Diaspora (dĪăsˈpərə) [key] [Gr., = dispersion], term used today to denote the Jewish communities living outside the Holy Land. It was originally used to designate the dispersal of the Jews at the time of the destruction of the first Temple (586 B.C.) and the forced exile [Heb., = Galut] to Babylonia (see Babylonian captivity). The diaspora became a permanent feature of Jewish life; by A.D. 70 Jewish communities existed in Babylonia, Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome. Jews followed the Romans into Europe and from Persia and Babylonia spread as far east as China. In modern times, Jews have migrated to the Americas, South Africa, and Australia. The Jewish population of Central and Eastern Europe, until World War II the largest in the world, was decimated in the Holocaust. Despite the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the vast majority of the Jewish people remains in the diaspora, notably in North America, Russia, and Ukraine. The term diaspora has also been applied to other peoples with large numbers living outside their traditional homelands. See Jews; Judaism.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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