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History

The Birth of Judaism

Late in the 2nd millennium bc the Aramaeans moved into present-day Syria, establishing the ancient country of Aram. They spoke a Semitic language from which Hebrew and Arabic are derived. Other Semitic peoples, a confederation of Hebrew tribes called the Israelites, settled in the region of Palestine during the same time period. Israelite religion and institutions were shaped under Hebrew prophet and lawgiver Moses about 1300 bc and subsequently under Saul and David, the first two kings of ancient Israel, in the 11th and 10th centuries bc. The Israelites believed that they, the Jews, were the chosen people of their one God. They were the first ethnic and religious group to adopt monotheism. The region was attacked by Assyria in 722 bc and by Assyria’s successor, Babylonia, in 586 bc. On both occasions many thousands of Jews were forced into exile.

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