1882 Bilu and the First Aliyah - History

1882 Bilu and the First Aliyah - History

Bilu was committed to the resettling of Israel by Jews. It constituted the first modern resettlement effort of Palestine.

The name Bilu stood for "Bet Ya'akov L'chu V'Nelcha"(O House of Jacob , come ye and let us go," quoted from Isaiah. The movement was founded in Kharkov, Russia in 1882, by Jewish students reacting to the pogroms taking place in Russia at the time. Their goal was to resettle the Land of Israel. The first 14 member of Bilu arrived in Palestine in July 1882. The initial 'Biluim' settled in Mikve Israel and Rishon L'Tzion as farm hands. Some members of Bilu learned a trade and settled in Jerusalem. In 1884, members of Bilu formed the settlement of Gedera. In 1890 a second influx of settlers arrived in Palestine from Russia. A number of new settlements were established in that period including Rechovot and Hadera. While the Rothchilds had not initially supported the Bill, they began supporting the farming efforts of the new arrivals including helping them establish vineyards and wine production.

By the end of the period that as the First Aliya in 1903, 350,000 dunams of land had been purchased, 20 agricultural settlements were built and 720 families comprising 6,000 people lived in the new settlements. Of the 50,000 Jews living in Palestine at the time 10,000 were part of what became known as the new Yishuv.

Israeli Aliyah

The First Aliyah (also The Farmers’ Aliyah) was the first modern widespread wave of Zionist aliyah. Jews who migrated to Palestine in this wave came mostly from Eastern Europe and from Yemen. This wave of aliyah began in 1881–82 and lasted until 1903. [1] [2] An estimated 25,000 [3] –35,000 [4] Jews immigrated to Ottoman Syria during the First Aliyah. While all throughout history Jews immigrated to Israel (such as the Vilna Gaon’s group), these were generally smaller groups with more religious motives, and did not have a purely secular political goal in mind.


The First Aliyah followed pogroms in Russia in 1881-1882, with most of the olim (immigrants) coming from Eastern Europe a small number also arrived from Yemen. Members of Hibbat Zion and Bilu, two early Zionist movements that were the mainstays of the First Aliyah, defined their goal as “the political, national, and spiritual resurrection of the Jewish people in Palestine.”

Though they were inexperienced idealists, most chose agricultural settlement as their way of life and founded moshavot — farmholders’ villages based on the principle of private property. Three early villages of this type were Rishon Lezion, Rosh Pina, and Zikhron Ya’akov.

The First Aliyah settlers encountered many difficulties, including an inclement climate, disease, crippling Turkish taxation and Arab opposition. They required assistance and received scanty aid from Hibbat Zion, and more substantial aid from Baron Edmond de Rothschild. He provided the moshavot with his patronage and the settlers with economic assistance, thereby averting the collapse of the settlement enterprise. The Yemenite olim, most of whom settled in Jerusalem, were first employed as construction workers and later in the citrus plantations of the moshavot.

In all, nearly 35,000 Jews came to Palestine during the First Aliyah. Almost half of them left the country within several years of their arrival, some 15,000 established new rural settlements, and the rest moved to the towns.


The First Aliyah was by anonymous pioneers, usually families, who came to Eretz Yisrael between 1882 and 1903/4, primarily to escape persecution in Europe. This group of pioneers paid the highest price, in terms of both hardship and actual loss of life. They succeeded in starting some poor settlements with the help of Baron de Rothschild, privately-owned farms inside a village framework (moshavot), but they were nowhere near establishing a community that could seriously be considered a Jewish homeland. They did, however, set the foundation principle of land ownership and self-reliance, a bold departure from the precarious existence in Europe where private land was forbidden to Jews.


Throughout the years of dispersion, a small-scale return migration of Diaspora Jews to the Land of Israel is characterized as the Pre-Modern Aliyah. Successive waves of Jewish settlement are an important aspect of the history of Jewish life in Israel. The "Land of Israel" (Eretz Yisrael) is the Hebrew name for the region commonly known in English through the middle of the twentieth century, from the ancient Roman designation, as Palestine. This traditional Hebrew toponym, in turn, has lent its name to the modern State of Israel. Since the birth of Zionism in the late 19th century, the advocates of aliyah have striven to facilitate the settlement of Jewish refugees in Ottoman Palestine, Mandatory Palestine, and the sovereign State of Israel.

The following waves of migration have been identified: the First Aliyah and the Second Aliyah to Ottoman Palestine the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Aliyah to Mandatory Palestine including Aliyah Bet (immigration done in spite of restrictive Mandatory law) between 1934 and 1948 and the Bericha of the Holocaust survivors the aliyah from elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the aliyah from Western and Communist countries following the Six-Day War with the 1968 Polish political crisis, as well as the aliyah from post-Soviet states in the 1990s. Today, most aliyah consists of voluntary migration for ideological, economic, or family reunification purposes.

Aliyah in Hebrew means "ascent" or "going up". Jewish tradition views traveling to the Land of Israel as an ascent, both geographically and metaphysically. In one opinion, the geographical sense preceded the metaphorical one, as most Jews going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which is situated at approximately 750 meters (2,500 feet) above sea level, had to climb to a higher altitude. The reason is that many Jews in early rabbinic times used to live either in Egypt's Nile Delta and on the plains of Babylonia, which lay relatively low or somewhere the Mediterranean Basin, from where they arrived by ship. [6]

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. pl. olim) or olah (f. pl. olot). 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. Nachmanides (the Ramban) includes making aliyah in his enumeration of the 613 commandments. [7]

In the Talmud, at the end of tractate Ketubot, the Mishnah says: "A man may compel his entire household to go up with him to the land of Israel, but may not compel one to leave." The discussion on this passage in the Mishnah emphasizes the importance of living in Israel: "One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are idolaters, but let no one live outside the Land, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are Israelites for whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a God, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no God."

Sifre says that the mitzvah (commandment) of living in Eretz Yisrael is as important as all the other mitzvot put together. There are many mitzvot such as shmita, the sabbatical year for farming, which can only be performed in Israel. [8]

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 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, including internal refugees. Israeli citizens who marry individuals of Palestinian heritage, born within the Israeli-occupied territories and carrying Palestinian IDs, must renounce Israeli residency themselves in order to live and travel together with their spouses. [9]

According to the traditional Jewish ordering of books of the Tanakh (Old Testament), the last word of the last book in the original Hebrew (2 Chronicles 36:23) is v e ya‘al, a jussive verb form derived from the same root as aliyah, meaning "and let him go up" (to Jerusalem in Judah). [10]

2 Chronicles 36:23 (KJV) Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the L ORD God of heaven given me and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which [is] in Judah. Who [is there] among you of all his people? The LORD his God [be] with him, and let him go up.

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.

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. [11]


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.

Second Temple period

Jews returned to the Land of Israel throughout the era of the Second Temple. Herod the Great also encouraged aliyah and often gave key posts, such as the position of High Priest to returnees. [12]

200–500 AD

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. [13]

10th–11th century

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. [14]


The number of Jews migrating 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. [15]

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. [ citation needed ] 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.

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. Some Ukrainian Jewish refugees fleeing the pogroms of the Khmelnytsky Uprising of the mid-17th century also settled in 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. [16] [17] 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).

In Zionist history, the different waves of aliyah, beginning with the arrival of the Biluim from Russia in 1882, are categorized by date and the country of origin of the immigrants.

The first modern period of immigration to receive a number in common speech was the Third Aliyah, which in the World War I period was referred to as the successor to the First and Second Aliyot from Babylonia in the Biblical period. Reference to earlier modern periods as the First and Second Aliyot appeared first in 1919 and took a while to catch on. [18]

Ottoman Palestine (1881–1914)

The pronounced persecution of Russian Jews between 1881 and 1910 led to a large wave of emigration. [19] Since only a small portion of East European Jews had adopted Zionism by then, between 1881 and 1914 only 30–40,000 emigrants went to Ottoman Palestine, while over one and a half million Russian Jews and 300,000 from Austria-Hungary reached Northern America. [19]

First Aliyah (1882–1903)

Between 1882 and 1903, approximately 35,000 Jews immigrated to the Ottoman Palestine, joining the pre-existing Jewish population which in 1880 numbered 20,000-25,000. The Jews immigrating arrived in groups that had been assembled, or recruited. Most of these groups had been arranged in the areas of Romania and Russia in the 1880s. The migration of Jews from Russia correlates with the end of the Russian pogroms, with about 3 percent of Jews emigrating from Europe to Palestine. The groups who arrived in Palestine around this time were called Hibbat Tysion, which is a Hebrew word meaning "fondness for Zion." They were also called Hovevei Tysion or "enthusiasts for Zion" by the members of the groups themselves. While these groups expressed interest and "fondness" for Palestine, they were not strong enough in number to encompass an entire mass movement as would appear later on in other waves of migration. [20] 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 Pinna, and Zikhron Ya'akov. In 1882 the Yemenite Jews settled in the Arab village of Silwan located south-east of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. [21] Kurdish Jews settled in Jerusalem starting around 1895. [22]

Second Aliyah (1904–1914)

Between 1904 and 1914, 35–40,000 Jews immigrated to Ottoman Palestine. The vast majority came from the Russian Empire, in particular from the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe. Jews from other countries in Eastern Europe such as Romania and Bulgaria also joined. Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe was largely due to pogroms and outbreaks of anti-Semitism there. However, Mountain Jews from the Caucasus and Jews from other countries including Yemen, Iran, and Argentina also arrived at this time. The Eastern European Jewish immigrants of this period, greatly influenced by socialist ideals, established the first kibbutz, Degania Alef, 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 marauders. [23] Ahuzat Bayit, a new suburb of Jaffa established in 1909, eventually grew to become the city of Tel Aviv. During this period, some of the underpinnings of an independent nation-state arose: Hebrew, the ancient national language, was revived as a spoken language newspapers and literature written in Hebrew were published political parties and workers organizations were established. The First World War effectively ended the period of the Second Aliyah. It is estimated that over half of those who arrived during this period ended up leaving Ben Gurion stated that nine out of ten left. [24]

British Palestine (1919–1948)

Third Aliyah (1919–1923)

Between 1919 and 1923, 40,000 Jews, mainly from Eastern Europe arrived in the wake of World War I. The British occupation of Palestine and the establishment of the British Mandate created the conditions for the implementation of the promises contained in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Many of the Jewish immigrants were ideologically driven 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 Jewish population 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 such as the Histadrut (General Labor Federation) an elected assembly national council and the Haganah, the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces.

Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929)

Between 1924 and 1929, 82,000 Jews arrived, many as a result of increasing anti-Semitism in Poland and throughout Europe. The vast majority of Jewish immigrants arrived from Europe mostly from Poland, the Soviet Union, Romania, and Lithuania, but about 12% came from Asia, mostly Yemen and Iraq. 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. [25]

Fifth Aliyah (1929–1939)

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 almost entirely from Europe, mostly from Central Europe (particularly from Poland, Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia), but also from Greece. Some Jewish immigrants also came from other countries such as Turkey, Iran, and Yemen. The Fifth Aliyah contained large numbers of professionals, doctors, lawyers, and professors, from Germany. Refugee architects and musicians introduced the Bauhaus style (the White City of Tel Aviv has the highest concentration of International Style architecture in the world with a strong element of Bauhaus) 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 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 worth of their assets would be moved to Palestine. [26]

Aliyah Bet: Illegal immigration (1933–1948)

The British government limited Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine with quotas, and following the rise of Nazism to power in Germany, illegal immigration to Mandatory Palestine commenced. [27] 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 Mandatory Palestine.

