The Jews (Hebrew: יְהוּדִים ISO 259-3 Yhudim Israeli pronunciation [jehu'dim]), also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation. Converts to Judaism, whose status as Jews within the Jewish ethnos is equal to those born into it, have been absorbed into the Jewish people throughout the millennia.
In Jewish tradition, Jewish ancestry is traced to the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the second millennium BCE. The modern State of Israel defines itself as a Jewish state in its Basic Laws, and is the only country where Jews are a majority of the population. Jews also experienced political autonomy twice during ancient history. The first of the two ancient eras spanned from 1350 to 586 BCE, and encompassed the periods of the Judges, the United Monarchy, and the Divided Monarchy of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, ending with the destruction of the First Temple. The second era was the period of the Hasmonean Kingdom spanning from 140 to 37 BCE. Since the destruction of the First Temple, the diaspora has been the home of most of the world's Jews. Except in Israel, Jews are a minority in every country in which they live, and they have frequently experienced persecution throughout history, resulting in a population that fluctuated both in numbers and distribution over the centuries.
As of 2010[update], the world Jewish population was estimated at 13.42 million by the North American Jewish Data Bank, or roughly 0.2% of the total world population. According to this report, about 42% of all Jews reside in Israel (5.70 million), and about 42% in the United States (5.28 million) and Canada (0.38 million), with most of the remainder living in Europe (1.46 million). These numbers include all those who consider themselves Jews, whether or not they are affiliated with a Jewish organization. The total world Jewish population, however, is difficult to measure. In addition to issues with census methodology, there are halakhic disputes regarding who is a Jew and secular, political, and ancestral identification factors that may affect the figure considerably.
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