/iz"ree euh luyt', -ray-/, n.1. a descendant of Jacob, esp. a member of the Hebrew people who inhabited the ancient kingdom of Israel.2. one of a group considered by its members or by others as God's chosen people.adj.3. of or pertaining to ancient Israel or its people; Hebrew.[1350-1400; ME; see ISRAEL, -ITE1]
* * *In early Jewish history, a member of the 12 tribes of Israel.After the establishment (930 BC) of two Jewish kingdoms (Israel and Judah) in Palestine, only the ten northern tribes constituting the kingdom of Israel were known as Israelites. When Israel was conquered by the Assyrians (721 BC), its population was absorbed by other peoples, and the term Israelite came to refer to those who were still distinctively Jewishthe descendants of the kingdom of Judah. In liturgical usage, an Israelite is a Jew who is neither a cohen nor a Levite (see Levi).
* * *▪ peoplein the broadest sense, a Jew, or a descendant of the Jewish patriarch Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel after an all-night fight at Penuel near the stream of Jabbok (Genesis 32:28). In early Jewish history, Israelites were simply members of the 12 tribes of Israel. After 930 BC and the establishment of two independent Jewish kingdoms in Palestine, the ten northern tribes constituting the Kingdom of Israel were known as Israelites to distinguish them from Jews in the southern Kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC, and its population was eventually absorbed by other peoples. Thereafter, the name Israelite referred to those who were still distinctively Jewish, namely, descendants of the Kingdom of Judah.In liturgical usage, an Israelite is a Jew who is neither a cohen (descendant of Aaron, the first high priest) nor a Levite (descendant of early religious functionaries). The distinction is significant, for if a cohen is present for synagogue service, he must be called up first for the reading of the Law; he is then followed by a Levite. Normally, therefore, an Israelite is not called up until the third reading.
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