In the days of Christ, the people of Israel were referred to as the 'dispersion' due to their no longer being centralized in Israel. Most Jews were living in the East at Babylon, but they were largely scattered throughout the entire Middle East. The reason for the majority living in Babylon was that they never returned home from their exile in the days of Daniel. There was much prophecy in the book of Ezekiel about a restoration and return home... only that physically never happened. That's because Jesus is the spiritual Christ (Greek word for Messiah) that came to bring about a spiritual restoration, first to the Jews, then to the Greek.
The other half of the Jews were living in the West. These were called the Hellenists, as they were effected by Greek culture and thought. These Jews were not as absorbed in tradition and Law as their Eastern brothers. They were seen with contempt from them for their lack of piety by the letter, but they sought to honor the God of Israel in their lives just the same, and saw many Jewish converts. How does this scattering and division fit with God's purposes though? Look at this prophecy.
"I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them." - Ezekiel 36:10
God said He would scatter them, so He did. It may seem like God failed His chosen people by never physically bringing them back, right? Not at all. He purposely spread them out so that when the Gospel went forth, it would go West to a land where the soil was already tilled (Jewish converts became Christian converts). At that time, the traditional, by the letter Jews in the East, were hardened, they were like a brick wall for the Gospel. Hence the Gospel going West instead. It's amazing and we still feel the effects of it today, being a largely, albeit nominally Christian country.
Praise the Lord for His wisdom.
Photo by Amira