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|Jewish immigration to Israel|
|Aliyah before Israeli independence|
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Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה Translit.: ʿAliyah Translated: "ascent") is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). It is one of the most basic tenets of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida ("descent"). The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile. Large scale immigration to Eretz Israel and later Israel began in 1882.
Aliyah is a Hebrew word that means "ascent," or "going up." According to Jewish tradition, traveling to the Land of Israel is an ascent, both geographically and metaphysically. Anyone traveling to Eretz Israel from Egypt, Babylonia or the Mediterranean basin, where many Jews lived in early rabbinic times, climbed to a higher altitude. Visiting Jerusalem, situated 2,700 feet above sea level, was also an "ascent."
Aliyah is an important Jewish cultural concept and a fundamental component of Zionism. It is enshrined in Israel's Law of Return, which accords any Jew (deemed as such by halakha and/or Israeli secular law) and eligible non-Jews (a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew), the legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel, as well as Israeli citizenship. Someone who "makes aliyah" is called an oleh (m. singular) or olah (f. singular); the plural for both is olim. Many Religious Jews espouse aliyah as a return to the Promised land, and regard it as the fulfillment of God's biblical promise to the descendants of the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Aliyah is included as a commandment by some opinions on the enumeration of the 613 commandments.
In Zionist discourse, the term aliyah (plural aliyot) includes both voluntary immigration for ideological, emotional, or practical reasons and, on the other hand, mass flight of persecuted populations of Jews. The vast majority of Israeli Jews today trace their family's recent roots to outside of the country. While many have actively chosen to settle in Israel rather than some other country, many had little or no choice about leaving their previous home countries. While Israel is commonly recognized as "a country of immigrants", it is also, in large measure, a country of refugees.
According to the traditional Jewish ordering of books of the Bible, the very last word of the Bible (i.e. the last word in the original Hebrew of verse 2 Chronicles 36:23) is veya‘al, a jussive verb form derived from the same root as aliyah, meaning "let him go up" (to Israel).
Return to the Land of Israel is a recurring theme in Jewish prayers recited every day, three times a day, and holiday services on Passover and Yom Kippur traditionally conclude with the words "Next year in Jerusalem." Because Jewish lineage can provide a right to Israeli citizenship, aliyah (returning to Israel) has both a secular and a religious significance. In all historical periods during which return to the Land of Israel was possible, Jewish groups and individuals have immigrated back to the Jewish homeland.
For generations of religious Jews, aliyah was associated with the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Jews prayed for their Messiah to come, who was to redeem the Land of Israel from gentile rule and return world Jewry to the land under a Halachic theocracy.
The Hebrew Bible relates that the patriarch Abraham came to the Land of Canaan with his family and followers in approximately 1800 BC. His grandson, Jacob, went down to Egypt with his family, and after several centuries there, the Israelites went back to Canaan under Moses and Joshua, entering it in about 1300 BC.
A few decades after the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people, approximately 50,000 Jews returned to Zion following the Cyrus Declaration from 538 BC. The Jewish priestly scribe Ezra led the Jewish exiles living in Babylon to their home city of Jerusalem in 459 BC. Others returned throughout the era of the Second Temple.
In late antiquity, the two hubs of rabbinic learning were Babylonia and the Land of Israel. Throughout the Amoraic period, many Babylonian Jews immigrated to the Land of Israel and left their mark on life there, as rabbis and leaders.
In the 10th century, leaders of the Karaite Jewish community, mostly living under Persian rule, urged their followers to settle in Eretz Yisrael. The Karaites established their own quarter in Jerusalem, on the western slope of the Kidron Valley. During this period, there is abundant evidence of pilgrimages to Jerusalem by Jews from various countries, mainly in the month of Tishrei, around the time of the Sukkot holiday.
The number of Jews returning to the Land of Israel rose significantly between the 13th and 19th centuries, mainly due to a general decline in the status of Jews across Europe and an increase in religious persecution. The expulsion of Jews from England (1290), France (1391), Austria (1421) and Spain (the Alhambra decree of 1492) were seen by many as a sign of approaching redemption and contributed greatly to the messianic spirit of the time.
