יהודים (Hebrew)
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States United States 5,425,000 (2011) [2]-6,800,000[3]
Israel Israel 6,042,000 [4]
France France 480,000
Canada Canada 375,000
United Kingdom United Kingdom 291,000
Russia Russia 194,000
Argentina Argentina 182,300
Germany Germany 119,000
Australia Australia 107,500
Brazil Brazil 95,300
South Africa South Africa 70,800
Ukraine Ukraine 67,000
Hungary Hungary 48,600
Mexico Mexico 39,400
Belgium Belgium 30,300>
Netherlands Netherlands 30,000
Italy Italy 28,400
Iran Iran
Chile Chile 20,500
All other countries 250,200

Predominant spoken languages:
English, Hebrew, Russian and the vernacular languages of other countries in the Jewish diaspora
Historical languages:
Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Judeo-Arabic, other Jewish languages
Sacred languages:
Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic


Judaism Judaism, atheism

Related ethnic groups

other Levantines,[5][6][7][8] Samaritans,[7] Arabs,[7][9] Assyrians[7][8]

The Jews (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים Yehudim), also known as the Jewish people (Hebrew: עם ישראל), are a nation and ethno-religious group originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of the Ancient Near East (also called Middle East), in a region known as the Levant. It was known as Canaan (Hebrew: כנען) in Biblical sources. The Jewish nation, ethnicity and religion (known as Judaism) are all highly interrelated. The Jewish people are a race that has experienced large periods of persecution, living in a diaspora is part of traditional Jewish culture (except for those that live in Israel, which defines itself as a Jewish state).

In Judaism, Christianity and Islam - Jews are known as the "Children of Israel" (Hebrew: בני ישראל Bnai Yiśrāʾēl). Biblical texts regard Jews as part of the chosen race from the patriarch Jacob, and in Islam they form part of the group known as the "People of the Book" (Arabic: أهل الكتاب) which refers to non-Muslims who follow a faith formed from a revealed scripture (which are regarded as precursors to the Qur'an, Islam's holiest book).

Although the backbones and basics of Jewish culture is noticeable, but Jewish culture itself has been influenced by many others including Russian, Arab, Persian, Greek and German culture.


The English word Jew continues Middle English Gyw, Iewe, a loan from Old French giu, earlier juieu, ultimately from Latin Iudaeum. The Latin Iudaeus simply means Judaean, "from the land of Judaea".[10] The Latin term itself, like the corresponding Greek (Ἰουδαῖος), is a loan from Middle Aramaic Y'hūdāi, corresponding to the Hebrew: יְהוּדִי, Yehudi (sg.); (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים), Yehudim plural, in origin the term for a member of the tribe of Judah or the people of the kingdom of Judah. The name of both the tribe and kingdom derive from Judah (Hebrew: יהודה), the fourth son of the Biblical patriarch Jacob.[11]


Converts to Judaism are known as gers (Hebrew: גר) or giyorets (for females). According to Halakhic traditions, a descendant of a mother who has converted to Judaism is accepted as fully Jewish and is treated as such. There are three main groupings of Jewish ethnics, they are Mizrahi Jews, Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardi Jews. Mizrahi Jews (Hebrew: יהודים מזרחי) are those Jews who originated from the Middle East, mostly Arab and Muslim nations, many of them were known as Arab Jews by Arab nationalists. Sephardi Jews (Hebrew: יהודים ספרדיים) are those who originated from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking nations and the Ashkenazis are of Central Europe. The term "Sephardi" is also a liturgical one, many Mizrahis followed the Sephardi rites, mostly the works of Jewish philosaphers like Maimonides.


Origins and Ancestry

According to Jewish tradition, Jewish ancestry, along with that of the Samaritans is traced back to the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who lived in Canaan around the 18th century BCE. Isaac (Hebrew: יצחק) was the half-brother of Abraham's first-born son Ishmael (who was exiled away after an altercation between him and Isaac himself) and the bloodline son of Abraham and his Hebrew wife Sarah (Ishmael's biological mother was an Egyptian by the name Hagar). Isaac's son Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) gave birth to twelve sons, with his wife Rebekah (Hebrew: רבקה). These sons would each father a tribe of Israel.

The Jews are descendants of the Tribe of Judah, who inhabited southern Israel.

Historically, Jews had evolved mostly from the Tribe of Judah and Tribe of Simeon, and partially from the Israelite tribes of Tribe of Benjamin and Tribe of Levi, who had all together formed the ancient Kingdom of Judah. A closely related group is the Samaritans (Hebrew: שומרונים), who claim descent from the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, while according to the Bible their origin is in the people brought to Israel by the Neo-Assyrian Empire and some Cohanim (Jewish priests) who taught them how to worship the "native God".[12] The Jewish ethnicity, nationality and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation.[13][14][15] Conversion to Judaism have a status within the Jewish ethnos equal to those born into it.[16] Conversion is not encouraged by mainstream Judaism, and is considered a tough task, mainly applicable for cases of mixed marriages.[17] The exact world Jewish population, however, is difficult to measure. In addition to issues with census methodology, there are halakhic disputes regarding who is a Jew and secular, political, and ancestral identification factors that may affect the figure considerably.[18] The history of the Jews and Judaism can be divided into five periods: (1) ancient Israel before Judaism, from the beginnings to 586 BCE; (2) the beginning of Judaism in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE; (3) the formation of rabbinic Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE; (4) the age of rabbinic Judaism, from the ascension of Christianity to political power under the emperor Constantine the Great in 312 CE to the end of the political hegemony of Christianity in the 18th century; and (5), the age of diverse Judaisms, from the French and American Revolutions to the present.

Ancient History

Ancient Israelites (to 586 B.C.)

200px-Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn 079

Moses with the Tablets of Stone (1659 painting by Rembrandt)

The history of the early Jews, and their neighbors, is mainly that of the Fertile Crescent and east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It begins among those people who occupied the area lying between the Nile, Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Surrounded by ancient seats of culture in Egypt and Babylonia, by the deserts of Arabia, and by the highlands of Asia Minor, the land of Canaan (roughly corresponding to modern Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Lebanon) was a meeting place of civilizations. The land was traversed by old-established trade routes and possessed important harbors on the Gulf of Aqaba and on the Mediterranean coast, the latter exposing it to the influence of other cultures of the Fertile Crescent.

Religious texts tell the story of Jacob and his twelve sons, who left Canaan during a severe famine and settled in Goshen of northern Egypt were said to be enslaved by the government led by the Egyptian Pharaoh for 400 years until, YHWH, the God of Israel, sent the Hebrew prophet Moses of the tribe of Levi to release the Israelites from bondage. According to the Bible, the Hebrews miraculously emigrated out of Egypt (an event known as the Exodus), and returned to their ancestral homeland in Canaan. This event marks the formation of Israel as a political nation in Canaan, in 1400 BCE.[19]

However, archaeology reveals a different story of the origins of the Jewish people: they did not necessarily
200px-Map Israel Judea 926 BC-fr svg

Kingdoms of Israel and Judah in 926 BCE

leave the Levant. The archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel in Canaan, not Egypt, is "overwhelming" and leaves "no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness", according to Biblical minimalists.[20] Many archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as "a fruitless pursuit".[20]

According to the Bible, after their emancipation from Egyptian slavery, the people of Israel wandered around and lived in the Sinai desert for a span of forty years before conquering Canaan in 1400 BCE under the command of Joshua. While living in the desert, according to the Biblical writings, the nation of Israel received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai from YHWH, carried by Moses. This marked a beginning for normative Judaism, and contributed to the formation of the first Abrahamic religion. After entering Canaan, portions of the land were given to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. For several hundred years, the Land of Israel (Hebrew: ארץ ישראל Eretz Yisrael) was organized into a confederacy of twelve tribes ruled by a series of Judges (Hebrew: ספר שופטים). After that, notes the Bible, came the Israelite monarchy. In 1000 BCE, the monarchy was established under Saul, and continued under King David and his son, Solomon. During the reign of David, the already existing city of Jerusalem became the national and spiritual capital of Israel. Solomon built the First Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. However, the tribes were fracturing politically. Upon his death, a civil war erupted between the ten northern Israelite tribes, and the tribes of Judah (Simeon was absorbed into Judah) and Benjamin in the south. The nation split into the Kingdom of Israel in the north, and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. Israel was conquered by the Assyrian ruler Tiglath-Pileser III in the 8th century BCE. There is no commonly accepted historical record of the fate of the ten northern tribes, sometimes referred to as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, although speculation abounds.[21]

Babylonian captivity (c. 587 – 518 BCE)

250px-Tissot The Flight of the Prisoners

Deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's temple

After revolting against the new dominant power and an ensuing siege, the Kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonian army in 587 BCE and the First Temple was destroyed. The elite of the kingdom and many of their people were exiled to Babylon, where the religion developed outside their traditional temple. Others fled to Egypt.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Babylonia (modern day Iraq), would become the focus of Judaism for more than a thousand years. The first Jewish communities in Babylonia started with the exile of the Tribe of Judah to Babylon by Jehoiachin in 597 BCE as well as after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE.[22] Many more Jews migrated to Babylon in 135 CE after the Bar Kokhba revolt and in the centuries after.[22] Babylonia, where some of the largest and most prominent Jewish cities and communities were established, became the center of Jewish life all the way up to the 13th century. By the first century, Babylonia already held a speadily growing[22] population of and estimated 1,000,000 Jews, which increased to an estimated 2 million [23] between the years 200 CE - 500 CE, both by natural growth and by immigration of more Jews from the Land of Israel, making up about 1/6 of the world Jewish population at that era.[23] It was there that they would write the Babylonian Talmud in the languages used by the Jews of ancient Babylonia - Hebrew and Aramaic. The Jews established Talmudic Academies in Babylonia, also known as the Geonic Academies, which became the center for Jewish scholarship and the development of Jewish law in Babylonia from roughly 500 CE to 1038 CE. The two most famous academies were the Pumbedita Academy and the Sura Academy. Major yeshivot were also located at Nehardea and Mahuza.

After a few generations and with the conquest of Babylonia by the Persian Empire, some adherents led by prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, returned to their homeland and traditional practices. Other Jews did not permanently return and remained in exile and developed somewhat independently outside of the Land of Israel, especially following the Muslim conquests of the Middle East in the 7th century CE.