Following the war, Berihah ("escape"), an organization of former partisans and ghetto fighters was primarily responsible for smuggling Jews from Eastern Europe through Poland. In 1946 Poland was the only Eastern Bloc country to allow free Jewish aliyah to Mandate Palestine without visas or exit permits. [28] By contrast, Stalin forcibly brought Soviet Jews back to USSR, as agreed by the Allies during the Yalta Conference. [29] The refugees were sent to the Italian ports from which they traveled to Mandatory Palestine. More than 4,500 survivors left the French port of Sète aboard President Warfield (renamed Exodus). The British turned them back to France from Haifa, and forced them ashore in Hamburg. 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 killed, caused many Jews in Palestine to turn openly against the British Mandate, and illegal immigration escalated rapidly as many Holocaust survivors joined the aliyah.

Early statehood (1948–1960)

After Aliyah Bet, the process of numbering or naming individual aliyot ceased, but immigration did not. A major wave of Jewish immigration, mainly from post-Holocaust Europe and the Arab and Muslim world took place from 1948 to 1951. In three and a half years, the Jewish population of Israel, which was 650,000 at the state's founding, was more than doubled by an influx of about 688,000 immigrants. [30] In 1949, the largest-ever number of Jewish immigrants in a single year - 249,954 - arrived in Israel. [4] 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.

The data below shows the immigration to Israel in the years following the May 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence. [31]

1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1948-53
Eastern Europe
Romania 17678 13595 47041 40625 3712 61 122712
Poland 28788 47331 25071 2529 264 225 104208
Bulgaria 15091 20008 1000 1142 461 359 38061
Czechoslovakia 2115 15685 263 150 24 10 18247
Hungary 3463 6842 2302 1022 133 224 13986
Soviet Union 1175 3230 2618 689 198 216 8126
Yugoslavia 4126 2470 427 572 88 14 7697
Total 72436 109161 78722 46729 4880 1109 313037
Other Europe
Germany 1422 5329 1439 662 142 100 9094
France 640 1653 1165 548 227 117 4350
Austria 395 1618 746 233 76 45 3113
United Kingdom 501 756 581 302 233 140 2513
Greece 175 1364 343 122 46 71 2121
Italy 530 501 242 142 95 37 1547
Netherlands 188 367 265 282 112 95 1309
Belgium - 615 297 196 51 44 1203
Total 3851 12203 5078 2487 982 649 25250
Iraq 15 1708 31627 88161 868 375 122754
Yemen 270 35422 9203 588 89 26 45598
Turkey 4362 26295 2323 1228 271 220 34699
Iran 43 1778 11935 11048 4856 1096 30756
Aden - 2636 190 328 35 58 3247
India 12 856 1105 364 49 650 3036
China - 644 1207 316 85 160 2412
Other - 1966 931 634 230 197 3958
Total 4702 71305 58521 102667 6483 2782 246460
Tunisia 6821 17353 3725 3414 2548 606 34467
Libya 1064 14352 8818 6534 1146 224 32138
Morocco - - 4980 7770 5031 2990 20771
Egypt - 7268 7154 2086 1251 1041 18800
Algeria - - 506 272 92 84 954
South Africa 178 217 154 35 11 33 628
Other - 382 5 6 3 9 405
Total 8063 39572 25342 20117 10082 4987 108163
Unknown 13827 10942 1742 1901 948 820 30180
All countries 102879 243183 169405 173901 23375 10347 723090

At the beginning of the immigration wave, most of the immigrants to reach Israel were Holocaust survivors from Europe, including many from displaced persons camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy, and from British detention camps on Cyprus. Large sections of shattered Jewish communities throughout Europe, such as those from Poland and Romania also immigrated to Israel, with some communities, such as those from Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, being almost entirely transferred. At the same time, the number of Jewish immigrants from Arab countries greatly increased. Special operations were undertaken to evacuate Jewish communities perceived to be in serious danger to Israel, such as Operation Magic Carpet, which evacuated almost the entire Jewish population of Yemen, and Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, which airlifted most of the Jews of Iraq to Israel. [30] Egyptian Jews were smuggled to Israel in Operation Goshen. Nearly the entire Jewish population of Libya left for Israel around this time, and clandestine aliyah from Syria took place, as the Syrian government prohibited Jewish emigration, in a process that was to last decades. Israel also saw significant immigration of Jews from non-Arab Muslim countries such as Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan in this period.

This resulted in a period of austerity. To ensure that Israel, which at that time had a small economy and scant foreign currency reserves, could provide for the immigrants, a strict regime of rationing was put in place. Measures were enacted to ensure that all Israeli citizens had access to adequate food, housing, and clothing. Austerity was very restrictive until 1953 the previous year, Israel had signed a reparations agreement with West Germany, in which the West German government would pay Israel as compensation for the Holocaust, due to Israel's taking in a large number of Holocaust survivors. The resulting influx of foreign capital boosted the Israeli economy and allowed for the relaxing of most restrictions. The remaining austerity measures were gradually phased out throughout the following years. When new immigrants arrived in Israel, they were sprayed with DDT, underwent a medical examination, were inoculated against diseases, and were given food. The earliest immigrants received desirable homes in established urban areas, but most of the immigrants were then sent to transit camps, known initially as immigrant camps, and later as Ma'abarot. Many were also initially housed in reception centers in military barracks. By the end of 1950, some 93,000 immigrants were housed in 62 transit camps. The Israeli government's goal was to get the immigrants out of refugee housing and into society as speedily as possible. Immigrants who left the camps received a ration card, an identity card, a mattress, a pair of blankets, and $21 to $36 in cash. They settled either in established cities and towns, or in kibbutzim and moshavim. [30] [32] Many others stayed in the Ma'abarot as they were gradually turned into permanent cities and towns, which became known as development towns, or were absorbed as neighborhoods of the towns they were attached to, and the tin dwellings were replaced with permanent housing.

In the early 1950s, the immigration wave subsided, and emigration increased ultimately, some 10% of the immigrants would leave Israel for other countries in the following years. In 1953, immigration to Israel averaged 1,200 a month, while emigration averaged 700 a month. The end of the period of mass immigration gave Israel a critical opportunity to more rapidly absorb the immigrants still living in transit camps. [33] The Israeli government built 260 new settlements and 78,000 housing units to accommodate the immigrants, and by the mid-1950s, almost all were in permanent housing. [34] The last ma'abarot closed in 1963.

In the mid-1950s, a smaller wave of immigration began from North African countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt, many of which were in the midst of nationalist struggles. Between 1952 and 1964, some 240,000 North African Jews came to Israel. During this period, smaller but significant numbers arrived from other places such as Europe, Iran, India, and Latin America. [34] In particular, a small immigration wave from then communist Poland, known as the "Gomulka Aliyah", took place during this period. From 1956 to 1960, Poland permitted free Jewish emigration, and some 50,000 Polish Jews immigrated to Israel. [35]

Since the founding of the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel was mandated as the organization responsible for aliyah in the diaspora. [36]

Zionism: The First 120 Years, 1882-2002.

1800 –There are some 3,750,000 Jews in the world – 2,750,000 in Europe, 300,000 in Asia, some 250,000 in North Africa and tens of thousands in America.

The number of Jews in Eretz Israel stands at some 7,000, approximately a third of them in Jerusalem.

1818 – An American Jew by the name of Mordechai Emanuel Noach suggests establishing a Jewish state by the name of Ararat in the northeastern United States as a stage in returning the Jewish people to their historic homeland – Eretz Israel.

1836 – Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer from Germany suggests to Moses Montefiore (the British philanthropist and supporter of settlement in Eretz Israel) and to the Rothschild family of bankers, that Palestine be bought from the present ruler of Eretz Israel, Mehemet Ali (who conquered Palestine from the Turks in 1831 and ruled it from Egypt for the next nine years).

1839 – Moses Montefiore arrives in Eretz Israel on the second of seven visits. He musters the members of the Jewish community and explores with them the possibility of Jewish settlement.

1840 – February – The beginning of the Damascus affair. A Christian monk and his servant go missing from Damascus and the Jews are accused of abducting them for religious ritual (use of their blood for the preparation of matza for Pesach). One of the Jews “admits” to this act after being tortured. A number of Jewish dignitaries are arrested and tortured, two of whom die.

Moses Montefiore from England and Adolphe Cremieux from France, two Jewish notables with outstanding wealth and influence, successfully intervene on behalf of the Jews of Damascus. This is considered the beginning of international Jewish activity in the new era.

In the Jewish paper Der Orient, published in Leipzig in German, an article appears without a by-line calling the Jews of Europe to leave their countries and return to Eretz Israel. Lord Shaftsbury, an English nobleman who introduced far-reaching social programs in his day, suggests to the British foreign secretary Henry Palmerston that Jews be allowed to settle in Eretz Israel in the framework of the development of Eastern countries.

1843 – Rabbi Yehuda hai Alkalai, a rabbi from Serbia, publishes his book Minhat Yehuda (The Offering of Yehuda). In it he invites Jews to take advantage of the awakening in the Jewish world in light of the Damascus affair for Return to Zion and settlement of Eretz Israel.

1845 – Colonel George Gawler, formerly the governor of South Australia, writes a book in which he suggests that Jews be allowed to establish Jewish agricultural settlements in Eretz Israel as compensation for their suffering in Europe and under Turkish rule. Seven years later (in 1852), he establishes an association for the colonization of Palestine.

1852 – Rabbi Yehuda hai Alkalai establishes in London the Society for the Settlement of Eretz Israel, which is disbanded after a short time. He tours Europe and advocates settlement in Eretz Israel.

1857 – September 15 – The British Consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, sends a memorandum to the foreign secretary in London, in which he suggests settling Jews in Eretz Israel as farmers to nurture the land.

1858 – The Mortara affair in Italy- a Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, is abducted from his parents’ home in Bolonia by messengers of the Catholic Church, following his secret baptism by a Christian servant during an illness. The Jewish world is outraged. Jewish leaders and scholars approach Pope Pious IX and ask him to return the boy to his parents. There is no response. The incident emphasizes the need for international Jewish organization and constitutes one of the reason for expediting establishment of the Alliance Israelite Universelle – a Jewish charitable, educational and defense organization.

May 2, 1860
Birth of Benyamin Zeev Herzl, founder of political Zionism and the visionary of the State of Israel.

1860 – Alliance Israelite Universelle is established in Paris and awakens hope among supporters of settlement in Eretz Israel. Disappointment sets in, however, when the organization focuses more on Jewish education outside of Eretz Israel.

In Frankfurt, Germany, the social activist Dr. Chaim Luria establishes the Settlement Society for Eretz Israel, which in the years to come works in coordination with the likes of Rabbi Avi Hirsch Kalischer, Rabbi Yehuda hai Alkalai, Moses Hess, Rabbi Elijah Guttmacher and David Gordon. The company boasts no real achievements.

Mishkenot Sha’ananim is founded in Jerusalem at the initiative of Moses Montefiore the first neighborhood built outside the walls of the Old City. This signifies the beginning of the New City.

1861 – Rabbi Joseph Natonek from Hungary publishes, anonymously, a booklet (in Hungarian) called Messiah – An Essay on Jewish Emancipation of Equal Advantage for Jews and Christians. In it he calls for Jews everywhere “to fulfill our national independence in the land of our forefathers.”

