Jews originated as an ethnic and religious group in the Middle East during the second millennium BCE, in the part of the Levant known as the Land of Israel. The Merneptah Stele appears to confirm the existence of a people of Israel somewhere in Canaan as far back as the 13th century BCE (Late Bronze Age). The Israelites, as an outgrowth of the Canaanite population, consolidated their hold with the emergence of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Some consider that these Canaanite sedentary Israelites melded with incoming nomadic groups known as 'Hebrews'. Though few sources mention the exilic periods in detail, the experience of diaspora life, from the Ancient Egyptian rule over the Levant, to Assyrian captivity and exile, to Babylonian captivity and exile, to Seleucid Imperial rule, to the Roman occupation and exile, and the historical relations between Jews and their homeland thereafter, became a major feature of Jewish history, identity and memory. Prior to World War II, the worldwide Jewish population reached a peak of 16. 7 million, representing around 0. 7% of the world population at that time. Approximately 6 million Jews were systematically murdered during the Holocaust. Since then the population has slowly risen again, and as of 2016[update] was estimated at 14. 4 million by the Berman Jewish DataBank, less than 0. 2% of the total world population. [note 1]
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