What is a Jew-Hebrew-Israelite? These are words that have been used as synonyms to describe less than 1% of the population of the world. Today there are about 13 million Jews in the world with Israel and the USA having the largest populations. In 2010 Israel had 5,703,700 Jews and the USA had 5,275,000.
The Jewish religion consists of believing in one unseen G-d, and living by a set of commanments of things to do and not to do to make their life and themselves better. They are also a people with a language of their own as well as a culture. For 2,000 years they have been stateless, but now have their state back.
Jews started off as the family of Abraham of Ur which is now in Iraq about 3,800 years ago, and they have held to the belief in one G-d. The closest to that idea in those days had been in Egypt, when one of the pharoahs worshipped the sun. Otherwise, the world believed in many gods, idols, rocks, animals, and all sorts of things. Others joined his family group because they agreed with Abraham. Moses was born and cemented the religion with receiving messages from G-d which he wrote down. This is found in a book called "the Torah". G-d told the people to live in Canaan and gave them the geography of what was to be the borders for them. So these people now had a land promised to them and had become a nation with a book telling them how to live. They all spoke the same language of Hebrew.
Abraham is called the Father of Judaism. He started it all by breaking the idols his father had made to sell in his shop. He took his family and traveled far away to the land of Canaan. He is referred to in the Bible as an Ibri which means a Hebrew. “Ibri” means he migrated from the other side. He came from the east of the Euphrates River. So in other words, Ibri, or a Hebrew, is an Easterner.
Abraham had one son with Sarah, his wife. That was Isaac. Isaac's son was Jacob and Rebekah was his mother. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob was also called Israel.
Jacob/Israel had 12 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issacher, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. He also had a daughter named Dinah. The 12 sons became 12 tribes and their descendants were known as the children of Israel-the Israelite Nation-or People. The name, Israel, has meaning and that may have something to do with this additional tag. It has been found to mean such things as G-d contended-to strive against difficulties, rule, be strong, to have authority over, G-d rules, or judges.
Judah was one of the 12 sons and the most well known. As time went by, there were two Jewish states; Israel and Judea. The Judeans from the Kingdom of Judea survived when the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 BCE. At this time 10 tribes from the original 12 were led away as slaves.
This is the history of the Jewish people whose faith is Judaism. Their language is Hebrew, and they came from the land of Israel. Today they are back in that land, though just a small portion of it, but they still are Jewish and speak Hebrew.
When the Jews were dispersed after 70 AD when Jerusalem fell to the Roman soldiers, those that weren’t captives made their way into other lands. Finally some wound up in Germany by the Middle Ages. They learned German, but then mixed it up with Hebrew and a few other words from the others lands they had traveled through and it came to be known as Yiddish. Those Jews who went a different direction and wound up in Spain did the same thing with Spanish. They mixed it with Hebrew and their language is known as Ladino.
Science has found through dna that Jews have stayed together and have distinct haplogroups. J1 is called the Cohen gene. Men with this haplogroup descend from Aaron and his brother Moses. Many still are members of the Jewish family and continue to serve in the synagogue as the first men to be called to the Torah to read from it on Shabbat.
Jews, whether born to a Jewish mother, making them automatic Jews, or Jews who have converted to Judaism, all consider themselves as members of Abraham’s family. We are the children of Israel. This means that when the state of Israel today is harmed, Jews everywhere are sharing their concern and hurt.
Book: To Be a Jew, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin