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The Israelites (//; Hebrew: בני ישראל Bnei Yisra'el) were a Semitic-speaking people of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the tribal and monarchic periods. The ancient Israelites are considered to be an outgrowth of the indigenous Canaanite populations that long inhabited the Southern Levant, Syria, ancient Israel and the Transjordan.
In the Hebrew Bible, the term Israelites refers to the direct descendants of any of the sons of the patriarch Jacob, or to the descendants of the people who are called Israel, and to a worshiper of the God of Israel, Yahweh. In the period of the divided monarchy it was only used to refer to the inhabitants of the northern kingdom, and it is only extended to cover the people of the southern kingdom in post-exilic usage. The Israelites were also known as the Hebrews and the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The Jews are named after and also descended from the southern Israelite Kingdom of Judah, particularly the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and partially Levi. The word "Jews" is found in 2 Kings (16:6),Chronicles (I, 4:18), and in numerous passages in the Book of Jeremiah, the Book of Zechariah and the Book of Esther. The Samaritans, whose religious texts consist of the five books of the Samaritan Torah (but which do not contain the books comprising the Jewish Tanakh), do not refer to themselves as Jews, although they do regard themselves as Israelites, in accordance with the Torah.
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