in Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Russia. By 1930 this is where most of the world’s Jews were living. During the Second World War Hitler killed 6 of the 9 million who lived there.
After the war, in 1948, the Jews were given Israel as their country again. Today eight Jews in ten live in either Israel or America. More live in America than in Israel, especially in and near the cities of New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
- The Ten Commandments
- Warsaw Ghetto
- The Holocaust