Aliyah was also spurred during this period by the resurgence of messianic fervor among the Jews of France, Italy, the Germanic states, Poland, Russia and North Africa. The belief in the imminent coming of the Jewish Messiah, the ingathering of the exiles and the re-establishment of the kingdom of Israel encouraged many who had few other options to make the perilous journey to the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael).
Pre-Zionist resettlement in Palestine met with various degrees of success. For example, little is known of the fate of the 1210 "aliyah of the three hundred rabbis" and their descendants. It is thought that few survived the bloody upheavals caused by the Crusader invasion in 1229 and their subsequent expulsion by the Muslims in 1291. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and the expulsion of Jews from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1498), many Jews made their way to the Holy Land. Then the immigration in the 18th and early 19th centuries of thousands of followers of various Kabbalist and Hassidic rabbis, as well as the disciples of the Vilna Gaon and the disciples of the Chattam Sofer, added considerably to the Jewish populations in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron, and Safed.
The messianic dreams of the Gaon of Vilna inspired one of the largest pre-Zionist waves of immigration to Eretz Yisrael. In 1808, hundreds of the Gaon's disciples, known as Perushim, settled in Tiberias and Safed, and later formed the core of the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem. This was part of a larger movement of thousands of Jews from countries as widely spaced as Persia and Morocco, Yemen and Russia, who moved to Israel beginning in the first decade of the nineteenth century – and in even larger numbers after the conquest of the region by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1832 – all drawn by the expectation of the arrival of the Messiah in the Jewish year 5600, Christian year 1840, a movement documented in Arie Morgenstern's Hastening Redemption.
There were also those who like the British mystic Laurence Oliphant tried to lease Northern Palestine to settle the Jews there (1879).
Between 1882 and 1903, approximately 35,000 Jews immigrated to the south-western area of Syria, then a province of the Ottoman Empire. The majority, belonging to the Hovevei Zion and Bilu movements, came from the Russian Empire with a smaller number arriving from Yemen. Many established agricultural communities. Among the towns that these individuals established are Petah Tikva (already in 1878), Rishon LeZion, Rosh Pina, and Zikhron Ya'aqov. In 1882, the Yemenite Jews settled in an Arab suburb of Jerusalem called Silwan located south-east of the walls of the Old City on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.
Between 1904 and 1914, 40,000 Jews immigrated mainly from Russia to south-western Syria following pogroms and outbreaks of anti-semitism in that country. This group, greatly influenced by socialist ideals, established the first kibbutz, Degania, in 1909 and formed self-defense organizations, such as Hashomer, to counter increasing Arab hostility and to help Jews to protect their communities from Arab bandits. The suburb of Jaffa, Ahuzat Bayit, established at this time, grew into the city of Tel Aviv. During this period, some of the underpinnings of an independent nation-state arose: The national language Hebrew was revived; newspapers and literature written in Hebrew published; political parties and workers organizations were established. The First World War effectively ended the period of the Second Aliyah.
Between 1919 and 1923, 40,000 Jews, mainly from the Russian Empire arrived in the wake of World War I, the British conquest of Palestine; the establishment of the Mandate, and the Balfour Declaration. Many of these were pioneers, known as halutzim, trained in agriculture and capable of establishing self-sustaining economies. In spite of immigration quotas established by the British administration, the population of Jews reached 90,000 by the end of this period. The Jezreel Valley and the Hefer Plain marshes were drained and converted to agricultural use. Additional national institutions arose: The Histadrut (General Labor Federation); an elected assembly; national council; and the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces.
Between 1924 and 1929, 82,000 Jews arrived, many as a result of anti-semitism in Poland and Hungary. The immigration quotas of the United States kept Jews out. This group contained many middle-class families that moved to the growing towns, establishing small businesses and light industry. Of these approximately 23,000 left the country.
Between 1929 and 1939, with the rise of Nazism in Germany, a new wave of 250,000 immigrants arrived; the majority of these, 174,000, arrived between 1933 and 1936, after which increasing restrictions on immigration by the British made immigration clandestine and illegal, called Aliyah Bet. The Fifth Aliyah was again driven mostly from Eastern Europe as well as professionals, doctors, lawyers and professors, from Germany. Refugee artists introduced Bauhaus (the White City of Tel Aviv has the highest concentration of Bauhaus architecture in the world) and founded the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra. With the completion of the port at Haifa and its oil refineries, significant industry was added to the predominantly agricultural economy. The Jewish population reached 450,000 by 1940.