Post-exilic period (c. 538 – 332 BCE)

Following their return to Jerusalem and with Persian approval and financing, construction of the Second Temple in 516 BCE was completed under the leadership of the last three Jewish Prophets Haggai, Zechariah and
250px-Second Temple

Model of the Second Temple of Jerusalem


Hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean world was, at the time, shifting to the classical civilizations and away from the Egyptians, Syrians, and Persians. Some Canaanites had already become Phoenicians and colonized areas of the southern Mediterranean, and they went on to found the Carthaginian Empire. Greeks, meanwhile, were beginning to probe eastwards.

After the death of the last Jewish prophet and while still under Persian rule, the leadership of the Jewish people passed into the hands of five successive generations of zugot ("pairs of") leaders. They flourished first under the Persians and then under the Greeks. As a result the Pharisees and Sadduccees were formed. Under the Persians then under the Greeks, Jewish coins were minted in Judea as Yehud coinage.

Hellenistic period (c. 332 – 110 BCE)

In 332 BCE, the Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great of Macedon. After his demise, and the division of Alexander's empire among his generals, the Seleucid Kingdom was formed.

Greek culture was spread eastwards by the Alexandrian conquests. The Levant was not immune to this cultural spread. During this time, currents of Judaism were influenced by Hellenistic philosophy developed from the 3rd century BCE, notably the Jewish diaspora in Alexandria, culminating in the compilation of the Septuagint. An important advocate of the symbiosis of Jewish theology and Hellenistic thought is Philo.

The Hasmonean Kingdom (110 – 63 BCE)

A deterioration of relations between hellenized Jews and orthodox Jews led the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes to impose decrees banning certain Jewish religious rites and traditions. Consequently, the orthodox Jews revolted under the leadership of the Hasmonean family (also known as the Maccabees). This revolt eventually led to the formation of an independent Jewish kingdom, known as the Hasmonaean Dynasty (Hebrew: חשמונאים‎) , which lasted from 165 BCE to 63 BCE.[24] The Hasmonean Dynasty eventually disintegrated as a result of civil war between the sons of Salome Alexandra, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II. The people, who did not want to be governed by a king but by theocratic clergy, made appeals in this spirit to the Roman authorities. A Roman campaign of conquest and annexation, led by Pompey, soon followed.

Roman rule in the land of Israel (63 BCE – 324 CE)

Judea had been an independent Jewish kingdom under the
300px-Roberts Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem

Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (1850 painting by David Roberts)

Hasmoneans, but was conquered by the Roman general Pompey in 63 BCE and reorganized as a client state. Roman expansion was going on in other areas as well, and would continue for more than a hundred and fifty years.) Later, Herod the Great was appointed "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate, supplanting the Hasmonean dynasty. Some of his offspring held various positions after him, known as the Herodian dynasty. Briefly, from 4 BCE to 6 CE, Herod Archelaus ruled the tetrarchy of Judea as ethnarch, the Romans denying him the title of King. After the Census of Quirinius in 6, the Roman province of Judaea was formed as a satellite of Roman Syria under the rule of a prefect (as was Roman Egypt) until 41, then procurators after 44. The empire was often callous and brutal in its treatment of its Jewish subjects, see Anti-Judaism in the pre-Christian Roman Empire. In 66 CE, the Jews began to revolt against the Roman rulers of Judea. The revolt was defeated by the future Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus. In the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Romans destroyed much of the Temple in Jerusalem and, according to some accounts, plundered artifacts from the temple, such as the Menorah. Jews continued to live in their land in significant numbers, the Kitos War of 115–117 CE nothwithstanding, until Julius Severus ravaged Judea while putting down the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132–136 CE. 985 villages were destroyed and most of the Jewish population of central Judaea was essentially wiped out, killed, sold into slavery, or forced to flee. Banished from Jerusalem, except for the day of Tisha B'Av, the Jewish population now centred on Galilee and initially in Yavne. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina and Judea was renamed Syria Palestina, to spite the Jews by naming it after their ancient enemies, the Philistines. Jews were only allowed to visit Aelia Capitolina on the day of Tisha B'Av.

Late Roman period in the Land of Israel

In spite of the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt, a significant number of Jews remained in the Land of Israel. The Jews who remained there went through numerous experiences and armed conflicts against consecutive foreign occupiers. Some of the most famous and important Jewish texts were composed in Israeli cities at this
250px-Arch of Titus Menorah

Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (1850 painting by David Roberts)

time. The completion of the Mishnah (Hebrew: משנה), the system of niqqud, and the compilation of the Jerusalem Talmud are examples.

In this period the tannaim (Hebrew: תנאים) and amoraim (Hebrew: אמוראים) were active, rabbis who organized and debated the Jewish oral law. The decisions and opinions of the tannaim are contained in the Mishnah, Beraita, Tosefta, and various Midrash compilations. The Mishnah was completed shortly after 200 CE, probably by Judah haNasi. The commentaries of the amoraim upon the Mishnah are compiled in the Jerusalem Talmud, which was completed around 400 CE, probably in Tiberias.

In 351 CE, the Jewish population in Sepphoris, under the leadership of Patricius, started a revolt against the rule of Constantius Gallus, brother-in-law of Emperor Constantius II. The revolt was eventually subdued by Gallus' general, Ursicinus.

According to Jewish tradition, in 359 CE Hillel II created the Hebrew calendar based on the lunar year. Until then, the entire Jewish community outside the land of Israel depended on the calendar sanctioned by the Sanhedrin; this was necessary for the proper observance of the Jewish holy days. However, danger threatened the participants in that sanction and the messengers who communicated their decisions to distant communities. As the religious persecutions continued, Hillel determined to provide an authorized calendar for all time to come.

In 363, shortly before launching his campaign against the Sassanid Empire, Julian II, the last pagan Roman Emperor, allowed the Jews to return to "holy Jerusalem which you have for many years longed to see rebuilt" and to rebuild the Temple. But, Julian's campaign against the Persians failed and he was killed in battle on June 26, 363. The Temple was not rebuilt.

The diaspora

The Jewish diaspora began with the Assyrian conquest and continued on a much larger scale with the Babylonian conquest, in which the Tribe of Judah was exiled to Babylonia along with the dethroned King of Judah, Jehoiachin, in the 6th Century BCE, and was taken into captivity in 597 BCE. The exile continued after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE.[22] Many more Jews migrated to Babylon in 135 CE after the Bar Kokhba revolt and in the centuries after.[22]

Many of the Judaean Jews were sold into slavery while others became citizens of other parts of the Roman Empire. These Hellenised Jews were affected by the diaspora only in its spiritual sense, absorbing the feeling of loss and homelessness that became a cornerstone of the Jewish creed. The policy encouraging proselytism and conversion to Judaism, which spread the Jewish religion throughout the Hellenistic civilization, seems to have subsided with the wars against the Romans.

Middle Ages

Islamic period in the land of Israel (638–1099)

In 638 CE the Byzantine Empire lost control of the Levant. The Arab Islamic Empire under Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem and the lands of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Under the various regimes, the Jews suffered massacres and fled the inland villages toward the coast. They were subsequently induced to return inland after the coastal towns had been destroyed. After the change in control, the Jews still controlled much of the commerce in Palestine. According to the Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi, the Jews worked as "the assayers of coins, the dyers, the tanners and the bankers in the community".[25] During the Fatimid period, many Jewish officials served in the regime.[25] Professor Moshe Gil documents that at the time of the Arab conquest in the 7th century CE, the majority of the population was Jewish.[26]

During this time Jews were lived in thriving communities all across ancient Babylonia. In the Geonic period (650-1250 CE), the Babylonian Yeshiva Academies were the chief centers of Jewish learning; the Geonim (meaning either "Splendor" or "Geniuses") who were the heads of these schools, were recognized as the highest authorities in Jewish law.

Jewish Golden Age (711-1031)

The Golden Age of Jewish culture in Spain coincided with the Middle Ages in Europe, a period of Muslim rule throughout much of the Iberian Peninsula. During that time, Jews were generally accepted in society and Jewish religious, cultural, and economic life blossomed.

A period of tolerance thus dawned for the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula, whose number was considerably augmented by immigration from Africa in the wake of the Muslim conquest. Especially after 912, during the reign of Abd-ar-Rahman III and his son, Al-Hakam II, the Jews prospered, devoting themselves to the service of the Caliphate of Cordoba, to the study of the sciences, and to commerce and industry, especially to trading in silk and slaves, in this way promoting the prosperity of the country. Jewish economic expansion was unparalleled. In Toledo, Jews were involved in translating Arabic texts to the Romance languages, as well as translating Greek and Hebrew texts into Arabic. Jews also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy.[27]

'Abd al-Rahman's court physician and minister was Hasdai ben Isaac ibn Shaprut (Hebrew: חסדאי אבן שפרוט‎), the patron of Menahem ben Saruq, Dunash ben Labrat, and other Jewish scholars and poets. Jewish thought during this period flourished under famous figures such as Samuel Ha-Nagid, Moses ibn Ezra, Solomon ibn Gabirol Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides.[27] During 'Abd al-Rahman's term of power, the scholar Moses ben Enoch (Hebrew: משה בן חנוך) was appointed rabbi of Córdoba, and as a consequence al-Andalus became the center of Talmudic study, and Córdoba the meeting-place of Jewish savants.

The Golden Age ended with the invasion of the Reconquista and the invasion of the Almohades. The major Jewish presence in Iberia continued until the Jews were forcibly expelled en masse due to the edict of expulsion by Christian Spain in 1492 and a similar decree by Christian Portugal in 1496.

Crusaders period in the land of Israel (1099–1260)


Capture of Jerusalem, 1099

In 1099, Jews helped the Arabs to defend Jerusalem against the Crusaders. When the city fell, the Crusaders gathered many Jews in a synagogue and set it on fire. In Haifa, the Jews almost single-handedly defended the town against the Crusaders, holding out for a month, (June–July 1099).[25] At this time there were Jewish communities scattered all over the country, including Jerusalem, Tiberias, Ramleh, Ashkelon, Caesarea, and Gaza. As Jews were not allowed to hold land during the Crusader period, they worked at trades and commerce in the coastal towns during times of quiescence. Most were artisans: glassblowers in Sidon, furriers and dyers in Jerusalem.[25]

During this period, the Masoretes of Tiberias established the Hebrew language orthography, or niqqud (Hebrew: נִקּוּד), a system of diacritical vowel points used in the Hebrew alphabet. Numerous piyutim and midrashim were recorded in Palestine at this time.[25]

In 1141 Yehuda Halevi issued a call to Jews to emigrate to the land of Israel and took on the long journey himself. After a stormy passage from Córdoba, he arrived in Egyptian Alexandria, where he was enthusiastically greeted by friends and admirers. At Damietta, he had to struggle against his heart, and the pleadings of his friend Ḥalfon ha-Levi, that he remain in Egypt, where he would be free from intolerant oppression. He started on the rough route overland. He was met along the way by Jews in Tyre and Damascus. Jewish legend relates that as he came near Jerusalem, overpowered by the sight of the Holy City, he sang his most beautiful elegy, the celebrated "Zionide" (Zion ha-lo Tish'ali). At that instant, an Arab had galloped out of a gate and rode him down; he was killed in the accident.

