Jewish History

Jewish History Jewish History Throughout the history of the world, the Jewish people have been persecuted and oppressed because of their religious beliefs and faith. Many groups of people have made Jews their scapegoat. Jews have suffered from years of intolerance because people have not understood what the religion really means. They do not understand where and why the religion began, nor the customs of it’s people. For one to understand the great hardships, triumphs, and history of the Jewish people one must open-mindedly peruse a greater knowledge of the Jewish people and faith.

In the beginning, Judaism was founded by Abraham when he began to worship a figure called Elohim. There were twelve original tribes that were enslaved for several generations in Egypt. In Egypt the Jews were persecuted and sold into slavery. It was not until Moses, a Hebrew adopted by the pharaoh, realized his duty to release his people from their oppression. He eventually led the people from Egypt into the desert where they wandered for 40 years (Encyclopedia Britannica 6).

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Israel began as a confederation of tribes, then as a kingdom and celebrated as its formative experiences the redemption from Egyptian bondage. The notion of an independent Jewish confederation of tribes started as a kingdom that was to celebrate its freedom from Egyptian bondage. The settlement of the land Cannon, the future sight of the land Israel, is a perfect example portraying such a redemption. According to the Exodus tradition in the torah and the conquest tradition in the bible this coarse of events appears to have taken place during the late 13th century BCE and perhaps to the beginning of the 12th century (Microsoft Encarta 3). The exile of the Judeans to Babylonia in 586 BC was a major turning point in Israelite religion. The prior history of Israel was reinterpreted in light of the events of 586, laying the foundation for the traditional biblical Pentateuch, prophetic canon, and historical books (Microsoft Encarta 4).

The prophets Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah believed that Yahweh had used the Babylonian Empire to punish the Israelites for their sins, and he therefore had the power to redeem them from captivity if they repented. The Babylonian exiles’ messianic hope for a restored Judean kingdom under the leadership of a scion of the royal house of David seemed to have been justified when Cyrus the Great, after conquering Babylon in 539 BC, permitted a repatriation of subject populations and a restoration of local temples. The restored Judean commonwealth did not fully realize this hope, however, because the Persians did not allow the reestablishment of a Judean monarchy, but only a temple-state with the high priest as its chief administrator. A truly monotheistic religion developed as the God of Israel came to be seen as the God ruling universal history and the destiny of all nations (Rich 2). As for a common thread throughout Judaism, the area of focus is the place associated with the religion, Jerusalem, a place to call home.

No other religion has ever been so attached to its birthplace as Judaism. Perhaps this is because Jews have been exiled and restricted from this place for most of their history. Jerusalem is not only home to Judaism, but to the Muslim and Christian religions, as well. Historically, this has made it quite a busy place for the various groups. Jerusalem is where the temple of the Jews once stood, the only place on Earth where one could leave the confines of day to day life and get closer to God.

In 586 BCE when the temple was destroyed, no Jew would have denied Jerusalem as being the geographic center of the religion (BCE 4). From that point on the Jewish people migrated around the world, but not one forgets the fact that Jerusalem is where it all began. It is truly a sacred place, and helps to define what Judaism means to many people; a common thread to run through all the various splinters of the religion and help hold them together (B’nei Shaare Zion Congregation 2). Even today, as the Jewish people have their precious Jerusalem back (through the help of other nations and their politics) there is great conflict and emotion surrounding it. Other nations and people in the area feel that they should be in control of the renowned city, and the Jews deny fiercely any attempt to wrestle it from their occupation.

It is true that there is no temple in Jerusalem today, nor are all the Jews in the world rushing to get back there. It is apparent, however, that the city represents more to the religion of Judaism than a mere place to live and work. The city of Jerusalem is a spiritual epicenter, and throughout Judaism’s long and varied history this single fact has never changed (Jewish Student Online Research Center 2). Tribal, pre-monarchy Judaism’s roots lie far back in the beginnings of recorded history. The religion did not spring into existence exactly as it is known today, rather it was pushed and prodded by various environmental factors along the way. One of the first major influences on the religion was the Canaanite nation (Falgin 1). Various theories exist as to how and when the people that would later be called Jews entered into this civilization.

Regardless of how they ultimately got there, these pioneers of the new faith were subject to many of the ideas and prejudices of the time. Any new society that finds itself in an existing social situation can do no more than to try and integrate into that framework (The Jewish Student Online Research Center. 2) This is exactly what the Jews did. Early Jew’s worshipped multiple gods. One of these gods was known as Ba’al, a ‘statue god’ with certain limitations on his power.

The other primary deity was called Yahweh, who enjoyed a much more mysterious and elusive reputation. He was very numinous and one was to have great respect, but great fear for him at the same time. Ba’al was never really feared, as his cycles (metaphorically seen as the seasons) were fairly well known, and not at all fear-inducing (Microsoft Encarta 6). The fact that the early Jews and Canaanites had these two radically different representations of a deity active in their culture assured that there would be splits in the faith. One group inevitably would focus on one of the gods, and the other would focus on another. In this way, the single religion could support multiple types of worship, leading to multiple philosophies and patterns of behavior, which could then focus more a …