At the same time, tensions between Arabs and Jews grew during this period, leading to a series of Arab riots against the Jews in 1929 that left many dead and resulted in the depopulation of the Jewish community in Hebron. This was followed by more violence during the "Great Uprising" of 1936–1939. In response to the ever increasing tension between the Arabic and Jewish communities married with the various commitments the British faced at the dawn of World War II, the British issued the White Paper of 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to 75,000 people for five years. This served to create a relatively peaceful eight years in Palestine while, tragically, The Holocaust unfolded in Europe.
Shortly after their rise to power, the Nazis negotiated the Ha'avara or "Transfer" Agreement with the Jewish Agency under which 50,000 German Jews and $100 million of their assets would be moved to Palestine.
The British government limited Jewish immigration to Palestine with quotas, and following the rise of Nazism to power in Germany, illegal immigration to Palestine commenced. The illegal immigration was known as Aliyah Bet ("secondary immigration"), or Ha'apalah, and was organized by the Mossad Le'aliyah Bet, as well as by the Irgun. Immigration was done mainly by sea, and to a lesser extent overland through Iraq and Syria. During World War II and the years that followed until independence, Aliyah Bet became the main form of Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Following the war, Berihah ("flight"), an organization of former partisans and ghetto fighters was primarily responsible for smuggling Jews from Poland and Eastern Europe to the Italian ports from which they traveled to Palestine. Despite British efforts to curb the illegal immigration, during the 14 years of its operation, 110,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine. In 1945 reports of the Holocaust with its 6 million Jewish dead, caused many Jews in Palestine to turn openly against the British Mandate, and illegal immigration escalated rapidly as many Holocaust survivors joined the Aliyah.
After Aliyah Bet, the process of numbering or naming individual aliyot ceased, but immigration did not. A major wave of immigration of over half a million Jews went to Israel between 1948 and 1950, many fleeing renewed persecution in Eastern Europe, and increasingly hostile Arab countries.
This period of immigration is often termed kibbutz galuyot (literally, ingathering of exiles), due to the large number of Jewish diaspora communities that made aliyah. However, kibbutz galuyot can also refer to aliyah in general.
From 1948 until the early 1970s, around 900,000 Jews from Arab lands left, fled, or were expelled from various Arab nations. In the course of Operation Magic Carpet (1949–1950), nearly the entire community of Yemenite Jews (about 49,000) immigrated to Israel. Its other name, Operation On Wings of Eagles (Hebrew: כנפי נשרים, Kanfei Nesharim), was inspired by
In three and a half years, the Jewish population of Israel had doubled, inflated by nearly 700,000 immigrants, which was one of the causes of the austerity. Huge numbers of Jewish refugees were temporarily settled in "cities of tents" called Ma'abarot. As the residents were gradually absorbed into Israeli society, the Ma'abarot were phased out.
Many Israeli immigrants were Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews who left Arab countries to move to Israel. In many of these cases they had been persecuted and sometimes forced to leave their homes. 114,000 Jews came from Iraq in 1951 in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah.
The massive airlift known as Operation Moses began to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel on November 18, 1985 and ended on January 5, 1986. During those six weeks, some 6,500–8,000 Ethiopian Jews were flown from Sudan to Israel. An estimated 2,000–4,000 Jews died en route to Sudan or in Sudanese refugee camps. In 1991, Operation Solomon was launched to bring the Beta Israel Jews of Ethiopia. In one day, May 24, 34 aircraft landed at Addis Ababa and brought 14,325 Jews from Ethiopia to Israel. Since that time, Ethiopian Jews have continued to immigrate to Israel bringing the number of Ethiopian-Israelis today to over 100,000.
A mass emigration was politically undesirable for the Soviet regime. The only acceptable ground was family reunification, and a formal petition ("вызов", vyzov) from a relative from abroad was required for the processing to begin. Often, the result was a formal refusal. The risks to apply for an exit visa compounded because the entire family had to quit their jobs, which in turn would make them vulnerable to charges of social parasitism, a criminal offense. Because of these hardships, Israel set up the group Lishkat Hakesher in the early 1950s to maintain contact and promote aliyah with Jews behind the Iron Curtain.
From Israel's establishment in 1948 to the Six-Day War in 1967, Soviet aliyah remained minimal. Only about 22,000 Soviet Jews managed to reach Israel. In the wake of the Six-Day War, the USSR broke off the diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Anti-Zionist propaganda campaign in the state-controlled mass media and the rise of Zionology were accompanied by harsher discrimination of the Soviet Jews. By the end of 1960s, Jewish cultural and religious life in the Soviet Union had become practically impossible, and the majority of Soviet Jews were assimilated and non-religious, but this new wave of state-sponsored anti-Semitism on one hand, and the sense of pride for victorious Jewish nation over Soviet-armed Arab armies on the other, stirred up Zionist feelings.
After the Dymshits-Kuznetsov hijacking affair and the crackdown that followed, strong international condemnations caused the Soviet authorities to increase the emigration quota. In the years 1960–1970, the USSR let only 4,000 people leave; in the following decade, the number rose to 250,000. The exodus of Soviet Jews began in 1968.
Between 1968 and 1973, almost all Soviet Jews allowed to leave settled in Israel, and only a small minority moved to other Western countries. However, in the following years, the number of those moving to other Western nations increased. Soviet Jews granted permission to leave were taken by train to Austria to be processed and then flown to Israel. There, the ones who chose not to go to Israel, called "dropouts", exchanged their immigrant invitations to Israel for refugee status in a Western country, especially the US. Eventually, most Soviet Jews granted permission to leave became dropouts. In 1979 a record 71,000 Soviet Jews were granted exodus from the USSR, of whom only 12,117 immigrated to Israel.
According to Israeli Immigrant Absorption Minister Yaakov Zur, over half of Soviet Jewish dropouts who immigrated to the US assimilated ceased to live as Jews within a short period of time.
Israel was concerned over the droupout rate, and suggested that Soviet emigres be flown directly to Israel from the Soviet Union or Romania. Israel argued that it needed highly skilled and well-educated Soviet Jewish immigrants for its survival. In addition to contributing to the country's economic development, Soviet immigration was also seen as a counterweight to the high fertility rate among Israeli-Arabs. In addition, Israel was concerned that the dropout rate could result in immigration being banned once again. Gad Ben-Ari, a spokesman for the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, stated that "it could jeopardize the whole program if Jews supposedly going to Israel all wind up in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. How will the Soviets explain to their own people that it's just Jews who are allowed to emigrate to the US?" .
In 1989, the United States changed its immigration policy of unconditionally granting Soviet Jews refugee status. That same year, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev ended restrictions on Jewish immigration, and the Soviet Union itself collapsed in 1991. Since then, about a million Russians immigrated to Israel, including approximately 300,000 who were not Jewish according to rabbinical law, but were eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
In the 1999–2002 Argentine political and economic crisis that caused a run on the banks, wiped out billions of dollars in deposits and decimated Argentina's middle class, most of the country's estimated 200,000 Jews were directly affected. Some 4,400 chose to start over and move to Israel, where they saw opportunity.
More than 10,000 Argentine Jews immigrated to Israel since 2000, joining the thousands of previous olim already there. The crisis in Argentina also affected its neighbour country Uruguay, from which over 500 Jews made aliyah in the same period. During 2002 and 2003 the Jewish Agency for Israel launched an intensive public campaign to promote aliyah from the region, and offered additional economic aid for immigrants from Argentina. Although the economy of Argentina improved, Jews continue to immigrate to Israel, albeit in smaller numbers than before.
There has also been aliyah from other Latin American countries that have experienced crises, though they have come in smaller numbers and are not eligible for the same economic benefits as Argentine olim.
In Venezuela, growing antisemitism in the country, including antisemitic violence, caused an increasing number of Jews to make aliyah during the 2000s. For the first time in Venezuelan history, Jews began leaving for Israel in the hundreds. By November 2010, more than half of Venezuela's 20,000-strong Jewish community had left the country.
From 2000 to 2009, 13,315 French Jews made aliyah, largely as a result of growing anti-semitism in the country. A peak was reached in 2005, with 2,951 olim. However, between 20-30% eventually returned to France. With the start of the Second Intifada in Israel, anti-Semitic incidents became more frequent in France. In 2002, the Commission nationale consultative des droits de l'homme (Human Rights Commission) reported six times more anti-Semitic incidents than in 2001 (193 incidents in 2002). The commission's statistics showed that anti-Semitic acts constituted 62% of all racist acts in the country (compared to 45% in 2001 and 80% in 2000). The report documented 313 violent acts against people or property, including 38 injuries and the torture-murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi. Since 2005, the number of acts dropped but is still at a significantly higher level than during the previous decade.[better source needed] Anti-Semitic incidents rose again during the Gaza War. After the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, French aliyah dropped due to the Jewish community's comfort with him. In 2010, only 1,286 French Jews made aliyah. In 2012, following the election of François Hollande and the Jewish school shooting in Toulouse, as well as ongoing acts of anti-semitism and the European economic crisis, an increasing number of French Jews began buying property in Israel. In August 2012, it was reported that anti-semitic attacks had risen by 40% in the five months following the Toulouse shooting, and that many French Jews were seriously considering immigrating to Israel.
Approximately 110,000 North American immigrants live in Israel. There has been a steady flow of olim from North America since Israel’s inception in 1948. Record numbers arrived in the late 1960s after the Six-Day War, and in the 1970s. Like Western European olim, North Americans tend to immigrate to Israel more for religious, ideological and political purposes, and not financial ones.
Nefesh B'Nefesh, founded in 2002 by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart, works to encourage Aliyah from North America and the UK by providing financial assistance, employment services and streamlined governmental procedures. Nefesh B’Nefesh works in cooperation with the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Government in increasing the numbers of North American and UK olim. Many immigrants began arriving in Israel after the First and Second Intifada, with a total of 3,052 arriving in 2005 — the highest number since 1983.
A group of students at Brandeis University founded Impact Aliyah in 2007 to support campus communities of student pre-olim and run pilot trips to Israel.
Following the Global Financial Crisis in the late 2000s, American Jewish immigration to Israel rose. This wave of immigration was triggered by Israel's lower unemployment rate, combined with financial incentives offered to new Jewish immigrants. In 2009, aliyah was at its highest in 36 years, with 3,324 North American Jews making aliyah..
Since the mid 1990s, there has been a steady stream of South African Jews, American Jews, and French Jews who have either made aliyah, or purchased property in Israel for potential future immigration. Specifically, many French Jews have purchased homes in Israel as insurance due to the rising rate of anti-Semitism in France in recent years.[better source needed] The Bnei Menashe Jews from India, whose recent discovery and recognition by mainstream Judaism as descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes is subject to some controversy, slowly started their Aliyah in the early 1990s and continue arriving in slow numbers. Organizations such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and Shavei Israel help with aliyah by supporting financial aid and guidance on a variety of topics such as finding work, learning Hebrew, and assimilation into Israeli culture.
In early 2007 Haaretz reported that aliyah for the year of 2006 was down approximately 9% from 2005. They state that: "Only 19,264 people immigrated to Israel in 2006, down nine percent from 2005. It is the lowest number of immigrants recorded since 1988" The number of new immigrants in 2007 was 18,127, the lowest since 1988. Only 36% of these new immigrants came from the former Soviet Union (close to 90% in the 90's) while the number of immigrants from countries like France and USA is stable. Some 15,452 immigrants arrived in Israel in 2008 and 16,465 in 2009. Shalom Life reported that over 19,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel in 2010, an increase of 16 percent over 2009.
The number of immigrants to Israel since its establishment in 1948 by country of birth is given in the table below. For the period between 1919 and 1948, only the last continent of residence is available for most countries.
|Soviet Union (Asia)||412||452||24,019||49,524||74,407|
|Soviet Union (Europe)||6,746||6,496||131,206||772,239||29,754||137,134||29,376||13,743||8,163||51,500||1,186,357|
Source for Eastern European 1919-1948 data:
The former U.S.S.R. total is the U.S.S.R. total plus the Baltic States total. The Baltic States were annexed by the U.S.S.R. in 1940.
Source for United States 1882-1918 and 1919-1948 data:
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