Jewish history dates back thousands of years. While the earliest outside reference to Israel is an Egyptian stele dated to around 1200 BCE, Biblical literature traces Jewish history back to its foundation under Abraham around 1500 BCE. Jewish people, the Hebrews or Israelites, migrated from the Fertile Crescent to the Levant (Canaan) sometime during the early part of the second millennia BCE.
The Book of Genesis tells the story of how the children of Jacob left Canaan for Egypt, where they were enslaved, but there is no outside evidence to confirm this event. However, the Exodus remains a central part of Jewish history, when the Israelites were led by Moses the lawgiver. Yet archeologists cannot find any evidence for this event either.
Around 1000 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel reached its zenith under David and Solomon, before the kingdom split in two and was then conquered by Babylon. Many Jews were sent into exile. This exile ended in 530 BCE, when construction on the Second Temple began. The Romans conquered Judea in 63 BCE. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 135 following the Bar Kokhba revolt.
During the Middle Ages, many Jewish people dispersed throughout the Middle East and the Roman Empire, continuing the diaspora that had begun under the Babylonians. The Levant fell under Islamic control in 638. Jewish history in Europe was often one of persecution up through the Holocaust of World War II.