Jews has come to history as they developed their nation, religion and culture and interacted with other peoples, religions, and cultures.
Jews come from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah, two related kingdoms that emerged in the Levant during the Iron Age. Although the earliest mention of Israel is inscribed on the Merneptah Stele around 1213–1203 BCE, religious literature tells the story of Israelites going back at least as far as c. 1500 BCE. The Kingdom of Israel fell to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in around 720 BCE, and the Kingdom of Judah to the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE. Part of the Judean population was exiled to Babylon. The Assyrian and Babylonian captivities are regarded as representing the start of the Jewish diaspora.
After the Persian Achaemenid Empire conquered the region, the exiled Jews were allowed to return and rebuild the temple; these events mark the beginning of the Second Temple period. After several centuries of foreign rule, the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire led to an independent Hasmonean kingdom, but it was gradually incorporated into Roman rule.
The Jewish-Roman wars, a series of unsuccessful revolts against the Romans in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple, and the expulsion of many Jews. The Jewish population in Syria Palaestina gradually decreased during the following centuries, enhancing the role of the Jewish diaspora and shifting the spiritual and demographic center from the depopulated Judea to Galilee and then to Babylon, with smaller communities spread out across the Roman Empire.
During the same period, the Mishnah and the Talmud, central Jewish texts, were composed. In the following millennia, the diaspora communities coalesced into three major ethnic subdivisions according to where their ancestors settled: the Ashkenazim (Central and Eastern Europe), the Sephardim (initially in the Iberian Peninsula), and the Mizrahim (Middle East and North Africa).
Byzantine rule over the Levant was lost in the 7th century as the newly established Islamic Caliphate expanded into the Eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, North Africa and later into the Iberian Peninsula. Jewish culture enjoyed a golden age in Spain, with Jews becoming widely accepted in society and their religious, cultural, and economic life blossomed. However, in 1492 the Jews were forced to leave Spain and migrated in great numbers to the Ottoman Empire and Italy. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, Ashkenazi Jews experienced extreme persecution in Central Europe, which prompted their mass migration to Poland. The 18th century saw the rise of the Haskalah intellectual movement. Also starting in the 18th century, Jews began to campaign for Jewish emancipation from restrictive laws and integration into the wider European society.
In the 19th century, when Jews in Western Europe were increasingly granted equality before the law, Jews in the Pale of Settlement faced growing persecution, legal restrictions and widespread pogroms. During the 1870s and 1880s, the Jewish population in Europe began to more actively discuss emigration to Ottoman Syria with the aim of re-establishing a Jewish polity in Palestine. The Zionist movement was officially founded in 1897. The pogroms also triggered a mass exodus of more than two million Jews to the United States between 1881 and 1924. The Jews of Europe and the United States gained success in the fields of science, culture and the economy. Among those generally considered the most famous were Albert Einstein and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Many Nobel Prize winners at this time were Jewish, as is still the case.
In 1933, with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany, the Jewish situation became severe. Economic crises, racial antisemitic laws, and a fear of an upcoming war led many to flee from Europe to Mandatory Palestine, to the United States and to the Soviet Union. In 1939, World War II began and until 1941 Hitler occupied almost all of Europe. In 1941, following the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Final Solution began, an extensive organized operation on an unprecedented scale, aimed at the annihilation of the Jewish people, and resulting in the persecution and murder of Jews in Europe and North Africa. In Poland, three million were murdered in gas chambers in all concentration camps combined, with one million at the Auschwitz camp complex alone. This genocide, in which approximately six million Jews were methodically exterminated, is known as the Holocaust.
On the other hand, Palestine was among former Ottoman territories placed under UK administration by the League of Nations in 1922. All of these territories eventually became fully independent States, except Palestine, where in addition to “the rendering of administrative assistance and advice” the British Mandate incorporated the “Balfour Declaration” of 1917, expressing support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. During the Mandate, from 1922 to 1947, large-scale Jewish immigration, mainly from Eastern Europe took place, the numbers swelling in the 1930s with the Nazi persecution. Arab demands for independence and resistance to immigration led to a rebellion in 1937, followed by continuing terrorism and violence from both sides. UK considered various formulas to bring independence to a land ravaged by violence. In 1947, the UK turned the Palestine problem over to the UN.