Mamluk period in the land of Israel (1260–1517)

In the years 1260–1516, the land of Israel was part of the Empire of the Mamluks, who ruled first from Turkey, then from Egypt. War, uprisings, bloodshed and destruction followed the Maimonides. Jews suffered persecution and humiliation, but the surviving records note at least 30 Jewish urban and rural communities at the opening of the 16th century.

Nahmanides (Hebrew: הרמב"ן) is recorded as settling in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1267. He moved to Acre, where he was active in spreading Jewish learning, which was at that time neglected in the Holy Land. He gathered a circle of pupils around him, and people came in crowds, even from the district of the Euphrates, to hear him. Karaites were said to have attended his lectures, among them Aaron ben Joseph the Elder. He later became one of the greatest Karaite authorities. Shortly after Nahmanides' arrival in Jerusalem, he addressed a letter to his son Nahman, in which he described the desolation of the Holy City. At the time, it had only two Jewish inhabitants — two brothers, dyers by trade. In a later letter from Acre, Nahmanides counsels his son to cultivate humility, which he considers to be the first of virtues. In another, addressed to his second son, who occupied an official position at the Castilian court, Nahmanides recommends the recitation of the daily prayers and warns above all against immorality. Nahmanides died after reaching seventy-six, and his remains were interred at Haifa, by the grave of Yechiel of Paris.

Yechiel had emigrated to Acre in 1260, along with his son and a large group of followers.[28][29] There he established the Tamudic academy Midrash haGadol d'Paris.[30] He is believed to have died there between 1265 and 1268. In 1488 Obadiah ben Abraham (Hebrew: עובדיה בן אברהם), commentator on the Mishnah, arrived in Jerusalem; this marked a new period of return for the Jewish community in the land.

Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East

During the Middle Ages, Jews were generally better treated by Islamic rulers than Christian ones. Despite second-class citizenship, Jews played prominent roles in Muslim courts, and experienced a "Golden Age" in Moorish Spain about 900–1100, though the situation deteriorated after that time. Riots resulting in the deaths of Jews did however occur in North Africa through the centuries and especially in Morocco, Libya and Algeria, where eventually Jews were forced to live in ghettos.[31]

During the 11th century, Muslims in Spain conducted pogroms against the Jews; those occurred in Cordoba in 1011 and in Granada in 1066.[32] During the Middle Ages, the governments of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen enacted decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues. At certain times, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in some parts of Yemen, Morocco and Baghdad.[33] The Almohads, who had taken control of much of Islamic Iberia by 1172, surpassed the Almoravides in fundamentalist outlook. They treated the dhimmis harshly. They expelled both Jews and Christians from Morocco and Islamic Spain. Faced with the choice of death or conversion, many Jews emigrated.[34] Some, such as the family of Maimonides, fled south and east to the more tolerant Muslim lands, while others went northward to settle in the growing Christian kingdoms.[35][36]


According to the American writer James Carroll, "Jews accounted for 10% of the total population of the Roman Empire. By that ratio, if other factors had not intervened, there would be 200 million Jews in the world today, instead of something like 13 million."[37]

Jewish populations had existed in Europe, especially in the area of the former Roman Empire, from very early times. Records of Jewish communities in France (see History of the Jews in France) and Germany (see History of the Jews in Germany) date from the 4th century, and substantial Jewish communities in Spain were noted earlier than that.

The historian Norman Cantor and other 20th-century scholars dispute the tradition that the Middle Ages was a uniformly difficult time for Jews. Before the Church became fully organized as an institution with an increasing array of rules, early medieval society was tolerant. Between 800 and 1100, an estimated 1.5 million Jews lived in Christian Europe. As they were not Christian, they were not included as a division of the feudal system of clergy, knights and serfs. This mean that they did not have to satisfy the oppressive demands for labor and military conscription that Christian commoners suffered. In relations with the Christian society, the Jews were protected by kings, princes and bishops, because of the crucial services they provided in three areas: financial, administrative and as doctors.[38]

Christian scholars interested in the Bible consulted with Talmudic rabbis. As the Roman Catholic Church strengthened as an institution, the Franciscan and Dominican preaching orders were founded, and there was a rise of competitive middle-class, town-dwelling Christians. By 1300, the friars and local priests staged the Passion Plays during Holy Week, which depicted Jews (in contemporary dress) killing Christ, according to Gospel accounts. From this period, persecution of Jews and deportations became endemic. Around 1500, Jews found relative security and a renewal of prosperity in present-day Poland.[38]

After 1300, Jews suffered more discrimination and persecution in Christian Europe. As Catholics were forbidden by the church to loan money for interest, some Jews became prominent moneylenders. Christian rulers gradually saw the advantage of having such a class of men, who could supply capital for their use without being liable to excommunication. As a result, the money trade of western Europe became a specialty of the Jews. But, in almost every instance when Jews acquired large amounts through banking transactions, during their lives or upon their deaths, the king would take it over.  Jews became imperial "servi cameræ", the property of the King, who might present them and their possessions to princes or cities.

Jews were frequently massacred and exiled from various European countries. The persecution hit its first peak during the Crusades. In the First Crusade (1096) flourishing communities on the Rhine and the Danube were utterly destroyed; see German Crusade, 1096. In the Second Crusade (1147) the Jews in France were subject to frequent massacres. The Jews were also subjected to attacks by the Shepherds' Crusades of 1251 and 1320. The Crusades were followed by expulsions, including in, 1290, the banishing of all English Jews; in 1396, 100,000 Jews were expelled from France; and, in 1421, thousands were expelled from Austria. Over this time many Jews of Europe, either fleeing or being expelled, migrated to Poland, where they prospered into another Golden Age.

19th century

Though persecution still existed, emancipation spread throughout Europe in the 19th century. Napoleon invited Jews to leave the Jewish ghettos in Europe and seek refuge in the newly created tolerant political regimes that offered equality under Napoleonic Law. By 1871, with Germany’s emancipation of Jews, every European country except Russia had emancipated its Jews.

Despite increasing integration of the Jews with secular society, a new form of anti-Semitism emerged, based on the ideas of race and nationhood rather than the religious hatred of the Middle Ages. This form of anti-Semitism held that Jews were a separate and inferior race from the Aryan people of Western Europe, and led to the emergence of political parties in France, Germany, and Austria-Hungary that campaigned on a platform of rolling back emancipation. This form of anti-Semitism emerged frequently in European culture, most famously in the Dreyfus Trial in France. These persecutions, along with state-sponsored pogroms in Russia in the late 19th century, led a number of Jews to believe that they would only be safe in their own nation.

During this period, Jewish migration to the United States created a large new community mostly freed of the restrictions of Europe. Over 2 million Jews arrived in the United States between 1890 and 1924, most from Russia and Eastern Europe. A similar case occurred in the southern tip of the continent, specifically in the countries of Argentina and Uruguay.

20th century

Modern Zionism

During the 1870s and 1880s the Jewish population in Europe began to more actively discuss immigration back to Israel and the re-establishment of the Jewish Nation in its national homeland, fulfilling the biblical prophecies relating to Shivat Tzion. In 1882 the first Zionist settlement—Rishon LeZion—was founded by immigrants who belonged to the "Hovevei Zion" movement. Later on, the "Bilu" movement established many other settlements in the land of Israel.

The Zionist movement was founded officially after the Kattowitz convention (1884) and the World Zionist Congress (1897), and it was Theodor Herzl who began the struggle to establish a state for the Jews.

After the First World War, it seemed that the conditions to establish such a state had arrived: The United Kingdom captured Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, and the Jews received the promise of a "National Home" from the British in the form of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, given to Chaim Weizmann.

In 1920 the British Mandate of Palestine began and the pro-Jewish Herbert Samuel was appointed High Commissioner in Palestine, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was established and several big Jewish immigration waves to Palestine occurred. The Arab inhabitants of Palestine were not fond of the increasing Jewish immigration however, and began to oppose Jewish settlement and the pro-Jewish policy of the British government by violent means.

Arab gangs began performing violent acts and murders on convoys and on the Jewish population. After the 1920 Arab riots and 1921 Jaffa riots, the Jewish leadership in Palestine believed that the British had no desire to confront local Arab gangs over their attacks on Palestinian Jews. Believing that they could not rely on the British administration for protection from these gangs, the Jewish leadership created the group known as the Haganah organization (Hebrew: ההגנה) to protect their farms and Kibbutzim (Hebrew: קיבוצים), or collective Jewish communities, kibbutz (Hebrew: ק) in singular form.

Major riots occurred during the 1929 Palestine riots and the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine.

Due to the increasing violence the United Kingdom gradually started to backtrack from the original idea of a Jewish state and to speculate on a binational solution or an Arab state that would have a Jewish minority.

Meanwhile, the Jews of Europe and the United States gained success in the fields of the science, culture and the economy. Among those generally considered the most famous were scientist Albert Einstein and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. A disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners at this time were Jewish, as is still the case.[39] In the Soviet Union, many Jews were involved in the October Revolution and belonged to the communist party.

The Holocaust

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A boy raises his hands when the Jews leave the bunkers after the submission of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

In 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany, the Jewish situation became more severe. Economic crises, racial anti-Semitic laws, and a fear of an upcoming war led many Jews to flee from Europe to Palestine, to the United States and to the Soviet Union.

In 1939 World War II began and until 1941 Hitler occupied almost all of Europe, including Poland—where millions of Jews were living at that time—and France. In 1941, following the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Final Solution began, an extensive organized operation on an unprecedented scale, aimed at the annihilation of the Jewish people, and resulting in the persecution and murder of Jews in political Europe, inclusive of European North Africa (pro-Nazi Vichy-North Africa and Italian Libya). This genocide, in which approximately six million Jews were murdered methodically and with horrifying cruelty, is known as The Holocaust or Shoah (Hebrew term). In Poland, more than one million Jews were murdered in gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp alone.

The massive scale of the Holocaust, and the horrors that happened during it, heavily affected the Jewish nation and world public opinion, which only understood the dimensions of the Holocaust after the war. After the war, efforts were increased to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.

The establishment of the State of Israel

In 1945 the Jewish resistance organizations in Palestine unified and established the Jewish Resistance Movement (Hebrew: תנועת המרי העברי‎). The movement began attacking the British authority.[40] Following the King David Hotel bombing, Chaim Weizmann, president of the WZO appealed to the movement to cease all further military activity until a decision would be reached by the Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency backed Weizmann's recommendation to cease activities, a decision reluctantly accepted by the Haganah, but not by the Irgun and the Lehi. The JRM was dismantled and each of the founding groups continued operating according to their own policy.[41]

The Jewish leadership decided to center the struggle in the illegal immigration to Palestine and began organizing massive amount of Jewish war refugees from Europe, without the approval of the British authorities. This immigration contributed a great deal to the Jewish settlements in Israel in the world public opinion and the British authorities decided to let the United Nations decide upon the fate of Palestine.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181(II) recommending partitioning Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state and the City of Jerusalem. The Jewish leadership accepted the decision but the Arab League and the leadership of Palestinian Arabs opposed it. Following a period of civil war the 1948 Arab–Israeli War started.

In the middle of the war, after the last soldiers of the British mandate left Palestine, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel to be known as the State of Israel. In 1949 the war ended and the state of Israel started building the state and absorbing massive waves of hundreds of thousands of Jews from all over the world.

Since 1948, Israel has been involved in a series of major military conflicts, including the 1956 Suez Crisis, 1967 Six-Day War, 1973 Yom Kippur War, 1982 Lebanon War, and 2006 Lebanon War, as well as a nearly constant series of ongoing minor conflicts. Most of them ending up in Israeli victories.

Since 1977, an ongoing and largely unsuccessful series of diplomatic efforts have been initiated by Israel, Palestinian organisations, their neighbours, and other parties, including the United States and the European Union, to bring about a peace process to resolve conflicts between Israel and its neighbors, mostly over the fate of the Palestinian people.

Arab-Israeli Military Conflict 1948-present

The upset and anger in the Arab World caused by the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 would begin the decades-long tenure of military conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Israelis defeated the Arab armies in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. In 1967, the Israeli army defeated a three-nation alliance of of Arab states (Egypt, Syria and Jordan) for control of Sinai Peninsula, giving the Arab World one of its most
Ink flag

Captain Avraham "Bren" Adan raising the Ink Flag at Umm Rashrash (a site now in Eilat), marking the end of the war

humiliating defeats. Afterwards, President Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt initiated the War of Attrition in the same year, the name speaks it all; an "attrition war" is fought using a strategy of prolonged fighting to deplete the opponent of its military resources. The war included battles on all land, air and sea and served as a testing ground between the Soviet Union and the United States, the Soviets supported the Arab states while the United States and the western powers supported Israel. Israel was again, very successful and turned the war in their favor since most battles of the War of Attrition ended up in an Israeli victory although it was considered a draw since no significant border changes were made, both Israel and Egypt claimed victory. The Egyptian failure pointed towards a victory for Israel, but the large-scale losses inflicted by Soviet-backed Egyptian forces marked a mental victory for many Egyptians. The Israeli Navy also gave the Egyptian Navy humiliating defeats. Eventually, the Israeli victories and the streak of Arab failures soon gave the Israeli army a feeling of invincibility, even some Arab leaders were beginning to believe that and morale was becoming devastated for the state armies in the Arab World. It isn't until 1973, when Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat and Syrian president Hafez al-Assad initiated the Yom Kippur War (Hebrew: מלחמת יום הכיפורים) or the October War of 1973, which fell on the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur and the Islamic Ramadan which were both the utmost holiest times of each religion. The Israeli army suffered

Victorious Israeli MTB crew raise the broom on the topmast as a traditional maritime sign of victory.

numerous losses at the beginning of the war, as Arab forces entered Israeli-held territory unchallenged which ended Israel's feeling of military dominance, the Arab attacks were mostly surprise attacks on the night of Yom Kippur. Although Israel would later repulse the invasion and win the war, the early victories gave the Arab World a propaganda victory and inflicted a mental loss for the Israelis. It was also one of the first wars to see large pockets of Israeli soldiers surrender which caused prime minister Golda Meir (Hebrew: זהב מאיר), how had been a very instrumental politician of Israel, to retire from Israeli politics due to pressures caused by the war. In 1978, the succeeding prime minister Menachim Begin (Hebrew: מנחם בגין) signed the Camp David Accords with Anwar el-Sadat, and Israel was finally recognized by Egypt as a legitimate state. Throughout Israel's wars with the Arab armies, its owed much of its success to military leader Moshe Dayan (Hebrew: משה דיין), who is considered the fighting symbol of the Israelis, and of Jews there. For the Palestinians, the Israeli army had to deal with militant leader Yasser Arafat who took leadership of the PLO. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon due to the presence of Palestinian militants in the southern parts of the country. In 2008, Israel invaded the Gaza Strip (located near Egypt, southwest of Israel) as a retaliation for rockets fired by the Hamas (Arabic: حماس), a Sunni militant group that controls Gaza. The presence of a well-trained Shia militant group known as the Hezbollah (Arabic: حزب الله) had led the Israelis to invade southern Lebanon again in 2006. The Israelis experienced large-scale losses against the Hezbollah, who posed the only real-standing threat to the Israeli army as a result of Israel's withdrawal of its troops as well as incidents of prisoner exchange negotiations, Hezbollah members considered it a victory for them. Although many of these operations came with the aid of Druze soldiers, the Druze are an Arabic-speaking group within the Levant.



The Jewish people speak distinct dialects of major vernacular languages of their countries. These dialects, often contain the name prefix Judeo- or Judaeo- as a reference by linguists (i.e. Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), Judeo-German (Yiddish), Judeo-Malayalam). This was a result of numerous language shifts in the history of the Jewish people, over time they came to believe that the Hebrew language was too sacred to be spoken as an everyday. language of conversation.

Hebrew and Aramaic

Although Hebrew was the daily speech of the Jewish people for centuries, by the fifth century BCE, the closely related Aramaic joined Hebrew as the spoken language in Judea[42] (where the ancient Jews, "Judeans" (where the word "Jew" comes from) lived) and by the third century BCE Jews of the diaspora (Jewish people outside of their country) were speaking Greek, and soon afterwards Hebrew was no longer used as a first language - for over sixteen centuries being used almost exclusively as a liturgical language (for prayer)[43] until revived as a spoken language by Eliezer ben Yehuda in the Palestine of the late 1880s and eventually becoming the official language of the state of Israel.

Hebrew and Aramaic are both Semitic languages, from the Afro-Asiatic family and is written in the Hebrew script. Unlike the Latin script, the Hebrew alphabet uses a system where each letter has a meaning. Hebrew also works similarly with the Arabic language, also a Semitic language.

As centuries passed by, linguistic shifts veered the Jews to speak the vernacular languages of their countries, although retaining Jewish practices such as writing the language in the Hebrew block alphabet. Although Hebrew literature remained in tact and well-alive, experiencing ages of revival - it was used for religious education and only the most educated Jews were educated enough to write literary works in Hebrew.

Modern Standard Hebrew

Modern Hebrew (Hebrew: עברית חדשה‎, Ivrit Chadashah), also known as Israeli Hebrew, is the result of the most successful language revitalization project in history, and intimately linked to the Zionist movement and the founding of the modern state of Israel. There is debate over whether it is a direct continuation of Mishnaic Hebrew or is something closer to a relexified Yiddish (see below), with a grammar that is more Slavic than Semitic.

The revival of the Hebrew language was led by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Modern Hebrew is spoken by about nine million people[44][45] — most of them citizens of Israel, of which three million are native speakers of Modern Israeli Hebrew, two million are new immigrants, one million are Israeli Arabs and half a million are Israelis or diaspora Jews who continue to live abroad.

Modern Hebrew is, together with Modern Standard Arabic, an official language of the modern state of Israel, and before the state's establishment it was one of the official languages of the British Mandate for Palestine also along with Arabic.

The organization that officially directs the development of the Modern Hebrew language, under the law of the State of Israel, is the Academy of the Hebrew Language (Hebrew: הָאָקָדֶמְיָה לַלָּשׁוֹן הָעִבְרִית) in Jerusalem.

Classical and Liturgical Languages

Classical Hebrew

The Hebrew language is the liturgical language of Judaism, all Jewish terms are in Hebrew and Jewish prayers (see religion below) are recited in the Hebrew language; or otherwise recited in a Jewish dialect if not Hebrew. It is also known as Biblical Hebrew (Hebrew: עִבְרִית מִקְרָאִית), which, s the archaic form of the Hebrew language, a Canaanite Semitic language spoken in the area known as Canaan, roughly west of the Jordan River and east of the Mediterranean Sea and has a history dating from about the 10th century BCE, and persisted through the Second Temple period (ending in 70 CE). Biblical Hebrew eventually developed into Mishnaic Hebrew, which was spoken until the 2nd century CE. Biblical Hebrew is best-attested in the Hebrew Bible, a document which reflects various stages of the Hebrew language in its consonantal skeleton, as well as a vocalic system which was added later, in the Middle Ages. There is also some evidence of regional dialectal variation, including differences between Biblical Hebrew as spoken in the northern Kingdom of Israel and in the southern Kingdom of Judah.

Biblical Hebrew has been written with a number of different writing systems. The Hebrews adopted the
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Coin from Bar-Kokhba Revolt demonstrating the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet

Phoenician script around the 12th century BCE, which developed into the Paleo-Hebrew script. This was retained by the Samaritans, who use the descendent Samaritan script to this day. However the Aramaic script gradually displaced the Paleo-Hebrew script for the Jews, and it became the source for the modern Hebrew alphabet. All of these scripts were lacking letters to represent all of the sounds of Biblical Hebrew, though these sounds are reflected in Greek and Latin transcriptions of the time. These scripts originally only indicated consonants, but certain letters, known as matres lectionis, became increasingly used to mark vowels. In the Middle Ages various systems of diacritics were developed to mark the vowels in Hebrew manuscripts; of these, only the Tiberian system is still in wide use.

