Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions, and has been practiced for thousands of years in the Middle Eastern "Holy Land" and beyond. It is one of the main Abrahamic religions in the world today. Since its inception in Canaan, in modern-day Israel and Palestine, Judaism has grown by global scales to boast nearly 16 million followers today. The religion uses Torah as the primary religious text and supplemented by the oral traditions in the Talmud and Midrash texts.
5. History, Sacred Texts, and Overview of Beliefs
The Judaism religion can be traced back to Iron Age Canaan, which today occupies the territories of Israel and Palestine. The father of Judaism is Abraham, a character mentioned extensively in the Hebrew Bible. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the revered patriarchs of the religion. The belief is based on the Covenant believed to have been made between God and Abraham. The covenant was founded on rights and obligations by each party to the other. Generations after Judaism was founded, believers of the religion came to be referred to the Jews. The general Sacred text of Judaism is the Tanakh, which is an acronym derived from Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim. Torah represents the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Other sacred texts, prophecies, and historical narrations are in the Nevi’im, Ketuvim, and Talmud. Jews believe in only One God and in a messiah who will come to save the righteous and judge the wicked. Jews also observe the Ten Commandments as written in the Torah.
4. Global Presence and Notable Practitioners
Due to persecution and displacement, Jews have a worldwide presence of only around an estimated 16 million. Israel is a Jewish majority state, boasting of housing 6.1 million of Judaism's believers. The United States follows closely in second with a 5.7 million-person population of Jews. Other countries with a substantial population of Jews are France, Canada, Latin America, Britain, Russia, and Germany. Jews have contributed significantly in realms of music, politics, and science. David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, was largely instrumental in the establishment of the State of Israel. He is notably known for policies he helped initiate, to absorb Jews to the new state. Another notable Jew was Sir Sigmund Freud, widely acclaimed for his theories in the field of psychology.
3. Development and Spread of the Faith
The spread of Judaism all over the world can be explained by the physical scattering of the Jews. The ancient Israelite Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans. This occupation forced Jews to flee the Kingdom, a dispersion known as the Diaspora. The most devastating persecution to the Judaism population was during the Second World War, where nearly a third of Jews were killed by the Nazis. The Holocaust caused a large number of Jews to flee to regions all over the world, and facilitated the spread of the faith. Since the war ended, the numbers of Judaism practitioners have been on the rise. The period between 2005 and 2015 experienced a global increase of Jews at an estimated rate of 8%.
2. Challenges and Controversies
Different sects exist in Judaism, a factor which prevents the formation of a unitary Judaism organization. Increasingly, traditional beliefs of Judaism are being challenged by modernization. Factors such as abortion, women participation, inter-marriages and homosexuality are further dividing the Judaism religion into conservative and liberal lines. Two major branches of the Judaism exist, namely Orthodox and Reformed Jews. A relatively new branch, called Conservative Judaism in the United States, has been making headlines with controversial initiatives such as admitting openly gay people into its rabbinical schools.
1. Future Prospects
The Jewish population is expected to increase in the Middle East, especially in Israel where it is expected to climb to nearly 8.1 million, and to a lesser extent in the North African region. Jews in Europe and North America are expected to decrease in population. The reform movement is expected to increase in numbers in the United States, while a modern Orthodox presence will continue to dominate the state of Israel.