1862 – Moses Hess, a German-Jewish socialist, publishes his book, Rome and Jerusalem, in which he advocates the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel. In the same year, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer writes a booklet called Derishat Zion (Seeking Zion) in which he too calls for Jews to return to the Land of Israel. It is surprising that rater than tell Jews to wait for the Messiah, the ultra-Orthodox Kalischer tells them to act for their own redemption.

1863 – David Gordon, a journalist (later editor) at the Hebrew weekly HaMagid from East Prussia, publishes a series of articles based on the idea of a Return to Zion (issues 14-18).

1866 – Rabbi Natonek visits the Jewish communities in Germany and meets with the heads of Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris in order to promote the idea of a Return to Zion. The following year he travels to Istanbul and meets with Turkish leaders with the same aim.

1868 – Charles Netter, one of the heads of Alliance, arrives in Eretz Israel in order to observe the situation in the tiny Jewish community and examine the possibility of settling additional Jews on the land.

August 3 – Netter appears before a large crowd in Jerusalem’s Old City, and is moved and uplifted by the cry- “Give us land!”

The first edition of HaShachar (The Dawn) appears in Vienna, a Hebrew publication edited by Peretz Smolenskin which maintains that the Jews are entitled to be considered a nation worthy of national independence.

1869 – January 11 – Netter appears before the management of Alliance Israelite Universelle, reads out his report on his visit to Eretz Israel and suggests establishing, in the first stage, an agricultural school. He expresses his willingness to head such a project and spends the rest of the year taking steps to implement the plan.

1870 – April 5 – Charles Netter’s relentless efforts result in the Turkish government giving him a license to open a Jewish agricultural school near Jaffa.

June 15, 1870
Karl (Charles) Netter settles in a cave south of Jaffa and lays the cornerstone of the Mikveh Israel school, the first Jewish settlement in Israel of the modern era.

June 15 – Netter settles in a cave south of Jaffa and lays the cornerstone of the new school, which constitutes the beginning of new Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel. A well is dug, after which the first students are welcomed. Netter heads the school till September 1873.

For the first time since 1800 there is a Jewish majority in the city (11,000 souls). Although an historic event, it isn’t greatly emphasized at the time.

1871 – May 13 – Shabbat – the “Bechukotai” portion. The Jerusalem tailor R. Gershon, who makes clothes for the agricultural school students, suggests to Netter that he draw from the weekly Torah portion, Jeremiah 17-13- “O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame,” and call the school Mikve Israel (Hebrew for “Hope of Israel.”) Netter adopts the idea.

1872 – The Society for Working and Redemption of the Land is established in Jerusalem, which aims to establish the first agricultural settlement – Petah Tikva. Preparations are made to acquire land near Jericho, and, soon after, south of Jaffa (later to become Rehovot). The Turks prevent the acquisition and the company disbands.

1874 – The Moses Montefiore Testimonial Fund (Mazkeret Moshe) is founded in London following Montefior’s 90th birthday. Its aim is to aid Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel.

1875 – Moses Montefiore, aged 91, makes his seventh and final visit to Eretz Israel.

The Society for Working and Redemption of the Land is again established in Jerusalem, and calls for the establishment of an agricultural settlement. Among its founders are David Guttman and Eliezer Raab, later co-founders of Petah Tikva.

One of its slogans is- “If there is no country in the world – there is no Israel in the world.”

It is possible that the establishment of the association is influenced by a proposal made by Haim Gedalia, a close acquaintance of Moses Montefiore, which he published in 1875. the proposal suggests acquiring all the Sultan’s lands in Eretz Israel from the Turks and establishing on them extensive Jewish settlement.

1876 – the book Daniel Deronda appears in England by the author George Eliot (the literary name of Mary Ann Owens). The book’s heroes are English Jews with a national conscience, who aspire to establish a Jewish state in Eretz Israel. The book has enormous influence on generations of young Jews.

1878 – Within two months the first two agricultural settlements are established. In the north, Jews from Safed establish gai Oni (Valley of My Strength) to the east of the city. In the south, Petah Tikva is founded by Jerusalemites among whom are Yoel Moshe Salomon, David Guttman, Joshua Stampfer, Zerach Barnett and Eliezer and Yehuda Raab. Gai Oni is abandoned after a short time and Petah Tikva after three years. The first seeds, however, have been sown.

Laurence Iliphant, an English member of Hovevei Zion (The Lovers of Zion), suggests establishing agricultural Jewish settlements in Eretz Israel. He contacts the Turkish authorities and in 1880 publishes his book, Eretz HaGilad (The Land of Gilead), in which he calls for the establishment of a Jewish region in the north of Transjordan. The Turks have reservations.

1879 – Yehiel Michel Pines, a representative of the Mazkeret Moshe fund, arrives in Eretz Israel – an important figure during the impending First Aliyah period.

Eliezer Pearlman (better known as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda), aged 21, publishes an article “A Dignified Question” in the fifth edition of HaShachar (April 1879). He calls for the return of his people to its land, determining of Jewish policy and renewal of the ancient language – Hebrew. The article is considered an important milestone in the annals of Zionism.

Edward Cazalet proposes that England help Jews immigrate to Syria and to Palestine in order to participate in large development projects in these countries.

1881 – March 13 – Tsar Alexander II is murdered in Russia. This signals the beginning of Jewish pogroms, especially in the south of the country. Jewish emigration from Russia increases, especially to America. At the same time, the first associations of Hovevei Zion are established, which aim to settle Jews in settlements in Eretz Israel.

June 5, 1881
Start of first aliya of Jews of Yemen.

September-December – Towards the end of the year Jewish aliyah to Eretz Israel increases and among the new arrivals are Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, his wife Dvora and a group of olim from Yemen.

January 11, 1882
First conference of Hovevei Zion (“Lovers of Zion”) in Romania resolves to purchase land in Israel and promote aliya. The same year witnesses the start of the First Aliya and the establishment of Rosh Pina and Zichron Ya’akov.

January 21,1882
Formation in Kharkov, Ukraine of a group of young people dedicated to the revival of the Jewish people through a return to working the land in Israel. The group came to be known as the Bilu.

1882 – The pogroms in Russia continue. Hovevei Zion emissaries arrive in Palestine and go in search of suitable land for establishing settlements. A few thousand jews arrive in the country in 1882 alone in what will later be called the First Aliyah. At the same time, Laurence Oliphant renews his efforts to settle Jews in Palestine.

The booklet Auto-Emancipation appears in Berlin, written by an unidentified author. He is, in fact, none other than Dr. Yehuda Leib Pinsker, a Jewish doctor from Russia. It is a fundamental publication in the annals of Hibbat Zion (The Lovers of Zion movement) and Zionism (see the chapter entitled Glossary of Terms).

February 6 – BILU is established in Kharkov, southern Russia – an association founded by Jewish students who advocate aliyah to Eretz Israel, the establishment of communal settlements and revival of the Hebrew language. Within a few months, similar groups begin to organize throughout Russia.

March 18, 1882
Creation of Va’ad Halutzei Yesod Hama’alah (“Yesod Hama’alah Pioneers Committee”), committed to helping purchase land in Israel to establish Jewish colonies.

March 18 – Zalman David Levontin, an immigrant from Russia, establishes the Yesud haMa’ala Pioneers committee in Jaffa, whose objective is to help acquire land and establish Jewish settlements in Palestine. This constitutes the beginning of the establishment of the moshava (village based on private ownership) Rishon lesion.

April 28, 1882
Turkey forbids Jewish immigration to Israel.

April 28 – The Turks are concerned about increased Jewish aliyah and implement a ban on the immigration of Russian Jews to Palestine. The ban limits some members of Hovevei Zion, but the majority continue to operate.

June 18, 1882
Nes Ziona established.

July 6, 1882
First 14 members of the Bilu arrive in Jaffa the date is regarded as the start of the First Aliya (1882-1903), when 25,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, largely from Russia and Romania.

July 6 – The first group of BILU members arrive in Israel – 13 young men and one woman. They live in Jaffa and work in Mikve Israel.

July 31, 1882
Establishment of Rishon leZion, first colony of the First Aliya.

July 31 – The first moshava, comprising members of the First Aliyah, is established – Rishon lesion (Petah Tikva and Gai Oni, established some four years before, no longer exist). By the end of the year, two additional moshavot are established- Zamarin (later to become Zichron Ya’akov) and Rosh Pina, where Gai Oni once stood.

October 18 – Joseph Feinberg from Rishon lesion meets with Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Paris and recruits him to help the new settlement. This is the beginning of Baron Rothschild’s involvement with settlement in Eretz Israel. A little later Rabbi Samuel Mohilever meets with the Baron and persuades him to help settle a group of Jewish farmers from Poland in Ekron (later renamed Mazkeret Batia).

1883 – Settlers from Petah Tikva evacuate their village temporarily because of the danger of malaria, and move to Yehud for a number of years before returning home. The moshava of Ekron is established. The Lerer family settles in Wadi Hanin (later Nes Ziona) and the Felman family settles to the north of Jaffa and plants a citrus orchard. All are members of the Hovevei Zion association.

September 28, 1882
Baron de Rothschild agrees to support settlement in Israel. In a meeting with Rabbi Mohliver, he agrees to establish a colony in Israel as part of the efforts to save Russian Jewry.

October 17, 1882
“Autoemancipation,” Zionist pamphlet by Yehuda Leib Pinsker published in Berlin, calls on Jews to settle in their homeland.

December 12, 1882
Two years after a failed effort by Jews from Safed to establish the village of Gai Oni on the same site, the agricultural land of Rosh Pina, a village founded by immigrants from Romania, is ploughed for the first time.

July 12, 1883
Baron Edmond de Rothschild starts his activities in Israel.

November 7, 1883
Mazkeret Batya established, and named for the mother of Baron Hirsch.

1884 – A second moshava is established in the Galilee – Yesud haMa’ala – and towards the end of the year the BILU establishes its moshava – Gedera. The moshava of Bnei Yehuda, founded by people from Safed, is the first attempt to establish a foothold in the southern Golan.

June 12, 1884
Members of Hovevei Zion from Poland establish Yesod Hama’alah.

September 12, 1884
Moshav Ekron established, the sixth colony of the First Aliya.

November 6-8 – The establishment of the first wave of Jewish moshavot in Eretz Israel comes to an end. Without the help of Baron Rothschild it is doubtful they would have survived the harsh living conditions. The Turks hinder Jewish aliyah and the establishment of moshavot.

February 12, 1886
First daily newspaper in Hebrew published in St. Petersburg.

April 25, 1886
Founding of Neve Zedek, first Jewish neighborhood on the outskirts of Jaffa.

June 28, 1887
Second Congress of Hibat Zion meets in Russia. The resolutions- to establish colonies in Israel and purchase additional land.

1887 – June 28-July 1 – There is a second meeting of the Hibbat Zion movement in Druzgnik, Russia in which religious and secular members weriously disagree on the character of the movement. The members resolve to strengthen the moshavot in Eretz Israel and acquire additional land.

May 26, 1888
B’nai B’rith, founded in 1843, establishes an office in Jerusalem, its first in Israel.

September 13, 1888
Be’er Tuviya is established for the first time.

February 8, 1889
Bnei Moshe, secret arm of Hovevei Zion, created under the leadership of Ahad Ha’am.