Biblical Aramaic


11th century Hebrew Bible with Targum, from Iraq

During the 8th century BCE, Aramaic became the lingua franca of the Near East.[46] Before that period, it had been the native language of the Aramaean city-states to the east. In 701 BCE, King Hezekiah of Judah negotiated with King Sennacherib of Assyria, as his army besieged Jerusalem. The account in 2 Kings 18:26 sets the meeting of the ambassadors of both camps just outside the city walls. Hezekiah's envoys pleaded that the Assyrians make terms in Aramaic so that the people listening would not understand. Thus, Aramaic had become the language of international dialogue, but not of the common people. In 586 BCE, King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and exiled many of the people of Judah to the east. During the Babylonian exile, Aramaic became the language of necessity for the Jews and the Aramaic square script replaced the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.[47] After the Persian Empire's capture of Babylon, it became the language of culture and learning. King Darius I declared[48] that Aramaic was to be the official language of the western half of his empire in 500 BCE, and it is this Imperial Aramaic language that forms the basis of Biblical Aramaic.[46]

Aramaic therefore accompanies Hebrew today as a liturgical language among Jews and Judeo-Christians (Christians who practice Jewish tradition).

Jewish Dialects The Jewish diaspora are mostly speakers of distinct dialects of the major languages of the countries they live in. They write these dialects in the Hebrew block script, rather than the traditional alphabets of the languages which is a rabbinic tradition.

The Yiddish language (Yiddish: ייִדיש, Hebrew: ייִדיש) is a West Germanic dialect, spoken by the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe also
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American World War I-era poster in Yiddish. Translated caption: "Food will win the war – You came here seeking freedom, now you must help to preserve it – We must supply the Allies with wheat – Let nothing go to waste". Colour lithograph, 1917. Digitally restored

known as the Ashkenazi Jews. Yiddish language also has a lot of Slavic influence grafted into its vocabulary, as well as Hebrew and Aramaic (with the usual being a Jewish language). The Yiddish language has had a profound influence on the development of the Modern Hebrew language, in a much similar manner in which the Persian language influenced Arabic. The word Yiddish literally comes from a Germanic word meaning "Jewish", and is spoken by approximately 1.5 million people.[49] The Yiddish language had much more speakers, ranging from 11 million but many factors mostly notabely the Holocaust eliminated much of these. There are some small communities of Yiddish-speaking people in Israel, although with the emergency of Modern Hebrew and Zionism, most Israelis discourage the Yiddish language. In New York City, which is filled with many ethnic communities, there are newspapers that are available in foreign languages, Yiddish being one of those. In Lithuania, Yiddish is the educational language of Talmudic studies.
Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish)

The Ladino language, also known as Judaeo-Spanish (Spanish: Judeo-Espanyol also גֿודֿיאו-איספאנייול, Hebrew: תידוהי) , was the dialect spoken by the Jews living in Spanish-speaking nations, and also had speakers living in Western Europe and the Mediterranean region. It is also been influenced by not only Aramaic and Hebrew, but also Arabic as a result of the Jewish presence and the Jewish golden age in Spain during the Muslim and Arab rule. Judaeo-Spanish today unfortunately, is an endangered language mostly spoken by elders who do not pass fluency on to their children.

The Judeo-Arabic language(s) (Arabic: عربية يهودية, Hebrew: ערבית יהודית) were Arabic the dialect(s) spoken by the Jews living in Arab and Muslim territory.
Cairo Geniza

A page from the Cairo Geniza, part of which is written in the Judeo-Arabic language

Judeo-Arabic literature can be owed to the works of Jewish philosophers living in Arab and Muslim territory. The famous Jewish philosophers Saadia ben Yosef (Arabic: سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي), also known by Saadia Gaon from Egypt and Moses Maimonides (Arabic: موسى بن ميمون‎ Mūsā ibn Maymūn) from Islamic Spain both wrote their works in extensive Arabic. The differences between Judeo-Arabic dialects reflects those within the Arabic language itself, depending on the region. Almost all of the Jews that had once resided in Arab nations (known as Mizrahi Jews) have emigrated to the State of Israel. Like Judeo-Spanish, Judeo-Arabic is an endangered language since Judeo-Arabic is only spoken by the Mizrahi Jewish elders who teach their kids little to no Judeo-Arabic. However, a small but noticeable community still exists in Morocco where the Judeo-Arabic language (Moroccan dialect) remains spoken. The current number of Judeo-Arabic speakers is unknown today.

Writing System

Hebrew, Aramaic and the Jewish dialect of major languages are written using the Hebrew alphabet, which itself was descended from the Aramaic block script which is a common name given to the Hebrew alphabet. It is also written from right to left, like many native alphabets used for Semitic languages such as Syriac and Arabic. While Classical Hebrew contains vowels, Modern Hebrew uses an abjad alphabet, which lacks vowels and it is for the reader to discern and supply a vowel for the words. The word abjad (Arabic: أبجد) comes from pronouncing the first four letters of the Arabic alphabet. The tradition of writing major languages in the Hebrew alphabet is what kept and keeps the Jewish identity alive for the diaspora populations.

Russian and English

The State of Israel is filled with many migrants from the former Soviet Union, who retain their fluency in the East Slavic language known as Russian. About 20% of Israel's population are fluent-Russian speakers, and is the most-spoken non-official language in Israel. As a matter of fact, Israel contains the most Russian-speakers outside of the former Soviet Union. Russian contains almost equal to more speakers than Arabic in Israel (which is also an official language in Israel). Along with that, English is also a widely-understood and spoken language in Israel let alone being the language of Jewish Americans.


800px-Women praying in the Western Wall tunnels by David Shankbone

Women praying in the Western Wall tunnel at the closest physical point to the Holy of Holies

Most Jews are adherents to their own native religion - known as Judaism (Hebrew: יהדות), which derives from Judah (Hebrew: יהודה) the actual kingdom and tribe. The religion and faith of Judaism is highly interrelated with the ethnicity and the history of the Jewish people.

Judaism is a monotheistic religion, with its foundational text, the Torah (Hebrew: תורה) Judaim's main prophet is Moses (Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה‎), who rescued the Jews from their bondage in Egypt and led them to the land of Canaan after wondering the deserts for 40 years. It was also Moses to whom the Torah was revealed to. The other Biblical patriarchs, Abraham (Hebrew: אברהם), originally born as Abram (Hebrew: אברם) who is considered the father of many races, that of including the Jews (as an actual race), Noah (Hebrew: נח), and King David (Hebrew: דוד המלך) - the ancient fighting symbol of the Jews and Israelites are also important and essential historical figures of the Jewish faith.

Jewish preachers are known as rabbis (Hebrew: רבנים in plural form, Hebrew: רב in singular) who form the authoratative religious governing body in Judaism. 

Judaism includes a wide corpus of texts, practices, theological positions, and forms of organization. Within
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Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur, by Maurycy Gottlieb (1878)

Judaism there are a variety of movements, most of which emerged from Rabbinic Judaism, which holds that God revealed his laws and commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of both the Written and Oral Torah. Historically, this assertion was challenged by various groups such as the Sadducees and Hellenistic Judaism during the Second Temple period; the Karaites and Sabbateans during the early and later medieval period; and among segments of the modern reform movements. Liberal movements in modern times such as Humanistic Judaism may be nontheistic. Today, the largest Jewish religious movements are Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism), Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism. Major sources of difference between these groups are their approaches to Jewish law, the authority of the Rabbinic tradition, and the significance of the State of Israel. Orthodox Judaism maintains that the Torah and Jewish law are divine in origin, eternal and unalterable, and that they should be strictly followed. Conservative and Reform Judaism are more liberal, with Conservative Judaism generally promoting a more "traditional" interpretation of
Rabi with kids

Rabbi instructing children in 2004

Judaism's requirements than Reform Judaism. A typical Reform position is that Jewish law should be viewed as a set of general guidelines rather than as a set of restrictions and obligations whose observance is required of all Jews. Historically, special courts enforced Jewish law; today, these courts still exist but the practice of Judaism is mostly voluntary. Authority on theological and legal matters is not vested in any one person or organization, but in the sacred texts and rabbis and scholars who interpret them.

Judaism claims a historical continuity spanning more than 3,000 years. Judaism has its roots as a structured religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age.[50] Of the major world religions, Judaism is considered one of the oldest monotheistic religions.[51] The Hebrews / Israelites were already referred to as "Jews" in later books of the Tanakh such as the Book of Esther (Hebrew: מגילת אסתר), with the term Jews replacing the title "Children of Israel". Judaism's texts, traditions and values strongly influenced later Abrahamic religions, including Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i Faith. Many aspects of Judaism have also directly or indirectly influenced secular Western ethics and civil law.

Defining character and principles of faith

Defining character

Unlike other ancient Near Eastern gods, the Hebrew God is portrayed as unitary and solitary; consequently, the Hebrew God's principal relationships are not with other gods, but with the world, and more specifically, with the people He created. Judaism thus begins with an ethical monotheism: the belief that God is one, and concerned with the actions of humankind According to the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), God promised Abraham to make of his offspring a great nation. Many generations later, he commanded the nation of Israel to love and worship only one God; that is, the Jewish nation is to reciprocate God's concern for the world. He also commanded the Jewish people to love one another; that is, Jews are to imitate God's love for people. These commandments are but two of a large corpus of commandments and laws that constitute this covenant, which is the substance of Judaism.

Moreover, as a non-creedal religion, some have argued that Judaism does not require one to believe in God. For some, observance of Jewish law is more important than belief in God per se. In modern times, some liberal Jewish movements do not accept the existence of a personified deity active in history.



Minyan Ma'ariv prayer in a Jaffa Tel Aviv flea-market shop

Jews pray three times each day, during the day, afternoon and night. The day prayers are known as Shacharit (Hebrew: שַחֲרִת), the afternoon prayers are known as the Mincha (Hebrew: מִנְחָה) and the night prayers are known as the Arvit (Hebrew: מַעֲרִיב). In the Jewish calendar, Saturday is the holiest day of the week which is known as the Sabbath (Hebrew: שבת). According to the Bible, this is the day when Yahweh rested, the word originates from a Hebrew term meaning to "cease". During the Sabbath, no labor is to be performed - so most Jews perform daily tasks such as cooking dishes the Friday night before the Sabbath starts.

