For two thousand years the Israelite Nation has been in a diaspora. Even those still living in their homeland, and there have always been some, have been a diaspora in their own land.
The problem has always been geographical. Israel, a tiny country the size of Wales lies between the Middle Eastern Empires and the Western European Empires. Lying on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean has made it a bit strategic for trade. The Western Colonisers, mainly the Romans, destroyed a lot of the significant cultural places, a bit like ISIS, such as the Israelite Temple in Jerusalem. There were no churches or mosques at the time as Jesus had only just died when the Temple was destroyed and Mohammed was not born for another 500 years.
The land of Israel was in between two opposing Empires and still is today. The Romans took Christianity, a version of Jesus’ Israelite teachings, as a propaganda machine against the Israelite faith. They tried to expand their Empire eastwards. They have succeeded in expanding their Empire westwards (America). The Middle Eastern Empires came together under Mohammed and struck out westwards. They prevented the Colonisation of the entire Middle East by Christianity, but, again Israel was caught in the middle between the West and the Middle East.
Many peoples who have been Colonised take on the culture and beliefs of the invaders as witnessed by the number of Christians and Muslims in invaded countries such as many African countries, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan (formally part of the Hindu country of India). They also have their names changed, such as Mumbai becoming Bombay, Sri Lanka becoming Ceylon as well as personal names being changed by the invaders. This happened to Israel too. The Romans called it Palestine to spite the historical link of the name Israel. Israel, the name, links to Abraham, Isaac and their son/grandson Jacob who G!d renames Israel. Israel is a personal name of Jacob and the Israelites are his descendants. Unlike many invaded peoples, the Israelites maintained their faith and desire for their homeland. They resisted Colonisation and erasure. They still are resisting.
Around 2000 years ago, with the Romans in force and the Temple destroyed, the Rabbis made the religion of the Israelite portable. As the people moved Eastwards, Northwards and Southwards trying to survive, their beliefs went with them and still do. Also around that time they started to be called Jews. This term is derived from one of the twelve tribes of Israel. These twelve tribes are from the twelve sons of Jacob-Israel, hence they are Israelites. Also, and far worse the emerging non- Israelite Christians had started to blame the Israelites for the death of Jesus, who was, in fact, killed by the Romans. The Romans had become Christian and wanted to shift the blame for killing their new G!d to somebody else and the Israelites, the non-converters, were blamed for not ceding to this cultural Imperialism. One of the 12 disciples of Jesus (strange coincidence it was 12?) was singled out for this story and betrayal, Judas. And Judah was one of the 12 tribes of the Israelites. So ‘Jew’ became the term for the Israelites by those trying to destroy the Israelites.
What is even stranger is the Jew, Jude, Juden etc term, a term seen as an insult term just like the N- word for people of colour, is still used by the Israelites themselves. I guess there is merit in taking an insult and throwing it back in the face of the oppressor. These insults have not stopped, we are still seeing the use of the Latin term Palestine to lay claim to Israel. And the term ‘Old Testament’ to show the super-cessionary, supremist term ‘New Testament’ when the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures would be more appropriate. We have seen it with many oppressed groups. But I think it time to reclaim the term Israelite, people that are from the Nation of Israel, from the Twelve Tribes especially in the face of Empires that take the Israelite identity, books and culture and Colonise them further for their own Imperial ends.
Get Up, Stand Up as the song goes. Israelites.