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In its Basic Laws, Israel defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state.
Jacob's twelve sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or Children of Israel.
Jewish presence in the region has persisted to a certain extent over the centuries.
In the 7th century Palestine was taken from the Byzantine Empire by the Arabs and remained in Muslim control until the First Crusade of 1099, followed by the Ayyubid conquest of 1187.
With successive Persian rule, the autonomous province Yehud Medinata was gradually developing back into urban society, largely dominated by Judeans.
The struggle between pro-Roman and pro-Parthian factions in Judea eventually led to the installation of Herod the Great and consolidation of the Herodian kingdom as a vassal Judean state of Rome.
During the siege of Jerusalem by the First Crusade in 1099, the Jewish inhabitants of the city fought side by side with the Fatimid garrison and the Muslim population who tried in vain to defend the city against the Crusaders.
When the city fell, about 60,000 people were massacred, including 6,000 Jews seeking refuge in a synagogue.
The region came to be populated predominantly by Greco-Romans on the coast and Samaritans in the hill-country.
Christianity was gradually evolving over Roman paganism, when the area stood under Byzantine rule.