Hanukkah Menorah with David's star

Yom Kippur (Hebrew: יום הכיפורים) is the holiest day in the Hebrew calendar. The world literally means "Day of Atonement" in Hebrew, on this particulary day - Jews observe by going through a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer inside the temple. It is known as the "Sabbaths of the Sabbath". Yom Kippur, unlike other Jewish holidays is not intended to be a festive holiday but a very solemn one.

Another popular holiday is Hanukkah (Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה), also known as the Festival of Lights which is an eight-day Jewish celebration which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple (Second Temple) in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt. In Gregorian calendar, Hannukah can usually fall around late


November through December. Jews observe Hannukah by lighting a nine-branched cenadelabrum known as a Menorah (Hebrew: מנורת, Yiddish: חנוכּה). Hanukkah is also marked by feasting and fun activities (mostly of Ashkenazi origin) among children, particularily the gambling of gelts (Yiddish: געלט, Hebrew: חנוכה), which are chocolate coins given to children and sometimes, also real money as a form of gift-giving. The gambling games are played using a tool known as a Dreidel (Yiddish: דרײדל, Hebrew: סביבון), a four-sided spinning top. It is filled a Hebrew acronym, one letter on each side going in this order: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hei), ש (Shin) which stands for this statement: "a great miracle happened there" (Hebrew: נס גדול היה שם).

The Jewish faith also contributes to the cuisine of the Jews living either in Israel or abroad (see cuisine below).


Jewish architecture is highly un-defined, for Jewish architect from all sorts of ages have adopted the architectural styles of the countries around them. They implement things such as arches and domes. The most dominant influence on Jewish temples is the incorporating of Arab and Islamic architecture, known as Moorish Revival style. Much of Jewish architecture is dedicated towards building the synagague which is the Jewish house of worship, sometimes known as temples and Beyt Knesset (Hebrew: בית כנסת) in the Hebrew language.

Synagogue Architecture

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Great Synagogue of Florence, built Moorish style

All synagogues contain a bimah (Hebrew: בּימה), a table from which the Torah is read, and a desk for the prayer leader.

The Torah ark, (Hebrew: ארון קודש Aron Kodesh) (called the heikhal—היכל [temple] by Sephardim) is a cabinet in which the Torah scrolls are kept.

The ark in a synagogue is positioned in almost always such a way that those who face it, face towards Jerusalem. Thus, sanctuary seating plans in the Western world generally face east, while those east of Israel face west. Sanctuaries in Israel face towards Jerusalem. Occasionally synagogues face other directions for structural reasons; in such cases, some individuals might turn to face Jerusalem when standing for prayers, but the congregation as a whole does not.

The ark is reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant which contained the tablets with Ten Commandments. This

Interior of the Portuguese Synagogue (Amsterdam) showing Tebah in the foreground, and Torah Ark in the background

is the holiest spot in a synagogue, equivalent to the Holy of Holies. The ark is often closed with an ornate curtain, the (Latin: parochet, Hebrew: פרוכת), which hangs outside or inside the ark doors.

A large, raised, reader's platform called the bimah (Hebrew: בימה) by Ashkenazim and tebah by Sephardim, where the Torah scroll is placed to be read. Is a feature of all synagogues. In Sephardi synagogues it is also used as the prayer leader's reading desk.

Other traditional features include a continually lit lamp or lantern, usually electric in contemporary synagogues, called the ner tamid (Hebrew: נר תמיד), the "Eternal Light", used as a reminder of the western lamp of the menorah of the Temple in Jerusalem, which remained miraculously lit always. Many have an elaborate chair named for the prophet Elijah and only sat upon during the ceremony of Brit milah. Many

Interior of the Portuguese Synagogue (Amsterdam) showing Tebah in the foreground, and Torah Ark in the background.

synagogues have a large seven-branched candelabrum commemorating the full Menorah. Most contemporary synagogues also feature a lectern for the rabbi.

A synagogue may be decorated with artwork, but in the Rabbinic and Orthodox tradition, three-dimensional sculptures and depictions of the human body are not allowed, as these are considered akin to idolatry.

Until the 19th century, an Ashkenazi synagogue, all seats most often faced the 'Torah Ark. In a Sephardi synagogue, seats were usually arranged around the perimeter of the sanctuary, but when the worshippers stood up to pray, everyone faced the Ark. In Ashkenazi synagogues The Torah was read on a reader's table located in the center of the room, while the leader of the prayer service, the Hazzan (Hebrew: חַזָּן), stood at his own lectern or table, facing the Ark. In Sephardic synagogues, the table for reading the Torah was commonly placed at the opposite side of the room from the Torah Ark, leaving the center of the floor empty for the use of a ceremonial procession carrying the Torah between the Ark and the reading table.

Historic Temples

The history of the Jews and Israelites is also marked by the existance of temples, found in many Biblical accounts which many of today, do not exist or exist in remains. These temples were located in a sacred area in Israel known as the Temple Mount. According to the Hebrew Bible, Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the Holy Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ Bet HaMikdash) in ancient Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount (also known as Mount Zion), before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BCE. There is no direct archaeological evidence for the existence of Solomon's Temple,[52] and no mention of it in the surviving contemporary extra-biblical literature.[53]

The Hebrew Bible states that the temple was constructed under Solomon, king of the Israelites. This would date its construction to the 10th century BCE, although it is possible that an earlier Jebusite sanctuary had stood on the site. During the kingdom of Judah, the temple was dedicated to Yahweh, the god of Israel, and is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant. Rabbinic sources state that the First Temple stood for 410 years and, based on the 2nd-century work Seder Olam Rabbah, place construction in 832 BCE and destruction in 422 BCE (3338 AM), 165 years later than secular estimates.

Because of the religious sensitivities involved, and the politically volatile situation in Jerusalem, only limited
220px-Jerusalem Ugglan 1

Idealized reconstruction of Solomon's Temple and palace

archaeological surveys of the Temple Mount have been conducted. No excavations have been allowed on the Temple Mount during modern times. An Ivory pomegranate mentions priests in the house of YHWH, and an inscription recording the Temple's restoration under Jehoash have appeared on the antiquities market, but the authenticity of both has been challenged and they remain the subject of controversy. No conclusive archeological evidence for the existence of Solomon's Temple has been found.[54]

Second Temple


Model of Herod's Temple at the Israel Museum

The Second Temple (Hebrew: בֵּית־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי Bet HaMikdash HaSheni, Arabic: بيت القدس Beit al-Quds) which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon. Jewish eschatology includes a belief that the Second Temple will in turn be replaced by a future Third Temple. Reconstruction of the temple under Herod began with a massive expansion of the Temple Mount. Religious worship and temple rituals continued during the construction process.[55] Following the Great Revolt of the Province of Iudaea, the Temple was destroyed by Roman troops under Titus during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The most complete ancient account of this event is The Jewish War by Flavius Josephus. Later Roman governors used the remains to build palaces and a Temple of Jupiter, and the Byzantines a Church. It was not until the Dome of the Rock was built between 687 and 691 that the last remnants of the Temple were taken down. In addition to the platform, some remnants of the Temple remain above ground, including a step leading to the Dome of the Rock that is actually the capstone of the pre-Herodian wall of the Temple Mount platform.[56]

The Temple itself was located on the site of what today is the Dome of the Rock. The gates let out close to Al-Aqsa.[55]

Cave of the Patriarchs

285px-Israel Hebron Cave of the Patriarchs

Southern view of the enclosure

The Cave of the Patriarchs or the Cave of Machpelah (Hebrew: מערת המכפלה, Me'arat ha-Machpela, trans. "cave of the double tombs"), is known by Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham or Ibrahimi Mosque (Arabic: الحرم الإبراهيمي Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi) is located in the Palestinian city of Hebron. Situated beneath a Saladin-era mosque converted from a large rectangular Herodian-era structure, the series of subterranean chambers is located in the heart of Hebron (Al-Khalil)'s old city in the Hebron Hills. According to tradition that has been associated with both the Book of Genesis and the Quran, the cave and adjoining field were purchased by Abraham, and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah,
250px-Cenotaph of Abraham - northwestern view

Tomb of Abraham

Rebecca, and Leah, considered the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people, are all believed to be buried there. The only matriarch missing is Rachel, who is believed to be buried near Bethlehem where she died in childbirth.[57]

The Arabic name of the complex reflects the prominence given to Abraham, revered by Muslims as a Quranic prophet and patriarch through Ishmael. Outside biblical and Quranic sources there are a number of legends and traditions associated with the cave.


Jewish cuisine is generally noticeable, and depending on the region. However, the cuisine is regulated by Jewish food and moral laws, known as Kosher or Kashrut (Hebrew: כשר). Kosher laws prohibit Jews from consuming swine meat (pork) and shellfish.

Jews are also prohibited from eating blood, or any food that contains blood and Halakhic traditions also required that a certified rabbi to slay the animal for consumptions. The blood must be drained.

The foods are also shaped by Jewish Festivals and Shabbat traditions. Jewish Cuisine is influenced by the economics, agriculture, and culinary traditions of the many countries where Jewish communities have existed and varies widely throughout the world.

Broadly speaking, the distinctive styles or cuisines in their own right that may be discerned in Jewish cuisine are Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi, Arab, Persian, Yemenite, Indian, and Latin American. There are also distinctive dishes from Jewish communities ranging from Ethiopia to Central Asia.

Furthermore, since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and particularly since the late 1970s, a nascent Israeli "fusion cuisine" has developed, adopting and adapting elements of all the aforementioned Jewish styles, new dishes based on agricultural products introduced and grown since 1948, and incorporating other Middle Eastern fare and international cuisines.

Common ingredients in Jewish cuisine is fish, which is a very essential part of Jewish diets.

European and American Jewish Cuisine


Bagels with cream cheese and lox (cured salmon) associated with American Jewish cuisine

Most of Western Jewish cuisine is of Ashkenazi influence, and includes a lot of fish. The Jewish love of fish goes back to ancient times.[58] With kosher meat not always available, fish became an important staple of the Jewish diet. In Eastern Europe it was sometimes especially reserved for Shabbat. As fish is not considered meat in the same way that beef or poultry are, it can also be eaten with dairy products (although some Sefardim do not mix fish and dairy). Even though fish is parve, when they are served at the same meal, Orthodox Jews will eat them during separate courses, and wash (or replace) the dishes in between. Gefilte fish and lox are popular in Ashkenazi cuisine. Gefilte fish (from German gefüllte "stuffed" fish) was traditionally made by skinning the fish steaks, usually German carp, de-boning the flesh, mincing it and mixing with finely chopped browned onions (3:1), eggs, salt, pepper, and vegetable oil. The fish skin and head were then stuffed
170px-Gefilta Fish-1-

Gefilte fish with carrot slices and chrain

with the mixture and poached.[59]

A more common commercially packaged product found today is the "Polish" gefilte fish patties or balls, similar to quenelles, where sugar is added to the broth, resulting in a slightly sweet taste.[60] Strictly speaking they are the fish filling, rather than the complete filled fish.[61] This method of serving evolved from the tradition of removing the stuffing from the skin,[62] rather than portioning the entire fish into slices before serving.