1889 – March 15 – An article, “That Isn’t the Way,” appears in the Hebrew paper HaMelitz, which is published in St. Petersburg. It is written by an unknown author calling himself Ahad HaAm. He is in fact none other than Asher Zvi Ginzberg, the Hebrew essayist and thinker and one of the first spiritual Zionists. He attacks the settlement work being done in Eretz Israel, claiming it should have been preceded by the spiritual and cultural regeneration of the Jewish people. At the same time, in Odessa, south Russia, the secret association Bnei Moshe is established, under the leadership of Ahad HaAm, who aspires to realize the ideas presented in his article.

September 16, 1889
Decision to establish the new Committee for the Hebrew Language, which worked to develop and advance the language. In 1953 it became the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

1890 – Aliyah to Palestine once again increases. Delegations and individuals stream into Palestine, buy land and plan the establishment of new settlements. Withintow years the moshavot of Rehovot, Hadera, Mishmar Hayarden and Ein Zeitim are established.

April 1, 1890
Natan Birnbaum coins a new word, “Zionism,” in an article in his newspaper, Shichrur Atzmi (“Self Liberation”).

April 1 – A new term – “Zionism” – is born, created by Nathan Birenbaum in an article in his paper Shichrur Atzmi (Auto-Emancipation) in Germany.

April 26 – the first General Assembly of the Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Eretz Israel, the nickname given the Hovevei Zion in the framework of the Russian government license, takes place in Odessa. The more accepted name is the Odessa Committee. Among its resolutions is the opening of an office in Jaffa, headed by the engineer Vladimir (Zev) Tiomkin, for promoting the subject of settlement.

September 1890
Kibbutz Mishmar Hayarden established.

September 10, 1891
Baron Hirsch establishes JCA – Jewish Colonization Association.

1891 – Jews continue to arrive in Eretz Israel until the middle of the year. In July the Turkish authorities declare a halt to aliyah and cancel all land acquisition deals. This heralds the beginning of a protracted crisis.

October – Theodor Herzl, a 31 year-old assimilated Jewish journalist and playwright, is chosen by the Viennese paper Neue Freie Presse as its Paris correspondent. This is a turning point in his life, which brings him to the pinnacle of Zionist accomplishment in a few short years.

Over 400 individuals, both Jewish and gentile, sign a petition sent by the religious American William E. Blackstone (one dubbed the American Christian “Father of Zionism,”) to the President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, in which he calls on the President to help the Jews return to their historic homeland.

September 26, 1892
First railway in Israel inaugurated – from Jaffa to Jerusalem.

1894 – the beginning of the Dreyfus affair in France. Herzl is shocked by the anti-Semitism rampant in all layers of French society and comes to the conclusion that if such a thing can happen in enlightened France, there is only one solution to the Jewish question- mass exodus from Europe and their concentration in their own territory. He decides to act on behalf of the suffering Jews by meeting, as a first step, with wealthy Jews in order to acquire financial backing for his plans.

1895 – June 2 – Herzl meets with Baron Maruice de Hirsch, one of the wealthiest magnates of his generation, and fervently explains his plans. The meeting, which constitutes the beginning of Herzl’s Zionist activity, does not go well and Hirsch stops him in mid-sentence.

June 3-17 – Herzl puts his ideas down in writing day and night for two weeks. This constitutes the first draft of Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State).

In the second half of 1895, Herzl, who had left Paris and returned to Vienna, travels throughout Europe, arranges meetings and gives lectures outlining his plan. Most greet him with indifference and even ridicule. Only the philosopher and writer Max Nordau supports him.

February 14, 1896
Publication in German in Vienna of a pamphlet, “The Jewish State,” in which Herzl discusses the Jewish question and suggests a homeland for the Jewish people as the solution.

February 15, 1896
Mikveh Israel agricultural school established.

May 19, 1896
Establishment of Metulla, northernmost settlement in Israel.

1896 – In Vienna, The Jewish State appears in German as a booklet, with a sub-title reading- A Political Solution to the Jewish Question. In the same year it is translated into Hebrew, English and other languages. Most reactions are negative but Herzl is not concerned.

June – Herzl makes his first trip to Turkey, where he is granted an audience with the Great Vizier (prime minister). He offers to cover turkey’s national debt if the Sultan relinquishes Palestine in favor of the Jews.

July 18 – Herzl travels to Paris to meet with baron Edmond de Rothschild, the well-known benefactor and patron of the new settlement in Palestine, to raise money for the realization of his plan. The meeting fails and Herzl decides to act alone without the help of wealthy Jews.

1897 – March 6 – Herzl assembles representatives from the Hovevei Zion societies in Germany, Austria and Galicia to discuss his plans. He suggests convening a Zionist Congress as soon as possible with the participation of representatives from the entire Jewish world. The plan meets with strong resistance in many circles, among them rabbis, community heads and even Hovevei Zion activists.

June 4 – The first edition of the weekly Die Welt (The World) appears, edited and party financed by Herzl. It is the mouthpiece of the new movement he is establishing.

Preparations for the First Zionist Congress are complete. When Jewish leaders and rabbis foil Herzl’s plans to hold the Congress in Munich, Germany, he moves the meeting to Basle, Switzerland. The Congress is set to take place during the last days of August 1897.

August 29-31, 1897
First Zionist Congress, led by Herzl, meets in Basel. World Zionist Organization established Herzl elected president.

1897 – The First Zionist Congress convenes in Basle, which constitutes the foundation of the World Zionist Organization, and Herzl is elected president. The Congress, in which 197 delegates participate, accepts the Basle Program (see the chapter entitled Glossary of Terms). Herzl, who wants the Congress to appear especially festive, insists that delegates come to the proceedings in formal evening attire. “These people should consider this Congress as the most superior and festive of all,” he says to Max Nordau. The Jewish and general press send many reporters in order to cover this special Jewish assembly.

September 1 – Herzl writes in his diary- “At Basle I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”

There are mixed reactions to the Congress by the Jewish media- few support it, some have reservations about it, while the majority are waiting to see how things develop. The Warsaw daily, HaTzfira, edited by Nahum Sokolow, which opposed the Congress, is turning into a loyal supporter. Ahad HaAm’s haShilo’ah, on the other hand, warns the Jews, and especially the Zionists- “The new enthusiasm is artificial…and its end will bring despair…Israel’s salvation will come from ‘prophets’ rather than from ‘diplomats.’” The Neue Freie Presse in Vienna, where Herzl works, does not mention the Congress at all.

November – Herzl first proposes his plan for establishing a “Zionist bank,” to be used as a financial instrument to achieve Zionist goals.

The author Davis Trietsch suggests to Herzl the Jewish colonization of Cyprus, which is in British hands, rather than of Palestine, which is ruled by the Turks.

May 4, 1898
Zionist Organization of America founded in New York the first Zionist organization in USA.

August 28-31, 1898
Second Zionist Congress meets in Basel.

1898 – August 28-31 – The Second Zionist Congress is held in Basle. Herzl proudly declares that since the first Congress, the Zionist movement has joined 913 societies – in Europe, America, Asia and Africa.

The Congress establishes the Jewish Colonial Trust, the financial arm of the World Zionist Organization. Leo Motzkin delivers one of the main lectures, following his tour of Eretz Israel’s new settlements.

October 13 – Herzl leaves Vienna secretly and travels to Turkey and Palestine in order to meet with the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who is touring the East. He plans to recruit the Kaiser to influence the Turkish Sultan to seriously consider the proposals of the Zionists.

October 18 – Herzl meets with the Kaiser in Istanbul and lectures him on the need to settle the Jews in Palestine. The Kaiser makes comments that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic. In spite of this he tells Herzl- “Tell me in one word- what should I demand from the Sultan?” Herzl replies- “A franchise company [that will accept Eretz Israel] with German backing.”

Late October – early November – The German Kaiser Wilhelm II arrives in Palestine, the high point being his visit to Jerusalem. Herzl is visiting Jaffa, the southern settlements and Jerusalem at the time. He meets the Kaiser twice- on October 28 at the gate of Mikve Israel and on November 2 in Jerusalem. The Kaiser makes no promises.

1899 – Herzl continues his extensive diplomatic activity in Europe and Turkey in order to promote the issue of the charter (franchise) on Palestine. He participates in the first peace committee held in The Hague, Holland in May 1899.

January-February – Baron Rothschild arrives in Jerusalem on his third visit to Eretz Israel (previous visits were in 1887 and in 1893). He intimates that he is considering ending his settlement activity, but the hint is not taken.

August 15-18, 1899
Thrid Zionist Congress meets in Basel.

August 15-18 – The Third Zionist Congress is held in Basle. Herzl declares- “Our efforts are aimed at attaining a charter from the Turkish government under the sovereignty of his majesty the Sultan… only after this charter is in our hands…can we start large-scale, practical settlement.” By the end of the 19th century, the number of Jews in Eretz Israel stands at 50,000, double the number 20 years earlier, and 20 agricultural moshavot are inhabited by 5,000 people. The largest moshava is Zichron Ya’akov, which has a population of 871. The second largest is Petah Tikva (818), then Rishon lesion (626) and Rosh Pina (512). About two-thirds of the Jews in Eretz Israel live in Jerusalem, most of whom are from the Old Yishuv (Orthodox Jews). The New Yishuv is concentrated in the moshavot, in Jaffa, in Haifa and partly in Jerusalem. There are more than 10 million Jews in the world- close to eight million in Europe, one million in America, with the rest in Asia, Africa and Oceania.

November 8 – Herzl writes in his diary- “If I don’t make progress with the Turkish government by the beginning of the Fourth Congress, I will humbly prepare the Cyprus plan.” (Jewish settlement in an island close to Palestine. See 1897.)

1900 – January 1 – Baron Rothschild announces the termination of his activity in Palestine and the transfer of the handling of the moshavot to the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA). This results in astonishment in the country and the beginning of a prolonged economic and social crisis. For more than a year the moshavot heads try, together with Hovevei Zion activists, to convince Rothschild to change his mind, but to no avail. Throughout the year the economic crisis depends and emigration from Eretz Israel increases.

August 13-16, 1900
Fourth Zionist Congress meets in London and discusses the problems facing the Jewish people at that time.

August 13-16 – The Fourth Zionist Congress takes place in London the first time this body has convened outside Switzerland. The current problems of the Jewish people are discussed, especially the expulsion of the Jews from Romania nd the plight of agricultural laborers in Eretz Israel, following the termination of Baron Rothschild’s involvement in the moshavot and their transfer to ICA.

1901 – May 14 – Hovevei Zion heads and moshavot representatives from Eretz Israel meet in Paris with Baron Rothschild and ask him to transfer the moshavot to the farmers rather than to the ICA. The Baron refuses.

May 17, 1901
Herzl meets the Turkish sultan, Abdul Hamid II, and asks permission for Jewish settlement in Israel in exchange for help in repaying Turkey’s international debts. His request is rejected. Turkey announces that it will allow Jewish settlement in Africa, but not in Israel.

May 17 – Herzl is granted an audience with the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II and asks him for a charter on Palestine. In return he promises that the Jews will cover the Turkish national debt. After prolonged negotiation, the Turks consent to Jewish settlement in the Empire but not in Palestine.

October 7, 1901
Yavne’el established in the Lower Galilee.

October – The ICA begins work on a new settlement region in Eretz Israel – the Lower Galilee moshavot. In October alone two moshavot are established- Yavneel and Kfar Tabor.

October 25, 1901
Kfar Tavor, originally called Mescha, established in the Lower Galilee.

December 29, 1901
Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel decides to establish Keren HaKayemeth leIsrael, the Jewish National Fund, in order to purchase land in Israel for the Jewish people.

