Judaism, the oldest Abrahamic religion, originated as the belief system of the Hebrew people and currently believed to be an offshoot of ancient Semitic paganism. By the era depicted in Crusader Kings II, it was a minority religion, with small Jewish communities scattered across Europe and the Middle East.
Playing as a Jew requires Sons of Abraham.
- Judaism is an organized religion in its own religious group (Israelite), along with its heresies (Karaite and Samaritan).
- Jewish rulers have access to the Holy War casus belli.
- Missionaries: Like other organized religions, Jews can send out missionaries to pagan realms.
- Jewish rulers may receive Ashkenazi or Sephardi courtiers to their realm (see below).
- Unique decisions:
- Jewish rulers may observe Passover, giving a bonus to relations with vassal rulers who also attended the feast.
- Restoration of Israel: A Jewish ruler who reclaims the Holy Land, has access to two unique decisions: "Create Israel" and "Build the Third Temple".
- Unique trait effects:
- Jewish AI rulers will not send their Court Chaplain to proselytize counties to Judaism unless they have the Zealous trait.
Judaism's holy sites are located around the Middle East.
- Jerusalem: The ancient capital of Israel.
- Sinai: The traditional site of God's revelation of the Ten Commandments to Moses.
- Damascus: Said to have been conquered by King David. Also a major scholarly center during the Umayyad caliphate.
- Dhofar: Site of Job's tomb.
- Hamadan: Home of the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great, who freed the Jews from their exile in Babylon and is revered as a "good goy" by Jews.
Passover is a religious feast for the Jewish faith. All direct vassals following Judaism are invited, but they may decline the invitation. At the end of the feast, you gain 100 piety and 100 prestige and a relations bonus with the vassals who attended. After a few years have passed, you may hold another Passover festival so, it's a good way to keep vassals happy, but otherwise it has no special events that can fire during the feast, making it quite similar to pagan festivals such as Ukon Juhla. However, if you have Reaper's Due, Passover festivities may increase Prosperity.
A Jewish ruler who controls all of the de jure Kingdom of Jerusalem may restore the Kingdom of Israel. In addition to full control of the Holy Land, the county of Jerusalem must have Judaism as its religion, and the ruler must have 500 Piety and 500 Prestige. Israel has a unique coat of arms and its ruler may build the Third Temple, but otherwise it is a normal kingdom.
Build the Third Temple
Jewish rulers who control the entire duchy of Jerusalem may spend 1,500 Gold and Piety to construct the Third Temple. Construction takes four years and the province of Jerusalem must be converted to Judaism before it can begin. Once completed, the Jewish religion can gain religious head through decision in intrigue menu. However, to make this decision visible, you must hold the kingdom of Israel personally. The Kohen Gadol—or High Priest—a formal religious head with the power to grant divorces and may sanction invasions against Jewish rulers, as well as declare Great Holy Wars against rulers of other religions. Rebuilding the temple also creates the Zealots, the only Jewish holy order in the game.
Playable Jewish realms
In 769/867 starts, Semien is a mountainous two-province petty kingdom, surrounded by feudal/tribal Christians. It is a relatively weak realm but so are its neighbors, aside from Abyssinia.
From 1066 onwards, Semien has turned into the duchy of Axum and now controls six provinces in East Africa. Axum is perhaps the strongest individual realm in East Africa, though this is somewhat balanced by the fact that all surrounding realms are hostile to you and can quickly rally to each other's aid in holy wars. After 1136, Axum shrinks to three province Semien and on the last possible start date, it's back to just two provinces.
Below are some tips when playing as Axum/Semien:
- Expand by fabricating claims initially as holy wars rapidly cause you to be overwhelmed by your neighbors.
- Use Business focus to get extra money via minting coins and trade route event. Save this money for mercenaries.
- AI Jews will not attempt to convert provinces unless they have Zealous trait (the Kohen Gadol is a known exception). Keep this in mind when landing courtiers.
- Your moral authority is bad so keep an eye for Dhofar, in case it splinters away from a bigger realm so that you can conquer it. Otherwise, you have little chance to convert your provinces to Judaism.