While traditionally made with carp, gefilte fish may also be made from any large fish: cod, haddock, or hake in the United Kingdom, carp or pike in France. In United States whitefish is added to the above as a mince.

220px-Matzah balls

Soup with matso balls

Gehakte hering
(chopped herring), a popular appetizer on Shabbat, is made by chopping skinned, boned herrings with hard-boiled eggs, onions, apples, sugar, pepper, and a dash of vinegar.

A number of soups are characteristically Ashkenazi, one of the most common of which is chicken soup (יױך, yoykh), traditionally served on Shabbat, holidays, and special occasions. The soup may be served with noodles (lokshen in Yiddish), rice, or Shkedei marak (lit. "soup almonds" – croutons popular in Israel). Other popular ingredients are kreplach (dumplings) and kneidlach (matzo balls) – a mixture of matzo meal, eggs, water, melted fat, pepper and salt. Some reserve kneidlach for Passover and kreplach for other special occasions.

Mizrahi Jewish Cuisine


Fried kibbeh with peppermint

Middle Eastern Jewish cuisine is rather confined to Israel or Israeli-American Jews. A lot of the Jews in Israel have absorbed Arab dishes into their diet, as a result of factors such as the migration of Mizrahi Jews to Israel and the presence of Arabs in Palestine. Mizrahi Jews are the Jews of the Middle East, and points south and east, largely along the Mediterranean coastal areas and the Levant. In some countries, there was much mixing of populations after 1492 when the Jews were expelled from Spain. Cuisine of the Mizrahi Jews includes the cuisines of the Jews of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran (Persia), Afghanistan, Bukhara (Uzbekistan), Egypt, The Berber communities, Kurdistan, Eastern Caucasus and Georgia. Some of these communities and cuisine styles overlap with Sephardic communities who fled to many Eastern, Middle Eastern, and North African countries after the Spanish expulsion.
Falafel sandwhich

Falafel sandwich in Israel

Coming from the Mediterranean and "sunny" climes, Mizrahi cuisine is often light, with an emphasis on salads, stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, olive oil, lentils, fresh and dried fruits, herbs and nuts, and chickpeas. Meat dishes often make use of lamb or ground beef. Fresh lemon juice is added to many soups and sauces. Many meat and rice dishes incorporate dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins. Pine nuts are used as a garnish. Pomegranate juice is a staple of Persian Jewish cooking. Kubbeh (Arabic: كبة

Hummus topped with ful and tehina

Hebrew: נייה), a meat-stuffed bulgur dumpling, features in the cooking of many Mizrahi communities. It is served in the cooking broth, as a kind of soup.

Falafel (Arabic: الفلافل, Hebrew: פלפל), which are patties of deep-fried mashed chickpeas with tahini sauce are a popular Arab dish, that is now considered a national snack in Israel. It is accompanied by other popular Middle Eastern dishes, such as hummus (Arabic: الحمص, Hebrew: חומוס) a Levantine Arab food dip.

Sephardic Jewish Cuisine

Many Mizrahi Jews also overlap in the Sephardic group, or consider themselves part of the Sephardic group, which are the Jews who were expelled from Spain. Sephardic Jewish cuisine contains large elements of Turkish cuisine. Sephardi cuisine emphasizes salads, stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, olive oil, lentils, fresh and dried fruits, herbs and nuts, and chickpeas. Meat dishes often make use of lamb or ground beef. Fresh lemon juice is added to many soups and sauces. Many meat and rice dishes incorporate dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins. Pine nuts are used as a garnish.

In the early days, Sephardic cuisine was influenced by the local cuisines of Spain and Portugal, both under Catholic and Islamic regimes. A particular affinity to exotic foods from outside of Spain became apparent under Muslim rule, as evidenced even today with ingredients brought in by the Muslims.[63]

Cumin, cilantro, and turmeric are very common in Sephardi cooking. Caraway and capers were brought to Spain by the Muslims and are featured in the cuisine.[63] Cardamom ("hel") is used to flavor coffee. Chopped fresh cilantro and parsley are popular garnishes. Chopped mint is added to salads and cooked dishes, and fresh mint leaves ("nana") are served in tea. Cinnamon is sometimes used as a meat seasoning, especially in dishes made with ground meat. Saffron, which is grown in Spain is used in many varieties of Sephardic cooking, as well as spices found in the areas where they have settled.

Tiny cups of Turkish coffee, sometimes spiced with cardamom, are often served at the end of a festive meal, accompanied by small portions of baklava or other pastries dipped in syrup or honey. Hot sahlab (Turkish: salep) (Arabic: سحلب, Hebrew: סַחְלֶבּּ), a liquid cornstarch pudding originally flavored with orchid powder (today invariably replaced by artificial flavorings), is served in cups as a winter drink, garnished with cinnamon, nuts, coconut and raisins. Arak is the preferred alcoholic beverage. Rosewater is a common ingredient in cakes and desserts. Malabi, a cold cornstarch pudding, is sprinkled with rosewater and red syrup.(all these dishes and ingredients constitute the adopted dishes of the local population where the Jewish population settled).

Holiday Dishes

Sabbath Meals

220px-Chol 001


Good food is an important part of the mitzvah of "oneg Shabbat" ("enjoying Shabbat"). Hence much of Jewish cuisine revolves around Shabbat.

As observant Jews do not cook on Shabbat, various techniques were developed to provide for a hot meal on Shabbat day. One such dish is "cholent" (Hebrew: צ'ולנט) or "chamin,"  a slow-cooked stew of meat, potatoes, beans and barley (although there are many other variations). The ingredients are placed in a pot and put up to boil before lighting the candles on Friday night. Then the pot is placed on a hotplate, traditional "blech" (thin tin sheet used to cover the flames, and on which the pot is placed), or in a slow oven and left to simmer until the following day.[64]

A prominent feature of Shabbat cookery is the preparation of twists of bread, known as "challahs" (Hebrew: לחלה) or (in

Challah bread

southern Germany, Austria and Hungary) "barches." They are often covered with seeds to represent manna, which fell in a double portion on the sixth day. Another Shabbat dish is calf's foot jelly, called p'tsha or šaltiena in Lithuania and galarita, galer, galleh,or fisnoge in Poland. Beef or calf bones are put up to boil with water, seasonings, garlic and onions for a long time. It is then allowed to cool. The broth then jells into a semi-solid mass, which is served in cubes. Drelies, a similar dish originating in south Russia and Galicia is mixed with soft-boiled eggs and vinegar when removed from the oven, and served hot. In Romania it is called piftie, in Serbia pihtije; it is served cold, with


garlic, hard boiled eggs and vinegar sauce or mustard creme and considered a traditional dish in the winter season.

Kugel is another Shabbat favorite, particularly lokshen kugel, a sweet baked noodle pudding, often with raisins and spices. Non-sweet kugels may be made of potatoes, carrots or a combination of vegetables.

Traditional noodles—lokshen—are made from a dough of flour and eggs rolled into sheets and then cut into long strips. If the dough is cut into small squares, it becomes farfel. Both lokshen and farfel are usually boiled and served with soup.

Rosh HaShanah

On Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, a variety of symbolic foods are eaten.

  • Apples and honey—for a sweet year
  • Round Challah (for Ashkenazi Jews)
  • Tzimmes (for Ashkenazi Jews)
  • Teiglach (for Ashkenazi Jews)
  • Honey cake
  • Pomegranates – for a year of many blessings (as many as there are seeds in a pomegranate). Also pomegranates are popular on this holiday because the number of seeds in the fruit—613—is the number of mitzvot [commandments] in the Torah
  • Fish, with head, for a successful year in which we are the "head," not the "tail."

Passover Seder Meal

200px-Shmura Matzo

Handmade shmura matzo

Passover celebrates The Exodus from Egypt where it is said the Jewish people left so quickly, there was no time for their bread to rise.[65] Commemorating this event, Jews eat a an unleavened bread-cracker known as the matzo (Hebrew: מַצָּה) and abstain from bread, cakes and other foods made with yeast and leavening agents. In modern times, rabbinical authorities permit the use of chemical leavening, such as baking powder. Matzo is a staple food during the holiday and used as an ingredient of many Passover dishes. Kneidlach (matzo ball) soup is traditional. Fish is coated with matzo meal before frying, and cakes and puddings are made with potato starch and matzo meal.

Jewish cooks use both matzo meal and potato starch for pastries during Passover. Whisked whole eggs or egg whites are frequently used to make pastries without leavening agents, such as angel and sponge cakes (potato starch replacing cake flour) and coconut and almond macaroons.[66]

The holy Passover meal is known as the seder (Hebrew: סֵדֶר, Yiddish: סיידער).

Passover foods vary distinctly between Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities. Ashkenazim exclude rice,

Table set for the Passover Seder

while it is served by Sephardim. Matzo is traditionally prepared from water and flour only, but there are other varieties, such as egg matzo, which may also contain fruit juice. At the seder, it is customary in some communities, particularly among strictly Orthodox Jews, to use handmade shmura matzo, which has undergone particularly strict kashrut supervision.

The exclusion of leaven from the home has forced Jewish cooks to be creative, producing a wide variety of Passover dishes that use matzo meal and potato as thickeners. Potato flour is largely used in cakes along with finely ground matzo meal and nuts.

Popular Ashkenazi dishes are matzo brei (crumbled matzo with grated onion, fried with scrambled egg), matzo latkes (pancakes) and chremslach (also called crimsel or gresjelies; matzo meal fritters). Wined matzo kugels (pudding) have been introduced into modern Jewish cooking. For thickening soups and sauces at Passover fine matzo meal or potato flour is used instead of flour: for frying fish or cutlets, a coating of matzo meal and egg, and for stuffing, potatoes instead of soaked bread.

"Noodles" may be made by making pancakes with beaten eggs and matzo meal which, when cooked, are rolled up and cut into strips. They may be dropped into soup before serving. Matzo kleys(dumplings) are small balls made from suet mixed with chopped fried onions, chopped parsley, beaten egg, and seasonings, dropped into soup and cooked.

Notable Jews Or People of Jewish Origin


Jesus Christ


Also known by Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader and teacher who is regarded as the Messiah promised in Judaism by Christians. He was born in Bethlehem and crucified by the Romans, he is the central figure in Christianity and is considered a very important prophet in Islam. Christians and Muslims believe that he will return to Earth for Judgment Day.

Flavius Josephus

Flavius Josephus

A Roman Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer, born to a priestly father and a mother of noble origin in Roman Judea, he fought against the Romans under the rule of Vespasian until befriending them and became the following Roman emperor, Titus' advisor - he is most well-known for recording Jewish history



A Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria, Roman Egypt. He used philosophical allegory to attempt to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy with Jewish philosophy. His method followed the practices of both Jewish exegesis and Stoic philosophy. His allegorical exegesis was important for several Christian Church Fathers. He believed that literal interpretations of the Hebrew Bible would stifle humanity's view and perception of a God too complex and marvelous to be understood in literal human terms.



Also known by the Hebrew acronym RaMBaM, was a medieval Jewish philosopher from Spain during the Almoravid rule, he was also a rabbi and physician of the Jewish communities in Egypt and Morocco and an astronomer during his time in Spain, an Arabic-speaking Jew, he is a very important figure not only in Jewish history but Islamic and Arab history as well, he wrote many of his works in Arabic alongside Hebrew

Baruch Spinoza

Later Benedict de Spinoza, a Dutch philosopher. The breadth and importance his work was not fully realized until years after his death. By laying the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment, and modern biblical criticism, including modern conceptions of the self and, arguably, the universe, he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. Born into a Portuguese Jewish community, he was shunned due to this criticisms of the Bible and its authenticity.

Sholem Aleichem


Real name is Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, was a Yiddish-language playwright from what is now Ukraine (then part of the Russian Empire), famous for the musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on his stories about Tevye the Dairyman, was the first commercially successful English-language stage production about Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

Saadia Gaon
Saadia Gaon

A prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete from Egypt. The first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature. Known for his works on Hebrew linguistics, Halakha, and Jewish philosophy, he was one of the more sophisticated practitioners of the philosophical school known as the "Jewish Kalam". Saadia was also very active in opposition to Karaism, in defense of rabbinic Judaism

Emmy Noether

Emmy Noether

Official name is Amalie Emmy Noether; an influential German mathematician known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics. She revolutionized the theories of rings, fields, and algebras. In physics, Noether's theorem explains the fundamental connection between symmetry and conservation laws. She was born to a Jewish family in the Bavarian town of Erlangen

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Full name is Annelies Marie Frank, one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Her autobiography The Diary of a Young Girl has been the basis for several plays and films. Born a German national, Frank lost her citizenship in 1941. She gained international fame posthumously after her diary was published. It documents her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

A German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. Born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

Sigmund Frued

An Austrian neurologist who became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis. His analysis of his own and his patients' dreams as wish-fulfillment provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the mechanisms of repression as well as for elaboration of his theory of the unconscious as an agency disruptive of conscious states of mind. He of Ashkenazi Jewish background although an atheist.

Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner

An Austrian, later Swedish, physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda


A Lithuanian newspaper editor and lexicographer (one who studies the vocabulary of a language) who provided the backbone of the movements for the revival of the Modern Hebrew language. Born in what is now Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire), he decided that Modern Hebrew would unite the Jews and make Aliyahs to Palestine easier

Marc Chagall Marc Chagall

A Russian-French artist, he was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in virtually every artistic medium, including painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints and considered by many art critics to be one of the best European Jewish painters

Golda Meir

220px-Golda Meir 03265u
Teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, in 1969, after serving as Minister of Labour and Foreign Minister, Israel's first and the world's third woman to hold such an office. Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion used to call Meir "the best man in the government"; she was often portrayed as the "strong-willed, straight-talking, grey-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people".

Natalie Portman

Born as Natalia Hershlag, an Israeli American actress. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 action film Léon: The Professional, but mainstream success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005). In 1999, she enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology while still working as an actress. She completed her bachelor's degree in 2003

Frida Kahlo

A painter from Mexico City of German and Jewish origin that became a leading influence of Mexican paintings. Her work has been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.

Émile Durkheim


A French sociologist, social psychologist and philosopher. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology. He was born of devout Jewish lineage, his ancestors were rabbis.

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt

A French stage and early film actress, and has been referred to as "the most famous actress the world has ever known." Bernhardt made her fame on the stages of France in the 1870s, at the beginning of the Belle Epoque period, and was soon in demand in Europe and the Americas. She developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress, earning the nickname "The Divine Sarah."

Isaac Asimov

Isaac ASimov
A Russian-born American author and professor of biochemistry who was best known for his famous works of science fiction, editing more than 500 books and some famous works from him include the Robot series, born a Russian Jew near Belarus in a Yiddish-speaking home, he actually never learned Russian

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

An American (German-born) theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). While best known for his mass–energy equivalence formula which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation"), he received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect". The latter was pivotal in establishing quantum theory.

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein
An American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim. According to The New York Times, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history
Mila Kunis
Mila Kunis

An American actress. Born in the Ukrainian SSR, in 1991, at the age of seven, she moved from the Soviet Union to Los Angeles with her family. After being enrolled in acting classes as an after-school activity, she was soon discovered by an agent. She appeared in several television series and commercials, before acquiring her first significant role prior to her 15th birthday, playing Jackie Burkhart on the television series That '70s Show. In September 1999, she began voicing Meg Griffin on the animated series Family Guy.


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  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 [מרדכי וורמברנד ובצלאל ס רותת "עם ישראל - תולדות 4000 שנה - מימי האבות ועד חוזה השלום", ע"מ 95. (Translation: Mordechai Vermebrand and Betzalel S. Ruth - "The People of Israel - the history of 4000 years - from the days of the Forefathers to the Peace Treaty", 1981, pg. 95)
  23. 23.0 23.1 [Dr. Solomon Gryazel, "History of the Jews - From the destruction of Judah in 586 BC to the preset Arab Israeli conflict", p. 137]
  24. See:
    • William David Davies. The Hellenistic Age. Volume 2 of Cambridge History of Judaism. Cambridge University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-521-21929-7. pp. 292–312.
    • Jeff S. Anderson. The Internal Diversification of Second Temple Judaism: An Introduction to the Second Temple Period. University Press of America, 2002. ISBN 978-0-7618-2327-8. pp. 37–38.
    • Howard N. Lupovitch. Jews and Judaism in World History. Taylor & Francis. 2009. ISBN 978-0-415-46205-1. pp. 26–30.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 Joseph E. Katz (2001). "Continuous Jewish Presence in the Holy Land". EretzYisroel.Org. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  26. Moshe Gil, A History of Palestine: 634–1099
  27. 27.0 27.1 Sephardim by Rebecca Weiner.
  28. "Jewish Zionist Education". 2005-05-15. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
  30. Benjamin J. Segal. "Section III: The Bibilical Age: Chapter Seventeen: Awaiting the Messiah". Returning, the Land of Israel as a Focus in Jewish History. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  31. Maurice Roumani, The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, 1977, pp. 26–27.
  32. Template:Cite encyclopedia
  33. Mitchell Bard (2012). "The Treatment of Jews in Arab/Islamic Countries". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  34. The Forgotten RefugeesTemplate:Dead link
  35. Rebecca Weiner. "Sephardim". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  36. Kraemer, Joel L., "Moses Maimonides: An Intellectual Portrait," The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides, pp. 16–17 (2005)
  37. Carroll, James. Constantine's Sword (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) ISBN 978-0-395-77927-9 p. 26
  38. 38.0 38.1 Norman F. Cantor, The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era, Free Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-7432-2688-2, p. 28–29
  39. Jewish Nobel Prize Winners
  40. "The Jewish Resistance Movement". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  41. Horne, Edward (1982). A Job Well Done (Being a History of The Palestine Police Force 1920–1948). The Anchor Press. ISBN 978-0-9508367-0-6. Pages 272, 299. States that Haganah withdrew on July 1, 1946. But remained permanently uncooperative.
  42. Grintz, Jehoshua M. "Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple." Journal of Biblical Literature. March, 1960.
  43. Parfitt, T. V. "The Use of Hebrew in Palestine 1800–1822." Journal of Semitic Studies , 1972.
  44. Klein, Zeev (March 18, 2013). "A million and a half Israelis struggle with Hebrew". Israel Hayom. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  45. Nachman Gur, Behadrey Haredim. "Kometz Aleph – Au• How many Hebrew speakers are there in the world?". Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  46. 46.0 46.1 Franz Rosenthal, A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1961), p. 5.
  47. Moshe Beer, "Judaism (Babylonian)" Anchor Bible Dictionary 3 (1996), p. 1080.
  48. Saul Shaked, "Aramaic" Encyclopedia Iranica 2 (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987), p. 251
  49. Yiddish, Eastern, on Ethnologue. Retrieved 29 June 2013.
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  56. The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Gershom Gorenberg, Oxford University Press US, 2002, 78
  57. "Cave of Machpelah". Jewish Virtual Library.
    What became of Jacob's two concubines, "Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid", and "Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid" (Genesis 35:25–26) is not known.
  58. Numbers xi. 5
  59. Попова, М. Ф., Секреты Одесской кухни, , Друк, Одесса, 2004, p.163 (Russian); Popova M.F., Secrets of Odessa kitchen, Druk, Odessa, 2004, p.163
  60. Satz, Miriam, Heirloom cookbook: recipes handed down by Jewish mothers and modern recipes from daughters and friends, Kar-Ben, 2003, p.14
  61. Goodman, Hanna, Jewish cooking around the World: gourmet and holiday recipes, Varda Books Skokie, Illinois, 2002, p.147
  62. Garfunkel, Trudy, Kosher for everybody: the complete guide to understanding, shopping, cooking, and eating the kosher way, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004, p.11
  63. 63.0 63.1 Gitlitz and Davidson, pg. 5
  64. The Complete & Illustrated Guide by Rabbi Fishel Jacobs Sabbath
  65. Exodus 12:34.
  66. History of Macaroons