December 26-30 – The Fifth Zionist Congress takes place in Basle and resolves to establish the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael). During the Congress, a body opposing Herzl emerges – the Democratic Faction – which includes 37 young delegates, among whom are Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Leo Motzkin and Martin Buber.

1902 – January – Herzl is disappointed by his inability to persuade the Turks to grant a charter on Eretz Israel. For the first time Jewish settlement in the southwest of Palestine is considered – in the area of El-Arish. (Although actually Egyptian territory, it is under British control in practical terms.) Prof. Franz Oppenheimer, the well-known Jewish-German economist and sociologist, publishes a series of articles in the Zionist Die Welt, under the headline “Jewish Settlement,” in which he lays out his plan to establish cooperative settlements in Eretz Israel a plan that comes to fruition ten years later in Merhavya.

January 28, 1902
Opening of Sha’are Zedek, the first hospital in the new city of Jerusalem.

February 1902
Anglo-Palestine Bank established in London as the financial arm of the World Zionist Organization’s activities.

February 26 – The Anglo-Palestine Company Ltd. (later changed to Anglo-Palestine Bank Ltd.) was founded as a subsidiary of the Jewish Colonial Trust, the financial arm of the World Zionist Organization. After the establishment of the State of Israel, it becomes Bank Leumi le-Israel.

March 5, 1902
Establishment in Vilnius of the Mizrachi movement for religious Zionist Jews.

March 5 – The Mizrachi (religious-Zionist) movement is founded in Vilna, the first partisan organization in the framework of the Zionist movement. It is instigated by Rabbi Yitzhak Ya’akov Reines.

March 25, 1902
Zionist survey committee, sent by Herzl to examine the suitability of the Sinai peninsula for Jewish settlement (El-Arish Plan), completes its work.

July – Herzl suggests to the Turks the covering of part of the kingdom’s debt in return for a franchise on part of Eretz Israel – “Haifa and the surrounding area” and, mostly, the Jezreel valley.

July 4 – A historic meeting between Herzl and Lord Nathaniel Meyer Rothschild, head of the British branch of the Rothschild family, takes place. At first the atmosphere is chilly but the ice gradually melts. Herzl emphasizes the urgent need for settling Eastern European Jews in the vicinity of Eretz Israel.

July 7, 1902
Start of official contacts between the Zionist movement and the British government. Herzl appears before the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration in London.

July 7 – Herzl appears before a Royal Committee appointed to investigate the immigration of aliens (meaning Jews) to England, where he speaks on the problems of Jews in the world. In his opinion, Eastern European Jews must emigrate if not, he says, they may die.

October 5, 1902
Altneuland, Herzl’s utopian novel that describers the future Jewish state, published in German in Vienna, and shortly thereafter appears in Hebrew translation as “Tel Aviv.”

October 22-23 – Herzl meets twice with the British secretary of state for the colonies, Joseph Chamberlain, suggesting the establishment of autonomous Jewish settlement in Cyprus and in El-Arish in the Sinai. Chamberlain has reservations regarding Cyprus but cautiously agrees to El-Arish. In the months to come this possibility is seriously and practically investigated.

October 30 – Herzl’s book, Altneuland (Old-New Land), is published a utopian novel which delineates the creation, by the Jews, or a model society in the Holy land. It is translated into Hebrew by Nahum Sokolow, under the title Tel Aviv, a name adopted in 1910 by the founders of the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood, north of Jaffa.

In 1902, the first Jewish National Fund stamp appears bearing the name “Zion” and a picture of a Magen David (Star of David).

March 6, 1903
Establishment of the village of Rehovot.

1903 – March – Herzl sends a delegation of experts to the Sinai Peninsula to examine the possibility of Jewish settlement in the area of El-Arish. The findings are positive but the plan is cancelled after it is rejected by the British representative in Cairo.

April 19, 1903
Pogrom against the Jews of Kishinev, main city of Bessarabia (now Moldova). Creates renewed impetus to emigrate to the west or make aliya to Israel.

April 19 – A pogrom in the town of Kishinev in southern Russia leaves more than 50 Jews dead, hundreds wounded and extensive damage. Shock and fury rock the Jewish world. In light of the pogrom, emigration from Russia too the United States increases, and, to a lesser extent, to Eretz Israel (the Second Aliyah). After the pogrom Herzl intensifies his efforts to find suitable territory for settling the masses of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Hayim Nahman Bialik writes his famous poem Be’lr haHarega (In the City of Slaughter).

April 23, 1903
In a meeting between Herzl and the British Minister for the Colonies, Chamberlain, the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda is raised.

April 23 – Herzl meets in London with Chamberlain, the British secretary of state for the colonies, who has returned from a prolonged visit to Eastern Africa. The minister raises the possibility of Jewish settlement in Uganda.

Herzl reiterates his support for settlement in “Palestine or its vicinity.”

May – Herzl changes his mind, and is inclined to accept the British offer to settle in Eastern Africa. The British suggest an area of 100,000 square kilometers and in a memorandum from the foreign ministry write- “The foreign secretary is giving serious consideration to offers regarding establishment of some kind of colony or Jewish settlement under conditions that will enable their people to perform their national traditions.”

The philanthropist Itzhak Leib Goldberg from Vilna transfers a plot of land owned by him in the settlement of Hadera to the Jewish National Fund (JNF). This is the first territory (200 dunams) to be transferred to the authority of the Jewish National Fund.

July 26 – The first branch of the Anglo-Palestine Bank opens in Jaffa. Its manager is Zalman David Levontin, who co-founded Rishon lesion 21 years before. In the years to come the bank opens branches in Jerusalem, Hebron and in Beirut.

August 14, 1903
British government offers the World Zionist Organization the Uganda Plan, the creation of a Jewish home in East Africa under British rule.

August 6-16 – Herzl visits Russia and meets with the interior minister Viacheslav Plehve, despite the fact that some of the Zionist leaders believe he is one of those responsible for the Kishinev pogrom. He reaches an agreement with Plehve about Zionist activities in Russia and Turkish government aid for Zionism. He is welcomed enthusiastically by Jews in different cities.

August 23-25, 1903
Sixth Zionist Congress, the “Uganda Congress.”

August 23-28 – The Sixth Zionist Congress, the “Uganda Congress,” is held in Basle. Herzl raises the idea of establishing an autonomous Jewish region in Uganda, the British colony in Eastern Africa. There is stormy opposition to the proposal, especially among the Russian Zionists. Nordau tries to soften the offer by saying that the solution provides a “temporary refuge” for the Jewish emigrants of Eastern Europe, until they are able to settle in Eretz Israel. Finally Herzl’s suggestion to send a delegation to investigate the region is agreed upon.

The Uganda scheme creates an unprecedented crisis in the World Zionist Organization. Herzl struggles to implement the plan, with the support of most of the senior leaders. There are, however, unparalleled objections and many fear a division in the movement between “Uganda Zionists” who support and trust Herzl, and between “Zion Zionists,” (Tziyonei Zion) who reject Uganda and are steadfastly loyal to Eretz Israel. They are not impressed by Herzl’s dramatic declaration at the end of the Congress that he will always remain devoted only to Zion, and that “If I forget three O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning!”

August 24 – In Zichron Ya’akov, the first Kenesiya (Assembly) of Jewish settlement representatives in Eretz Israel, numbering 67 delegates, opens. A decision is reached to condemn Herzl’s Uganda scheme. At the end of deliberations, the Jewish teachers in Palestine establish the Teachers’ Union in Zichron Ya’akov.

September 11 – In Homel, Russia, Jews are once again the victims of pogroms. A “Jewish resistance” takes a stand against the violence, for the first time – an important milestone in the annals of Russian Jewry. Some of the defenders are forced to leave the city and make aliyah to Eretz Israel. They are considered the first immigrants of the Second Aliyah (late November 1903).

The Jewish National Fund acquires its first large tract of land in Eretz Israel, encompassing thousands of dunams in Deleqa-Umm Juni in the Jordan Valley.

November 11, 1903
Large land purchase by Keren HaKayemeth at Delaika and Umm Juni. Kibbutz Deganya Aleph is established on these lands.

November – The Uganda scheme becomes highly controversial within the Zionist movement. A gathering of Russian Zionist leaders takes place in Kharkov from November 11-14, and the scheme is vehemently rejected. Menahem Mendel Ussishkin, who regards it as a “betrayal of historic Zionism,” becomes the leader of the opposition to Herzl. Convention participants consider establishing a new Zionist organization, without Herzl, who reiterates his continued support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Israel.

1904 – January 23 – Herzl meets in Rome with the King of Italy, Victor Emanuel III. The king promises him “to speak with every Turk possible on the Zionist issue.”

January 25 – Herzl meets with Pope Pious X. he tries to convey to him the essentialness of the Zionist idea, but without success. The Pope does not approve of Herzl’s idea that Jerusalem be handed over to the Jews, and that the holy places receive ex-territorial status.

February – The first exploratory delegation leaves for southern Palestine and Transjordan, financed by the World Zionist Organization. It is led by the German scientist Prof. Blankenhorn and includes Aaron Aaronsohn, the young agronomist from Zichron Ya’akov.

March – Herzl opens a new round of talks with the Turkish government with regard to the charter on Palestine and is willing at this stage to make do with the area of Acco (Acre).

April 11-15 – The Actions Committee (Va’ad haPo’el HaZioni) holds an unusually stormy session in which there is a direct clash between Herzl and Ussishkin regarding the Uganda scheme. In a conciliatory move, Herzl devotes party of the discussion to the development of settlement in Eretz Israel. Herzl and his rivals agree to a truce.

May 13 – Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook makes aliyah. Her serves as rabbi of the Jewish community of Jaffa and of the newly established moshavot, and is an important link in bridging the gap between the New and Old Yishuv.

May-June – Herzl, who suffers from a heart condition, takes some time out to rest and recuperate, on the advice of his doctors. He is extremely ill. Members of the Zionist movement are asked not to write him due to his deteriorating condition.

Tammuz 2, 5664 (July 3, 1904)
Death of Benyamin Zeev Herzl

July 3 – Theodor Herzl, creator and head of the World Zionist Organization for its fist seven years, dies at the age of 44. The Jewish world mourns.

August – Aliyah to Eretz Israel increases and there is a notable influx of young people. The Anglo-Palestine Bank acquires the land of Ben Shemen during the last months of Herzl’s life and with his knowledge. It opens a branch in Jerusalem – the second in Palestine.

1905 – January – Pogroms in Russia result in increased Jewish emigration. Most travel to America but a trickle make their way to Palestine.

March – In Eastern Europe a pamphlet is published entitled, “A call to young Jews whose hearts are with their people and with Zion.” Written by Joseph Vitkin from Eretz Israel, this passionate appeal came to be regarded as one of the factors that inspired the Second Aliyah.

May – The exploratory delegation sent to Uganda by the Sixth Zionist Congress in order to examine its suitability for Jewish settlement, publishes a negative report in London.

July 27-August 2 – The Seventh Zionist Congress convenes in Basle, the first Congress since Herzl’s death, and the Basle Program is reaffirmed. The idea of settling in Uganda is rejected and the Territorialists (who are in favor of settlement outside of Eretz Isreal) leave the World Zionist Organization. The Congress applauds the proposal of Otto Warburg, who calls for the planting of Jewish National Fund olive trees in Herzl’s name – the beginning of the Herzl forest.

