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ARC Home > Faiths and Ecology > Judaism > Jewish origins :

Jewish origins

Abraham

Abraham is regarded as the father of the Jewish people. He is said to have lived around 1900 BC. Jews believe God made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would be God’s chosen people. In return they would have to keep God’s laws. Abraham’s descendants multiplied as the twelve tribes of Israel and entered Egypt, where they were eventually enslaved. When Moses led the Jews out from captivity in Egypt, God gave Moses his laws on top of Mount Sinai. Those laws included the Ten Commandments.

The Promised Land

The tribes of Israel crossed the Jordan and settled in Canaan, their Promised Land. In time King David captured the city of Jerusalem, and his son Solomon built a great Temple. But Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians and the Jews were carried into exile. Some of them returned and rebuilt the temple, but it was finally destroyed, and the Jews scattered, by the Romans in 70 AD. The single wall that remains of the temple, called the Western Wall, is to this day the most sacred place of the Jews.

The Jewish Diaspora

Some of the Jews exiled to Babylon migrated along trade routes further eastwards into central Asia, even reaching India and China. Under the Romans, Jews spread across the Roman Empire, and settled in many parts of Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries many Jews left Europe and settled in America. During the Holocaust about 6 million Jews lost their lives. In 1948 the State of Israel was established. Now roughly half the 13 million world population of Jews live in America, while most of the remainder live in Israel.

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