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Ask The Israeli Expert » Where did the Jews come from? Why are the offspring of Abraham called Jews?

The Jews originate from the region of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). Originally, the Jewish people were called Israelites or sons of Israel, after the last Jewish Patriarch Jacob, who was also named Israel. The Israelites were composed of twelve tribes, of which the tribe of Judah was one. Although they were briefly unified in the 10th century BC under the Kings David and Solomon, they eventually split into two kingdoms – one called Israel (with ten tribes) and one called Judah (with the remaining two tribes).

In a series of expulsions ending in 722 BCE, the tribes living in the Kingdom of Israel were expelled and subsequently disappeared. Only two tribes remained, Judah and Benjamin, alongside Jewish priests in the Kingdom of Judah. As Judah was the dominant tribe of the southern Kingdom (indeed, the kingdom was called Judah), the remaining Israelites became Judaites or Judaeans and eventually just Jews.