Contrary to popular belief, the European Jews, who were the driving force behind the creation of Israel, are not descended from the biblical Jews. Rather, the evidence seems to suggest that they are descended from the Khazar people, who originated in modern-day, southern Russia sometime around 600 AD. The Khazars adopted Rabbinical Judaism as a state religion around 800 AD. Prior to the holocaust and the Jewish exodus out of Europe to Israel, Poland and Ukraine remained the centers of Jewish culture in Europe. The Khazar theory of origin is the only theory that can explain how the Jews ended up in Poland and Ukraine.
Little today remains in the historical record of the Khazar people. However, it is known that they inhabited the southern steppes of Russia from about 600 until 1230 and the arrival of Ghenis Khan. The Khazars are rumored to have adopted Rabbinical Judaism for political reasons. They hoped to remain neutral between the feuding Muslims and Orthodox Christians in their neighborhood.
Around 1050 the early Russian state conquered the Khazars. This sent the Khazars into decline. However, the Khazars were able to hang on until around 1230, when Ghengis Khan and the Golden Horde came roaring through. The Mongols set up their capital Astrakhan right next to the old Khazar capital Atil. The arrival of the Mongols forced the Khazars to flee westward into Modern-day Ukraine and Poland.
After Kiev fell to the Mongols, Kiev and the surrounding areas were incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As the Poles consolidated these areas under their control, they encountered recently-arrived Khazar refugees. In a bid to make it easier to secure control of the region, the Poles agreed to grant the Khazars religious freedom if the Khazars agreed to recognize their rule.
The Khazars evolved into modern-day Ashkenazi Jews in Poland and Ukraine. They remained a core part of the Polish state until it fell apart, first during the Deluge from 1654 to 1657 and then during the Partitions from 1772 to 1795. The collapse of the Polish state sent Jewish refugees fleeing into Western Europe. Many of them were also incorporated into the Russian Empire as it grew at the expense of Poland.
After the collapse of the Polish state, Jews remained flung all over Europe. The Holocaust had the unusual effect of unifying all of Europe’s Jews. The survivors of this tragedy decided to band together to create their own, Jewish state, leading to Israel.