Moshe Gil on Jewish Nationhood
The question often heard today, generally from elements unfriendly to the Jews, as to whether the Jews are a nation or only a religious community, did not trouble the Jews of the mediaeval period. They called themselves a nation as a matter of course. In recent times, the study of society has tried to fit this term into a tight matrix of precise definitions. As a matter of fact, however, it is obvious and known to intelligent people that the Jews were not for many generations, and are not today, a nation like other nations, owing to a lack of territorial concentration. Nevertheless, they were always more of a nation than all those nations settled on their land, due to an awareness of their common fate, their internal solidarity, their shared past and their deep cultural roots. All these features were characteristic of the Jews for generations, more so than of other nations. The strong communal organisation and central institutions of leadership preserved the unity of the nation no less than territory may have done, and perhaps even more so.