Who are the real Jews
History of the Jewish People
Unification and division
After conquering Canaan in the 13th century BC, the Hebrews established their own kingdom. This is what it is told in the Torah, which consists of the five books of Moses. Archaeologists and historians now assume that the people of Israel developed from many small peoples in Canaan.
With the fall of the Egyptian Empire, there was no longer any central power. Only the kings, who were distinguished by their belief in a single God, gained greater power and expanded their sphere of influence.
Yet the empire was divided by rival dynasties. The northern empire, Ephraim, also called Israel, got into political difficulties and was destroyed by the Babylonians. Archaeological finds and the Bible prove the existence of the northern kingdom.
Judah and the kings
The Bible tells how the southern kingdom called Judah survived in exile in Babylon. The returnees founded the empire again. They had preserved their culture in captivity by studying their scriptures. They had also retained their language, Hebrew, alongside the respective official languages Persian and Aramaic.
The family of David, the dynasty of the south around the capital Jerusalem, now became the sole rulers of the Jewish people. The legendary David, who is said to have once defeated the giant Goliath, ascended the royal throne around 1000 BC. Since then, every king had to demonstrate to the people that he (or she) came from the family of David in order to legitimize himself.
Persians, Greeks, Egyptians and Romans
The returnees to the now Persian province of Yehud were the first to be called Jews. The next 400 years passed alternately with wars of conquest and times of calm, with the foreign rule of the Persians and the Greeks under Alexander the Great.
After that, the Egyptian heirs of Alexander and the Syrian-Greek Seleucids shaped the country and people. In 141 BC, after a successful revolt against the Seleucids, the Jews established an independent state under the Hasmonean dynasty.
The next foreign rulers were the Romans, who came around 63 BC. They granted the Jews relative independence, but intervened when necessary. When the Jews repeatedly called for uprisings and rebellions across the Mediterranean, the Romans reacted drastically.
Judea, as they called the province, was defeated from 70 AD and destroyed along with the capital. The temple of the Jews, the national and religious symbol of the people, was razed to the ground.
Moving out into the world
After that the Jews scattered in all countries of the world. The people had a new kind of religion in their luggage - a "portable home", as Heinrich Heine later wrote.
The Jews, who had traded with many peoples in their homeland, had knowledge that they could use everywhere. They had written skills, spoke many languages, and were mostly independent observers.
A loose association of congregations emerged, as there was someone in every congregation who had acquaintances in the neighboring communes. People met at fairs and fairs, at study and teaching weeks in the centers of learning.
Visitation of the Middle Ages
The late Middle Ages dramatically changed the situation for Jews in Europe. They were persecuted as a people and as a religion. The good times when Jews lived in peace with their neighbors became shorter and rarer. Life became hard too, with taxes, restrictions and humiliations.
There were also repeated riots and massacres. But again the Jews found other countries to welcome them. The hope of finding a new home flared up again and again: in Poland, Russia, Germany or the Netherlands.
The State of Israel is becoming a reality
In the 19th century an old idea flared up under a new name. Many now believed that the Jews were one nation. This term was new and exciting, as it was linked to the hope of a country of our own. It quickly became apparent that "nation" was just a new term for an old hope.
For 1,800 years, the Jews have wanted the land that was once the land of the people of Israel. So-called Zionism emerged as a movement that divided the Jewish world. Should Zion really be more than a dream? Now that everything was going relatively well for the scattered Jews?
But the interim phase of peace was quickly over. Another attempt was made to destroy the Jewish people. The Nazis' killing machinery killed around six million Jews in just a few years. Finally, in May 1948, Ben Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel.
Jews lived and still live in all countries of the world. They have different traditions, rules and ways of life. But they have common memories, common stories and a common language. They form their own, special people, "Am Israel".
WDR | Status: 04.06.2020, 09:15
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