Ancient tribe Jews - Ancestry and origin
Who are the Jews?
Judah and Israel are names that have geographical, political, ethnic and theological components in the course of historical change.
The term "Judaism" refers not only to the Jewish religion, but also to the ethnic affiliation to the Jewish people and their entire cultural, political and philosophical environment, both in ancient Israel and in the Diaspora. A generally accepted, catchy definition of Judaism is still lacking today, not least because there is no uniform understanding of Judaism within Judaism itself due to the various currents - from ultra-orthodoxy to Reform Judaism. The term can best be summarized via the Halacha, the Jewish religious law. Here the religious moment is always connected with the idea of a Jewish ethnicity. A Jew is whose mother is herself of Jewish descent.
Differences in religious conviction, cultural origin, ethnic character and self-image make the answer to the question "Who is a Jew?" complicated and problematic for many.
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What was the ethnogenesis of the Jews?
According to tradition, Israel was constituted by election or by the Sinai covenant as a people that is collectively obliged to fulfill the Torah. The one God, the Torah as the revealed will of God, the one people of Israel and the land of Israel as the actual scope of the Torah form a solid structure of basic religious convictions.
Archaeology has been able to determine and reconstruct many things in recent decades.
The Israelites crystallized at the end of the 13th century BC as a gradually distinct group in Canaan. Immediately before this time, no recognizable archaeological evidence of an Israelite presence in Egypt has been found. According to the archaeologist Finkelstein, the Jews had therefore not come from outside, but were autochthonous.
David and his dynasty ruled over an isolated, rural region on the outskirts, where there was neither great wealth nor a centralized administration. Nor did it experience a sudden decline with weakness and misfortune after a period of unprecedented wealth. Rather, it underwent a long, gradual development over hundreds of years. It took centuries for a centralized monarchy and a national religion to develop, with the focal point in Jerusalem.
The formation of the Kingdom of Israel was a process that took place on two levels: as part of long-term developments in the mountainous region, which occurred no later than the Late Bronze Age, and as a direct consequence of the specific situation of the 9th and early 8th centuries.
After the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Judah now rose from an isolated mountain community to a proper state, closely integrated into the Assyrian economy. Only the fall of the Northern Kingdom and the resettlement of large numbers of Israelites to Judah led to the emergence of the pan-Israelite ideology in the South. This propagated the idea of the superiority and sole legitimacy of the Davidic dynasty and the Temple of Jerusalem in the now Jewish Israelite mixed population. With the withdrawal of Assyria from the region, this ideology was extended to the entire population and to all territories once ruled by the two Hebrew kingdoms.
After the deportation of the Israelite elite by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., a new Judaism was formed from the social contact of the Israelites with Samaritans, Edomites and native Kaanites in the multi-ethnic milieu of Judah. After the Israelite elite returned to Judah after half a century in Babylonian exile, there was a Jewish identity that was different from the ethnicity of the historical Israelites.
Ezra is to be regarded as the actual founder of Judaism. For around 440 BC Ezra and Nehemiah carried out a religious reform in Jerusalem and Judea. From now on, there is a Jewish identity that is different from the ethnicity of the historical Israelites. The synagogue was also the site of the first pure worship of word and prayer, which was to make Judaism independent of the cult of the Jerusalem Temple, which was finally destroyed in 70 AD. From this time until emancipation in the 19th century, Judaism existed as a unity of nation and religion, as "holy folklore". Both in ethnic and religious terms, one was now a Jew.
Since the 6th century B.C., Jews have adapted to life in the Diaspora: they have sought to cohere among themselves in their religion and traditions, while at the same time adapting flexibly to their foreign language environment. Jews in the diaspora are generally multilingual and are familiar not only with Jewish traditions but also with the customs and habits of the majority population surrounding them.
How are Jews defined?
According to the rabbinical law, the Halakhah, a Jew today is anyone who was born of a Jewish mother or who properly converts to Judaism. The status of the father is completely irrelevant. If someone is born a Jew or duly converted to Judaism, that status remains forever after the Halakhah. If a Reform or Conservative Jew cannot prove a Jewish mother or Orthodox conversion, he is "not Jewish" to Orthodox Jews.
Although the Israeli government uses a definition for identifying a Jew that is similar to that of the Halakhah, it supplements it (with the aim of excluding Jewish Christians): whoever does not profess a religion other than the Jewish religion, and the granting of Jewish nationality (to be separated from Israeli citizenship!) is made dependent on this.
In Reform Judaism, until the implementation of Zionism after 1967, Judaism was understood to mean only one Jewish religious affiliation, whereas in secular Zionist circles it was understood to mean a mere ethnicity or nationality.
Because Jews live all over the world, they have adopted different ethnicities, cultures and traditions. Nevertheless, they all feel somehow connected to Israel, feel threatened by anti-Semitism, and those who have remained strict believers share a spiritual bond with the Torah.
What are the main groups among the Jews?
There are three main groups of Jewish populations: Oriental, Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews.
A) The Sephards originate from the Pyrenean Peninsula (Spain, Portugal). Their mother tongue is Ladino (Jewish Spanish). In 1492 the great exodus of the Sephards began. They were absorbed in the Balkan region and in Holland.
B) Ashkenazim in the Middle Ages were generally referred to as the Jews of Central Europe (Germany, France, England). Between 1050 and 1300, the Jews in the German-speaking countries dominated in terms of population and cultural activities. Their mother tongue is Yiddish. However, the number of ethnic Ashkenazim today is significantly larger than the number of speakers of Yiddish.
C) All Jewish populations that are not Sephardic or Ashkenazi are called Oriental Jews. Their settlements can be found from Morocco in the west to Iran in the east, from Georgia in the north to Yemen in the south. Oriental Jews speak a wide variety of languages: Jewish-Moroccan, Jewish-Tajik or Bukharian, Jewish-Tatarian, etc. These are fusion languages. On the whole, Oriental Jews have suffered less from the anti-Semitism of their contact peoples than comparatively speaking the Sephards and especially the Ashkenazes.
What languages do the Jews speak?
Of the 14 million Jews worldwide, about 7.5 million speak Jewish languages. Ivrit (New Hebrew) is the Jewish language with the most speakers (5.1 million). About 2 million Jews speak Yiddish, most of them live in the USA (1.25 million). Other Jewish languages are Jewish-Moroccan (270,000), Jewish-Iraqi or Yahuduan (120,000), Jewish-Spanish or Ladino (117,000) and numerous other regional language variants spoken by Oriental Jews.
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