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Jewish populations were driven from England and France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
By the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, Jews from Spain faced similar oppression, violence, and expulsion from Spanish Christians.
For many Jews, the binding force is Judaism, a term usually referring to the Jewish religion but sometimes used to refer to all Jews.
There are, however, Jewish atheists and agnostics, and one does not have to be religious to be Jewish.
For hundreds of years these tribes lived in Canaan and comprised all of Hebrew civilization.
By about 1700 , Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt (the Exodus) into the Sinai Desert, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai.
European Jews are divided mainly between the Jews of Spain and Portugal, the Sephardim, and the Jews from German-speaking countries in central and eastern Europe, the Ashkenazim.
The distinction between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim—Hebrew terms for Spanish and German Jews—continues to be the major classification of Jews, with 75 percent of today's world Jewry being Ashkenazic.
Following God's instructions, Abraham led his family out of Mesopotamia to Canaan, later renamed Palestine, then Israel. ("Hebrew" is derived from "Eber," which means "from the other side." This is a reference to the fact that Abraham came from the "other side" of the Euphrates River.) According to the Bible, God made a covenant with Abraham promising that if the Hebrews followed God's commandments, they would become a great nation in the land of Canaan.Subsequently, Hebrews referred to themselves as "God's chosen people." After Abraham, the Hebrews were led by Abraham's son Isaac, then by Isaac's son Jacob.Jacob, also known as "Israel" ("Champion of God"), was the father of 12 sons, who became leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel.By contrast, Ashkenazic Jews in the north lived uneasily among Christians, who saw Jews as "Christ killers" and who resented Jews for thinking of themselves as a chosen people.Christians subjected Jews to violence and destroyed Jewish communities beginning with the First Crusade in 1096.