David Wolffsohn, a Zionist leader from Germany, is chosen as chairman of the World Zionist Organization. After the Congress, the Territorialists hold the first meeting of the Jewish Territorial Organization (ITO), headed by the English Jew Israel Zangwill. From then on they operate separately and make repeated attempts to find territory for those Jews wishing to leave their homes in Europe but who are not ready to make aliyah to Eretz Israel. The organization operates unsuccessfully until 1925.

The main office of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) moves from Vienna, where Herzl resided, to Cologne in Germany.

October 22 – The world’s first Hebrew high school opens in Jaffa. Later it is called the Herzliya Gymnasium, in honor of Herzl.
October 31 – Pogroms break out against Jews in hundreds of population centers all over Russia, leaving 2,000 Jews dead in their wake. In many places, Jewish “self defense forces” emerge. The pogroms give renewed impetus to aliyah to Eretz Israel.

The Jewish National Fund increases its involvement in Eretz Israel- throughout the year it acquires land in order to establish agricultural training farms and a school for Kishinev orphans. JNF also participates in the acquisition of land for establishing experimental agricultural stations in Atlit, founds the Lands Office and funds its activity in cooperation with the Anglo-Palestine Bank acquires the lands of Kfar Hittim and aids cultural and educational institutions in Jaffa and Jerusalem.

In Russia the Jewish socialist labor confederation is established, that goes by its popular name, Po’ale Zion (Workers of Zion). In the years to come it acts as the workers section of the Zionist movement. A branch is established in Eretz Israel too and some of the workers, who disagree with its socialist line, establish their own party, HaPoel HaTzair (The Young Worker).

1906 – January – In a Zionist Initiative, an international committee meets in Brussels to discuss the plight of Russian Jewry, which is suffering from persecution and pogroms.

March 1 – The Bezalet art school is opened in Jerusalem.

July – Menahem Mendel Ussishkin, the renowned Russian-Zionist leader, takes up his post as chairman of the Hovevei Zion’s Odessa Committee.

July 5 – The Ahuzat Bayit company is established in Jaffa with the aim of building garden suburbs outside Jaffa. This signals the beginnings of the city of Tel Aviv.

September 7 – A new immigrant arrives in Jaffa. His name is David Green, later David Ben-Gurion.

October 4-10 – The Helsingfors conference of Russian Zionists is held in Helsinki (then within the boundaries of Tsarist Russia). It necessitates, from the point of view of Zionistic aspirations, “present-day work,” that is, ongoing Zionistic activity in the communities of the Jewish Diaspora. This is an important milestone in Zionist history and a bone of contention for years to come.

The WZO opens an information and immigration office in Jaffa, headed by a new Russian immigrant by the name of Menahem Sheinkin. The office provides financial information for those interested in making aliyah. Aliyah to Palestine increases and among the thousands of new arrivals are members of the First Aliyah who left the country and returned with the Second Aliyah. Some 150,000 Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe arrive in the United States in 1906.

1907 – January 1 – The first edition of the Hebrew weekly HaOlam (The World) – the official organ of the WZO – appears in Cologne, Germany. Its first editor is Nahum Sokolow. In the years to come, the paper also appears in Russia and England, and from 1935 until its closing in 1950, in Jerusalem.

January 10 – David Wolffsohn, chairman of the WZO, arrives in Palestine for a visit. He tours the agricultural settlements and town and is welcomed enthusiastically.

February – Wolffsohn visits Istanbul, where he meets with the Grand Vizier (prime minister) Farid Pasha, and with Izzet Bey, one of the Sultan’s secretaries. He fails to advance the Zionist idea in the Turkish capital.

April 8 – The JNF’s regulations are approved by the British government, and Max Isidor Bodenheimer, a lawyer, is chosen as JNF’s first chairman.

May 7 – The JNF board of directors holds its first meeting in Cologne, where it decides to hasten the planting of the Herzl Forest in Hulda.

May 30 – Dr. Arthur Ruppin, a young German-Jewish sociologist, arrives in Jaffa. He has come on behalf of the Zionist Executive and the JNF in order to observe the situation in the Yushuv.

June 23 – The Ahuzat Bayit committee turns to the JNF, through Dr. Ruppin, and asks for a large loan in order to fund the building of the first 60 houses in a new neighborhood outside of Jaffa.

July 16 – After much indecision (due to a preference for agricultural settlement) the JNF board of directors approves a loan of 250,000 francs, for 18 years, to aid the establishment of Ahuzat Bayit.

August 14-21 – The Eighth Zionist Congress is held in The Hague, Holland. Among its resolutions- the opening of a permanent office of the WZO in Jaffa – the Palestine Office, headed by Dr. Ruppin. The Anglo-Jewish philanthropist Jacob Moser informs the Congress that he is making a large donation to establish the Hebrew Gymnasium in Jaffa (on condition that it is named after Herzl – Herzliya), as well as a donation to Bezalel, the Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. David Wolffsohn is elected president of the WZO.

Concurrently with the Congress, the founding convention of the World Union of Po’ale Zion (the roof organization of the Po’ale Zion parties in different countries), is held in The Hague).

September – Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the young scientist and Zionist leader, pays his first visit to Palestine.

September 29 – A secret organization by the name of Bar-Giora is founded in Jaffa (at the home of Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who came to Palestine with the second Aliyah) whose objective is to transfer the protection of the moshavot to Jewish hands. Its slogan- “In blood and fire Judea fell and in blood and fire Judea will rise.” The organization is the precursor of the HaShomer (“The Guard”) self-defense organization 18 months later.

October – Wolffsohn pays an additional visit to Istanbul. He discusses with the Turkish government the possibility of receiving a charter on Palestine.

1908 – April 1 – Dr. Arthur Ruppin opens the Palestine Office in Jaffa. For ten years this is the principle Zionist address in Eretz Israel. The office fulfils a very important role in land acquisition and in the expansion of the agricultural and urban settlement. Within its framework, the Palestine Land Development Company is established.

May – The planting of Herzl Forest in Ben Shemen begins. It is undertaken by the JNF.

June 7 – The Palestine Office establishes its first national farm at Kinneret, intended to train pioneers for agricultural labor. This is followed by the founding of additional farms in Hulda and Ben Shemen.

June 21 – The first moshav po’alim (workers’ settlement) in Palestine is established in Ein Ganim, near Petah Tikva.

July 24 – The Young Turks uprising takes place in Turkey. There is renewed hope in the Yishuv and the Zionist movement that this will result in a reprieve with regard to building the Zionist enterprise.

1909 – March – The WZO recognizes the first political party – the Po’ale Zion Federation.

April 11 – The 60 families that organized in order to establish the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood in north Jaffa, hold a draw for the plots of land. This day is considered the day on which the neighborhood was founded, and which burgeoned, in the years to come, into the city of Tel Aviv.

April 12 – HaShomer (“The Guard”) is founded in Kfar Tabor (Mescha).

July 28 – A cornerstone-laying ceremony is held in the neighborhood of Ahuzat Bayit for the Herzliya Gymnasium.

July-August – Wolffsohn pays his third visit to Istanbul. The WZO decides to publish newspapers in the Turkish capital that will support its position and influence the government, in the spirit of the aims of Zionist. Ze’ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky is appointed to head these newspapers. The French-language paper La Jeune Turke (The Young Turk) is the most well known.

October – The WZO recognizes a second federation – HaMizrachi.

November – The first families move from Jaffa to their new homes in the Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood.

December 26-30 – The Ninth Zionist Congress is held in Hamburg, Germany. It supports continued Jewish settlement in Palestine and adopts the Oppenheimer method for the establishment of cooperative settlements. Following this decision, a “cooperative” is established at Merhavya.

1910 – Yehoshua Hankin acquires 10,000 dunams in the center of the Jezreel Valley – the first large acquisition in this desolate region – from the Lebanese landowner Sursuk. The Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), where he works, refuses to approve the acquisition, so Hankin offers the land to Dr. Ruppin. Ruppin accepts, and on May 20 Hankin begins to work at the Palestine Land Development Company, becoming its mainstay and acquiring hundreds of thousands of dunams of land for the company in the years to come. In the following year, the first Jewish settlement, Merhavya, is established on this land in the Jezreel Valley.

May 21 – In a general assembly of the residents of Ahuzat Bayit, a decision is made to change the name of the neighborhood to Tel Aviv, in light of Herzl’s book, Old-new Land, whose Hebrew name was given by the translator Nahum Sokolow.

October 28 – The founding nucleus of Umm Juni is established, that less than a year later takes the name Degania – “the mother of the kibbutzim.”

1911 – January 24 – Merhavya is established in the heart of the desolate Jezreel Valley. The first members of the cooperative settlement arrive in April. Members of HaShomer protect the settlers and the settlement during clashes with the Bedouin and the neighboring Arabs.

August 6 – In a letter from Umm Juni to Dr. Arthur Ruppin, head of the Palestine Office, Joseph Bussel informs Ruppin that “we have named our new settlement Degania, in honor of the five species of grain that we grow.”

August 9-15 – The Tenth Zionist Congress is held in Basle, Switzerland. Discussions focus on the settlement enterprise in Palestine and Jewish-Arab relations. David Wolffsohn, president of the WZO, expresses his wish to retire. In his opening speech he proudly declares- “Fourteen years ago, Zionism was a sensation. Today it is a reality.” The Mizrachi delegates object to incorporating “cultural work” into the Zionist movement’s areas of activity. A new leadership is elected with Prof. Otto Warburg appointed as chairman. Immediately after the Congress the seat of the Zionist Executive is moved from Cologne to Berlin.

December – Shmuel varshavsky (Yavnieli), a young activist in the Labor movement, is sent to Yemen as an emissary of the Palestine Office and of Rabbi Kook, in order to spur the Jews to make aliyah. In the coming years, more than 2,000 Jews from Yemen settle in Eretz Israel.

Throughout the year, the first labor federations are founded- in the Galilee and northern Palestine in April, and in Judah (as the area south-east of Jaffa was called at that time) in June. Later a third federation is founded in Samaria (the area of Hadera-Zichron Ya’akov).

December 13 – The federation operating in Judah decides to establish an institute that will care for the sick and the wounded. Its name- Kupat Holim (Sick Fund). This constitutes the basis for Kupat Holim Clalit (The General Sick Fund).

1912 – Hadassah is founded in new York, an organization of Zionist women. The name Hadassah (Queen Esther’s original name) is chosen to mark the festival of Purim.

April 11 – In a desolate region on a slope of the Carmel Mountain, a cornerstone-laying ceremony takes place for Technicum, the first academic-technological institute in Palestine. It is later renamed the Technion.

In the first half of 1912, more than 1,000 immigrants from Yemen make aliyah. Jewish aliyah to Palestine increases. Among the newcomers is Joseph Trumpeldor, who later works in Migdal and Degania.

A Zionist youth movement by the name of Blau-Weiss (Blue and White) is founded in Germany (and later in Czechoslovakia).

1913 – August 13 – The first class of the Herzl Gymnasium graduates. Among the graduates are some of the key personalities of the Yishuv and the country in the decades to come- Moshe Shertok (Sharett), Eliyahu Golomb and Dov Hoss.

September 2-9 – The Eleventh Zionist Congress is held in Vienna, Austria. On the agenda- achievements in settlement activity in Palestine and the idea of establishing a Hebrew university in Jerusalem. The lecturer on this subject- Dr. ChaimWeeizmann. Prof. Warburg is elected once again as chairman of the movement, and Yehiel Chlenov is elected as his deputy.

October – The Gideon organization is established in Zichron Ya’akov, which unifies young moshavot members. Its members constitute the basis for NILI, a secret pro-British spy organization that operates under Turkish rule in Palestine during World War I.

