Origins and definitions
The history of the Jewish people goes back some 4000 years. At that time a number of tribes called the Israelites lived in Israel; the ‘Children of Israel’. They were also known as the Hebrews and spoke a language of the same name, in which their scriptures came to be written. Today’s Jews are their direct descendants. 30 per cent of the 15 million Jews today live in the USA. 25 per cent live in Israel. The Jewish population of Britain numbers around 385 000. Jews believe that they are the chosen people of God, with a special role to play in His purpose. Anyone with a Jewish mother is automatically a part of their faith. Secular Jews do not practise the faith but they remain Jewish. An important aspect of Jewishness is sharing: festivals, food laws and rituals and so on. Most Jews are born so; few people convert to Judaism.
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