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Ancient Israel, or Canaan, was an important region in ancient history, largely for religious reasons.
According to the Bible, the Jews descended from Abraham, a resident of Ancient Mesopotamia who left that region and settled in Canaan. His descendants grew in number and moved to Ancient Egypt, where they were enslaved for hundreds of years. Eventually, a Jew and important figure in Egypt, Moses, persuaded (through the use of miracles, etc.) the pharaoh to let the Jews, who now were large enough in population to form their own nation, leave Egypt free. After the Jews left, the Egyptians tried to capture them near the Red Sea, where according to the Book of Exodus, the waters of the Red Sea were parted by God allowing the Jews, though not the Egyptians, to escape to safety. (It is believed by some Christians that the parting of the waters was in a small inlet of the Red Sea, not the main part of the Red Sea, partially explaining the logistics of crossing the sea.)
The Books of Moses continue to go into detail about the years the Jews spent years wandering in the desert before finally entering "the Promised Land", as Canaan is sometimes called, under a new leader, Joshua. The Book of Joshua records the successes (and failures) of the Jews to defeat the local Canaanites and set up a monotheistic, theocratic state split up into twelve tribal groups. However, while according to the Book of Joshua a Jewish state was successfully established at this time, it was unstable, often being conquered by various warlike tribal groups. At these times the Jewish people would unite under an individual called a "judge", who would lead the Jews to independence, only to fall captive to some other warlike group later. According to the Bible, this period of judges lasted for 300 years before the Jews demanded to have their own king and replace the old theocratic system with a monarchy. The first of the kings, Saul, ruled for some time but over a small area. Following a period of civil war, King David established himself as the next king and reigned for about forty years; according to Biblical records, David was a successful ruler and he conquered the land surrounding ancient Israel. His successor and son, Solomon, stabilized the kingdom but spent large amounts of money and men in the building of a Temple. (Biblical records say that Solomon's kingdom had "economic influence" as far north as the Euphrates River.) After his death, the kingdom split, with Judah attempting to continue the historical line and religion and Israel interested in creating an independent, idol-worshiping kingdom. From this point onward in Israel's history, the accounts of secular historians and scholars begin to fairly closely match Biblical records.
Israel is believed to have been dominant. It was closer to the Mesopotamian region and, therefore, where a new period of empires was developing. This was both good and bad for Israel; while Israel was able to be an important player on the regional scene, it was also conquered by the Assyrians and the Jews of Israel were scattered around the empire.
Judah, however, just about managed to survive the Assyrians. According to the Bible, God destroyed the Assyrian army just before it was about to destroy Judah, and therefore Judah maintained a level of at least semi-independence for many more years. But the damage done by the Assyrians and the fact that this new power was present in the area meant that Judah would no longer have the opportunity to be a large, dominating kingdom, and the long-reigning King Manasseh, who was considered wicked in Biblical records, probably did little to help the state of Judah, which after a short period of scholarship and religious studies under Josiah, fell to the Babylonians and the Jews of Judah, like those of Israel, where scattered around the Babylonian Empire and then the Persian Empire until a Persian king sent some of the Jews back to the Holy Land to revive it to prosperity as part of the Persian Empire. Then on, Jews continued to live in the area until the mid/late 1st century AD.
Many intellectuals of modern times do not believe the Biblical record of Israel's history, although in reality, with the current archaeological evidence in the Canaan region, it is generally difficult to tell whether a certain king lived as was described in the Bible, or not. (Those who hold a secular view believe that Ancient Israel was always separated between Judah and Israel, and on a similar basis believe that the Exodus of Moses never occurred.) Most of the events were too long ago, in a region where archaeological evidence was probably not preserved well, for there to be expected much remaining. History of this region, however, is gradually becoming clearer with time and archaeology does show that the region was important, developed, and likely prosperous, in ancient times. Therefore, history of Israel shouldn't be dismissed as unimportant, since it eventually led to the formation of modern Israel and the fascinating history of the Jewish people.