December – The “language war” breaks out in Palestine, when it becomes apparent that the German Hilfsverein (Ezra) group, which initiated the establishment of the first academic institute in Palestine, the Technion in Haifa, is about to make German the language of instruction in most subjects. A rebellion breaks out among students and teachers in Ezra institutes, and the WZO heads the opposition to the use of foreign languages in Jewish schools in Eretz Israel taking upon itself the establishment of a chain of Hebrew educational institutes.

In Galicia the Zionist youth movement HaShomer haTza’ir (The Young Guard) is established. It is named after the HaShomer (The Guard) organization in Eretz Israel.

Throughout the year, new facts are created on the ground with regard to agricultural settlement- in the Jezreel valley a second moshav is established, Tel Adashim, whose members are from HaShomer, and in the Jordan valley a second cooperative group is established following Degania’s founding – Kinneret.

1914 – February – Baron Rothschild pays his fourth visit to Palestine, after a 15-year break. This time it is a peace-making mission with the Yishuv and the Zionist movement. Rothschild is impressed with what he sees, praises the work of the WZO and expresses his willingness to help.

June – Following increased tension between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, a Jewish-Arab conference is planned for the beginning of July in a small town near Beirut to resolve differences. Nahum Sokolow is to head the Jewish delegation. For different reasons, among which is international tension following the Austrian duke Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo on June 28 (that leads to World War I), the conference does not take place.

The Second Aliyah ends. Some 35,000 Jews made aliyah during the previous decade, among them a few thousand pioneers. The Second Aliyah is considered one of the most important periods in shaping the Yishuv on its way to statehood.

1914 – July 28 – World War I breaks out and the Jewish world is torn between the two sides- the Triple Alliance (Russia, England and France), the Triple Entente (Germany and Austria-Hungary, later joined by Turkey). The United States is neutral. Jews fight each other.

August – Because of the war, the Turks suspend their shipping connections with Europe and declare a moratorium – rejecting payments and commitments. This results in a crisis and profound distress in the Jewish Yishuv.

September 8 – The Turkish government cancels capitulation measures, according to which foreign nationals are subject only to their consuls and not to the governments of the country in which they live. Thousands of Jews in Palestine with foreign citizenship worry about their fate.

October 6 – The American warship North Carolina brings $50,000 from the Jews of the United States to the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel. This is the beginning of Jewish-American aid to the Yishuv.

October 30 – Turkey enters the war on the side of the Triple Alliance. Palestine, as part of Turkey, is now a participant in the war. The Turks order all foreign national in Palestine to take out Turkish citizenship or leave. Thus begins a mass exodus of Jews from Palestine.
November 9 – In a discussion with the British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, the Anglo-Jewish politician Herbert Samuel raises, for the first time, the possibility that Turkey will collapse following the war. The super powers, he says, will find it difficult to turn Palestine into one of their own territories, so perhaps it is worthwhile “fulfilling the ancient ambitions of the Jewish people and re-establishing a Jewish state.” Grey responds sympathetically.

December 3-6 – A meeting of the Actions Committee (Va’ad HaPoel HaZioni) in Copenhagen, after the WZO decides to open a Zionist liaison office in neutral Denmark, while leaving its principle institutions in Germany. Sokolow and Chlenov, two Zionist leaders, are dispatched to the United States and arrive, eventually, in England. Zionist activity in most of the European countries – on both fronts – is paralyzed.

December 10 – The first meeting between Weizmann and Samuel takes place in London the first step on the long road to the Balfour Declaration. Weizmann, a medium-ranking Zionist leader, begins to pave his way to the leadership.

The Jewish Yishuv in Palestine is being persecuted. The Turks arrest suspects, confiscate equipment and supplies, and place prohibitions on the use of Zionist symbols and stamps. Increasing numbers of Jews leave Palestine. American warships help evacuate those wishing to leave to Egypt, which is in British hands.

December 28 – Baron Edmond de Rothschild meets in Paris with Dr. Chaim Weizmann. He tells him, surprisingly, that now that Turkey has entered the war, the cautious activity in Eretz Israel must stop and that Jews must work openly and demand the establishment of a Jewish state.

1915 – January-March – The Turks arrest a number of young leaders and community activists in Palestine. Among them are Manya Shohat, Yehoshua Hankin, David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. Some of them are deported to Turkey for the entire duration of the war, and others – like Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi – to Egypt, from where they travel to the United States.

March – Ze’ev Jabotinsky (who arrived from Russia) and Joseph Trumpeldor (who left Palestine because of Turkish persecution) join forces in Alexandri

Jewish History

In the 1700s, more than a century preceding the Zionist movement, relatively large numbers of Jews from Eastern Europe moved to the Land of Israel. They were basically either disciples of the Gaon of Vilna or the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidism. Their motives were purely religious. They felt that the time of redemption was at hand and by populating the Holy Land they would somehow quicken the Messiah’s arrival.

Zionism was originally based on the religious impulses of the Jewish people. The masses saw it not as a secular movement but as a religious one – even though the movement became increasingly secular and even anti-religious. Nevertheless, the movement was popular because it touched a religious consciousness and the memory of the collective Jewish people.

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the time referred to as the First Aliyah. Most historians identify five waves of immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel. The First Aliyah – the first of these waves — covers the period from 1881 to 1901. This 20 year timeframe preceded official Zionism, which Theodore Herzl inaugurated in 1897.

Those who immigrated called themselves after a verse that translates, “House of Jacob, let us get up and go” (Isaiah 2:5). In Hebrew, the first letters of the four-word phrase spelled B-I-L-U. Thus, those who were part of this movement were called Bilu’im (plural for BILU).

It is significant that its participants did not give their movement a non-descript, generic name such as The Jewish Society for Re-colonization of the Holy Land. They gave it a name based on a biblical verse. Even though theirs was in effect a secular movement, it was built upon a religious impetus and feeling. The verse summarized their entire philosophy: It was time to get up and leave the Diaspora, the Exile.

That is not to say that many Jews went to the Land of Israel. On the contrary, perhaps only 15,000-25,000 Jews went from 1881 to 1901. Nevertheless, the entire population at the time was probably less than 150,000 permanent residents. The arrival of 15,000 or more Jews represented a good 10% increase in population. It made an impression in a land that had been desolate for so long.

Arab Demographics

When people of the First Aliyah arrived in Palestine vast portions of the country were uninhabited. Palestine was a sparsely settled, poor, underdeveloped, barren, rocky, malaria-ridden, hot, dusty and inhospitable country – and that doesn’t say it all.

Today’s Israel has forests and trees. Each of those trees was planted by hand, one at a time. Under the Ottoman Turks, the country had only one forest left, near what is today the city of Netanya. That forest had even been mentioned in Josephus it had survived 2,000 years. But the Turks cut down that forest during the First World War to build defenses against the invading British army.

The indigenous population consisted of Bedouin Arabs mainly in the southern part of the country and Christian Arabs centered around the cities of Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.[1] Finally, there was a large portion of Muslim Arabs – of which there were two kinds. One was the peasant agricultural workers, called Fellaheen (or Fallahin). They tilled the soil mostly for absentee landlords who lived Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Arabia and Egypt.

They were serfs who lived under the worst of all possible conditions. They worked from dawn to dusk on harsh land without fertilizer and modern tools. They plowed with the same plow used in biblical times. One field could be held by four or five Fellaheen none of them ever had more than four or five rows of a field. Whatever they could till for themselves they used to pay rent to the landlord.

This feudalistic system guaranteed that they would always remain poverty-stricken, uneducated and illiterate. It was a classic example of mistreatment of Arab by Arab, which has a long and unfortunate history, even to this day.

Then there were the town-Arabs. They lived mainly in Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa, Bethlehem and Nablus. They were storekeepers and merchants. Whereas the Fellaheen represented the lower class the town-Arabs were the middle class. They saw themselves and much more advanced than the Fellaheen and deserving of rights and privileges due to their station and class.

The town-Arabs are the ones that would feel most threatened by the coming of the Jews, even though the Fellaheen would mainly be the ones to take matters into their own hands in the upcoming battle against the Jewish colonizers. This was because their fellow Arabs, who exploited them, would paint the Jews as the scapegoat for their problems. Like today, the Jewish scapegoat drew attention away from the age-old terrible injustices Arabs committed against Arabs.

From Time Immemorial

When the people of the First Aliyah arrived they hired Arab laborers for all the agricultural processes that they were embarking upon. For instance, most of those who picked the vineyards were Arabs. They were paid a wage far higher than they could ever earn on their own.

That guaranteed that more Arabs would come to the country. Indeed, with every successive wave of Jewish immigration the Arab immigration doubled and tripled, because there was now opportunity that was not available anywhere else in the Arab world. Why should they stay in the squalor of Egypt, Syria, Jordan or under the absentee Arab landlords of Palestine?

The 15,000 or so Jews who arrived with the First Aliyah brought in with them almost 80,000 Arabs. In effect, the more Jews the more Arabs – except that the Arabs were geometrically increasing while the Jews were only arithmetically increasing. By the time the State of Israel was formed the Arab population was about two million compared to about 600,000 for the Jewish population.

In any event, the Arab population of Palestine grew with the Jews. The vast majority had not been there for 1,700 years. And those who came in the modern era came in great part because of the Jews, not just coincidentally with the Jews.

The Problem no one wanted to Address

When the Bilu’im arrived they were faced with two problems: what to do with the Jews who were there already and what to do with the Arabs that were there already. They chose to ignore both problems. To a certain extent, the Zionist movement itself also ignored both problems. The matter was never really addressed.

However, the matter was addressed by Arabs, including this letter written on March 1, 1899, by a prominent 70-year-old Muslim Arab leader in Jerusalem, Yusuf al-Khalidi, to the Chief Rabbi of France (a non-Zionist):

In theory, the Zionist idea is completely natural, fine and just. Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, historically it is really your country.

But in practice you cannot take over Palestine without the use of force. You will need canons and battleships. Christian fanatics will not overlook any opportunity to incite the hatred of the Muslims against the Jews.

It is necessary, therefore, in order for peace to reign for the Jews in Turkey [i.e. throughout the Ottoman Empire, which included Palestine] that the Zionist movement stop. Good Lord, the world is vast enough and there are still uninhabited countries where one can settle millions of poor Jews who may perhaps be happy there and one day constitute a nation. That would perhaps be the best and most rational solution to the Jewish question. But, in the name of God, let Palestine alone. Let it remain in peace.

This letter written in 1899 summed up the common Arab position: In theory, the land may be the Jews’, but in practice it cannot happen unless the Jews throw the Arabs out, and the Arabs were not about to let that happen.


The Jews of the First Aliyah period were still naïve about what Arab reaction would be. Perhaps the only way they could have accomplished what they did was because they were naïve.

A letter Theodore Herzl wrote captures the spirit of this naiveté. It was his response to the letter that Yusuf al-Khalidi had sent to the Chief Rabbi of France, who in turn had given it to Herzl. Here is what Herzl wrote:

The Jews are supported by none of the powers and have no military pretensions of their own. There need be no difficulty with the local population. Nobody is trying to remove non-Jews. The local population can only benefit from the prosperity that the Jews will bring.

Do you believe that an Arab who has a house or land in Palestine whose value today is three- or four thousand francs will regret seeing the price of his land rise five- or ten-fold? For that is necessarily what will happen as we Jews come. And that must be explained to the inhabitants of this country. They will become rich because of us. They will acquire excellent brothers just as the Sultan will acquire loyal and good subjects who will cause this region, their historic motherland, to flourish.