- Try to avoid a land border with Egypt until you have the rest of East Africa under control
- East Africa is littered with small duchies, so it's easy to create a Custom Kingdom of your own, instead of going for dejure Abyssinia/Nubia (especially with 1066 Axum).
- Aden is a good place for a capital due to the Silk Road & high tech levels.
- The best use of your daughters is to marry them to vassals for 'marriage ties' relation bonus and non-aggression pacts.
Patch 2.7 opens an alternate strategy. You can swear fealty to Abyssinia or the Arabian Empire/Egypt and falsely convert to respectively Miaphysitism or Islam, then expand within the realm using the "Secretly Jewish" society.
The Khaganate of Khazaria, a large nomadic realm on the steppes (tribal without Horse Lords), is Jewish from 867 onwards. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by rapacious Pagan neighbors. Fortunately, Khazaria shares border with Byzantines/Georgia who can be raided and northern branch of Silk Road also goes across their territory. This enables the Khagan to earn money to upgrade his realm. Being a Nomadic realm, Khazars have all the usual perks of such a realm. It is possible to conquer the entire Kingdom of Jerusalem with an invasion and settle down. This turns provinces in the kingdom to Khazar culture & Jewish religion (depending on your population) and enables rapid formation of Israel.
In 1066, the Khazars are greatly weakened and exist as tributaries of the powerful Cumans. While this gives Khazars some protection, 1066 is a much harder start in general because the Middle-East is contested by powerful Seljuks and Fatimids who both have access to powerful vassal mercenaries. Even on the Steppes, there are several realms more powerful than you.
After the year 1088, Khazars no longer exist and the Jewish presence disappears from the steppes, leaving Semien as the only Jewish realm in the game for later periods.
Note: You can play as Khazaria without the Sons of Abraham DLC if you have the Horse Lords DLC, as non-Christian nomads are playable without the need for religion DLCs. However, you cannot change your government type without converting to a playable religion, or it's game over!
In year 867, Nomadic Alans have settled into a multi-religious tribal confederation. Bulk of population is Tengri pagan, ruler is Orthodox christian and most of his vassals are of different faiths. One of these vassals is Jewish chief Tsaerasan of Yegorlyk. Outside of Khazaria/Semien, he is the only Jewish ruler available for playing.
In 867/1066 bookmarks you can also start as one of the many tribal Pagans around Baltic Sea/Russia and easily change your religion by acquiring a concubine/wife from Khazaria. This does have the advantage that you should have plenty of time to build up your realm, away from European/Middle-eastern powers.
Jewish courtiers and merchants
Jewish courtiers of Ashkenazi/Sephardi culture can appear to courts of Christian, Jewish, Muslim & Zoroastrian rulers as well as to any ruler with Khazar culture. It is possible to use them to educate your heir, in case you wish to play as a Jewish ruler without the need for Ruler Designer. In addition, these courtiers may contribute to technology advances if they are in your council.
Adapting either culture as ruler will also cause Israelite culture to appear in provinces, though it should take a few decades. Israelite culture has semi-decent retinue but bear in mind that this can trigger liberation revolts on realms you control.
Christian, Muslim & Zoroastrian rulers can borrow 300 gold from Jewish merchants in their realm. This gives -10 relation penalty with temple vassals. To get rid of this penalty, the ruler must pay back 350 gold to the Jews.
Kings & Emperors can also simply expel their Jewish population. This removes all non-landed Jews from the realm and gives the ruler significant amount of gold from confiscated property. The downside of this is that ruler gains Arbitary trait (If that ruler has an outstanding loan owed to the Jews) & -2 Diplomacy penalty, loses 100 prestige and national tax income is reduced by -10%. In addition, losing skilled members of the population may contribute to technological stagnation in the form of lost research points. Naturally, rulers cannot borrow money from Jews anymore. Future rulers can invite Jews back by spending significant amount of gold. This removes penalties, returns the ability to borrow money again and has a 50% chance to give the ruler the "Sympathy for Judaism" trait.