Jews and Conflict

“The word ‘Jew’ testifies to conflict. Before there were Jews, there was Israel, the people chosen by God to be the bearer of his covenant. After the death of Solomon the people split in two, into a northern kingdom of ten tribes called Israel, and a southern kingdom called Judah, though it comprised the tribe of Benjamin as well. In the eighth century BCE the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and its population deported. Rapidly they merged with the surrounding peoples, losing their language, their distinctive faith, and their identity. They assimilated and disappeared from the pages of history, to be remembered as the lost ten tribes. Those who remained were yehudim, Judeans, or, as the word gradually evolved from Greek to Latin to English, Jews. The history of the word takes us inexorably back to the first great division in Israel’s memory. It was not the last.”

One People, p. 18