The Jews (Hebrew: Yehudim, Israeli pronunciation [jehu?dim]), also known as the Jewish people, are an ethnoreligious group originating from the Israelites, or Hebrews, of the Ancient Near East. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.
Jews originated as a national and religious group in the Middle East during the second millennium BCE, in the part of the Levant known as the Land of Israel. The Merneptah Stele appears to confirm the existence of a people of Israel, associated with the god El, somewhere in Canaan as far back as the 13th century BCE (Late Bronze Age). The Israelites, as an outgrowth of the Canaanite population, consolidated their hold with the emergence of the Kingdom of Israel, and the Kingdom of Judah. Some consider that these Canaanite sedentary Israelites melded with incoming nomadic groups known as ‘Hebrews’. Though few sources in the Bible mention the exilic periods in detail, the experience of diaspora life, from the Ancient Egyptian rule over the Levant, to Assyrian Captivity and Exile, to Babylonian Captivity and Exile, to Seleucid Imperial rule, to the Roman occupation, and the historical relations between Israelites and their homeland, became a major feature of Jewish history, identity and memory.
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