He meant everything he said, and was even correct, but it was extremely naïve. Today, the standard of living, life expectancy and literacy of the average Arab in Israel in the West Bank, for instance, is higher than almost every other Arab country in the Middle East. Yet, they are still very unhappy with the Jewish state. No amount of good fortune, medical care or educational opportunity has changed the demeanor of the Arab population toward the Jews. Herzl and the Jews of his time believed it would. In that sense, they were very naïve.

European anti-Semitism and an Inferiority Complex

The coming of the European powers to the Muslim world had a negative effect on the Arab-Muslim attitude toward the Jews – even before the Jews came there in significant numbers. It introduced the virus of European anti-Semitism into the Arab world.

The Jews never lived well under the Muslims, but persecution under the Muslims was relatively mild in comparison to the Christian countries. However, the virus of European anti-Semitism now spread to the Arabs when the European powers came to the area in the mid-1800s. It reached a pitch with the Dreyfus affair in 1894. More than anyone else, it was the French Church that introduced the idea of Western anti-Semitism to the Arabs via the French Church in what is today Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. The Arabs long had anti-Jewish feelings, but this now legitimized those feelings.

The First Aliyah also awakened in the Arabs the feeling of inferiority, which drove them to excesses to prove that they were not inferior. The success of the Jews pointed out the defects and the deficiencies of the Arabs. All of a sudden, the Arabs watched as the Jews drained swamps, built farms, created towns and hired the Arabs as laborers.

Feeling of inferiority combined with imported European anti-Semitism created a lethal combination that still exists today. The First Aliyah is what touched it off. The Jews dreamed naively that the problems of colonization would go away, but that Arabs always saw clearly that they would not.

The First Aliyah marks the first time that the problem was seen so clearly, expressed in such vitriolic terms and set the stage for all later development.

[1] Christian Arabs, who had become Christian during the Crusades, were persecuted very strongly by the Muslim Arabs.

The First and Second “Aliyot”

A large wave of Jewish emigration began following the pogroms in Russia during 1881–1882. The majority emigrated to the United States and only a few went to live in Eretz Yisrael. At the same time, the national concept was strengthened amongst Russian and Romanian Jews and “Hovevei Zion” groups were set up in many towns. One of the better known was the “Bilu” group of young people and students. From both of these countries aliya (emigration to Eretz Yisrael) increased after the summer of 1882. This was also the time of the beginning of aliya from Yemen.

Between 1882 and 1884, those who came from Eastern Europe laid the foundations for six First Aliya villages. Petach Tikva, which was established in 1878 and then abandoned, was rebuilt. Baron Rothschild from France aided the setting up of these villages and it is doubtful that they would have stood ground without his help.

After a break of a few years another wave of immigration came in 1890 –1891 and they established more villages. The immigrants also went to live in the towns, in particular Jaffa and Jerusalem. Not only did they set up villages but also established the first Hebrew schools and renewed the Hebrew language.

At the beginning of the 20 th century, Baron Rothschild ended his direct involvement in the support of new settlements and transferred the management and settlement development to the Jewish Colonization Association. Within a few years the JCA established a new block of settlements in the Lower Galilee.

25,000 Jews came to Eretz Yisrael during the time of the First Aliya. The majority went to live in existing towns but a few thousand settled the villages and laid the foundations for the new settlements.

The Second Aliya 1903 – 1914

As opposed to the First Aliya immigrants that settled in agricultural villages and were mainly mature adults and families, the immigrants that came from 1903 onwards consisted more of young singles. 35,000 people were part of the Second Aliya until 1914.

The Second Aliya laid the foundations for the institutions of social and political bodies of the Jewish Yishuv: the kibbutz the Hebrew town – Tel Aviv “Hashomer”, the first political parties Workers Union and health and aid institutions. At this time, the first Hebrew high school was established and foundations were laid for the institutions of higher education.

Immigrants of the Second Alyia also deeply made their mark in the fields of art, literature and culture and the small Jewish settlement of Eretz Yisrael became the Hebrew creative center for the whole world. Writers like Yosef Haim Brener and the young S.Y. Agnon wrote and created here. The Hebrew language celebrated its victory in the “language war”.

Many future leaders of Israel came with the Second Aliya: the first three Prime Ministers (Ben Gurion, Sharett and Eshkol) and the second and third Presidents (Ben Zvi and Shazar).

Tension developed between those of the First and Second Aliyot since each side claimed first rights. There is no dispute however that both Aliyot, first and second, helped create the new Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael, which eventually established the State of Israel in 1948.

Description of the Stamps.

The First Aliya Stamp shows a photograph of the Leibowitch Family of the Bilu Organization in Gedera, 1898. In the background is a photograph of the clerical house in Zikkron Ya’acov that was built in 1892 by Baron Rothschild for his clerks. Today the building is The First Aliya Museum.

The Second Aliya stamp shows a studio photograph of Second

Aliya immigrants ( By courtesy of the Lavon Institute of Labor Research ). A photograph of the early Rothschild Avenue, Tel Aviv is in the background. ( By courtesy of the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv )

The First Day Cover shows a photograph of the synagogue of the town Rishon Leziyyon and a famous photograph of the Second Aliya pioneers at Deganya. ( By courtesy of the Lavon Institute of Labor Research ).


During the time of the Muslims, life for the Jews here was for the most part easier than under the Christians.

In 1210, following the demise of the Crusaders, several hundred rabbis, known as the Ba’alei Tosefot, re-settled in Israel. This marked the emergence of the first Ashkenazic European community in Israel.

In 1263, the great Rabbi and scholar Nachmanides also known as the Ramban, established a small Sephardic community on Mount Zion which was outside the walls. (See Part 47.) Later, in the 1400s, that community moved inside the walls and they established the Ramban Synagogue which still exists today.

When Nachmanides came to Jerusalem there was already a vibrant Jewish community in Hebron, though the Muslims did not permit them entry into the Cave of the Machpela (where the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs are buried). Indeed, this ban continued until the 20th century.

More Jews started to migrate to Israel following their expulsion from Spain in 1492. In the 16th century, large numbers of Jews migrated to the northern city of Tzfat (also known as Safed) and it became the largest Jewish population in Israel and the center of Jewish mysticism—the Kabbalah.

In mid-1700s a student of the Ba’al Shem Tov by the name of Gershon Kitover started the first Hassidic community in Israel. This community was part of what was called Old Yishuv. (Today, when in the Old City of Jerusalem, you can visit the “Old Yishuv Court Museum” and learn some fascinating facts about it.)

Another very significant event in the growth of the Jewish community of Israel took place in the early 19th century. Between 1808 and 1812 three groups of disciples of the great rabbi Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer, the Vilna Gaon , numbering about 500 people, came to the land of Israel. Initially they settled in Tzfat in the Galilee, but after several disaster including a devastating earthquake, they settled in Jerusalem. Their impact was tremendous. They founded several new neighborhoods (including Mea Shearim) and set up numerous Kollels (Yeshivot where married men are paid a monthly stipend to study Torah). Their arrival revived the presence of Ashkenazi Jewry in Jerusalem, which for over 100 years had been mainly Sephardi and had a huge impact on the customs and religious practices of the religious community in Israel.

By 1880, there were about 40,000 Jews, living in the land of Israel among some 400,000 Muslims.[1]

One of the major figures of this time period was Moses Montefiore (1784 to 1887)—the first Jew to be knighted in Britain.

Montefiore had made his fortune with the Rothschilds, who struck it rich in the Napoleonic Wars. They used carrier pigeons and they knew about the victory at Waterloo before anyone else this is how they made a killing on the English stock market.

With his fortune made by age 40, Montefiore embarked on a career in philanthropy, becoming a tireless worker for the Jewish community of Israel.

At that time, most of the Jews then lived in what is now called the Old City of Jerusalem, specifically in what is now called the “Moslem Quarter.” The main entrance to the city for the Jews was through Damascus Gate and of the many synagogues in Jerusalem, many f them were in the “Moslem Quarter” close to the site where the Temple stood on Mount Moriah.

The city was hugely overcrowded and sanitary conditions were terrible, but due to the lawlessness of that time, people were afraid to built homes and live outside.

Montefiore built the first settlement outside the walls of the Old City, called “Yemin Moshe” in 1858. He opened the door and more neighborhoods were built in the New City. One of the earliest ones, built in 1875, was Mea Shearim (which, contrary to popular opinion does not mean “Hundred Gates” but “Hundredfold” as in Genesis 26:12.)

Besides Montefiore, another extremely important personality in this period of time was Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845 to 1934).

Rothschild was a man who more than anyone else, financially made the re-settlement of Jews in the land of Israel possible. During his lifetime he spent 70 million francs of his own money on various agricultural settlements (Rosh Pina, Zichron Yacov, Pardes Hannah to name but a few) and business enterprises such as the Carmel Winery for example. So important and generous was Rothschild that he was nicknamed HaNadiv HaYaduah, “The Famous Contributor.”

Although Rothschild was quite assimilated and disconnected from the Jewish yearning for the land, he was greatly influenced by Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever, who was one of the first religious Zionists from Poland.

Mohilever converted Rothschild to his ideology and from that point on the rich banker began to look at Israel as an “investment.” He made it possible for thousands of Jews to return to the land and survive here in those days.


Napoleon Bonaparte publishes a proclamation: “Rightful heirs of Palestine . Take over that which has been conquered and…remain its master, to maintain it against all comers.” Many Jews in Israel and Europe receive the proclamation with joy. ( - 36 –35, Napoleon)

The population of Eretz Yisrael is 300,000, of which 5,000 are Jews. Most of the Jews are concentrated in Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron.
(Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 9, pp. 293)

Napoleon I revokes his support of a Jewish homeland and equal rights for Jews. After coming under a strong antisemitic influence in Pressburg, he gathers Jewish leaders from across his empire in order to amend Jewish law and to abolish Jewish nationalism. ( - 44)

Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher

Earthquake in Safed destroys much of the city. Some 5,000 people are killed, of which 4,000 are Jewish. Many of the surviving Rabbinic scholars relocate to Hebron, leaving the Jewish community in Safed numbering only 1,500.

Sir Moses Montefiore

A widespread Messianic prediction sparks a renewed interest in immigration to Eretz Yisrael (Kol Hator). This prediction is circulated in the Balkans and in Eastern Europe. (Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 16, pp. 1034 Morgenstern, Arie. “Dispersion and Longing for Zion, 1240-1840”. Azure.)

The Jewish Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land is founded. This decision is made jointly by a number of Zionist Rabbis, among them Rabbi Zvi Kalisher, Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai and Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmacher (d. 1874). This is the first practical act of the Hibbat Zion movement. (Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 16, pp. 1037)

The Reform movement removes any reference of Zion from its prayer services. The movement views Judaism as a religious, not a national, entity. (Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 16, pp. 1037)

Petah Tikva

The Israeli Story of Aliyah

The Hebrew word for Jewish immigration to Israel is aliyah which literally means “going up.” This does not refer to the topography of Israel compared to other lands but, rather, to the spiritual elevation which one receives through moving to the Holy Land.

There has been a continued Jewish presence in the Holy Land for thousands of years – since before Christianity and Islam came into being.

But, in 70 CE most of the Jews were exiled from their homeland by the Roman Empire. Scattered and constantly wandering around the world, Jews always held on to the dream of returning to what the Romans called “Palestine” and the Jews knew as “the Land of Israel.” Ever since, on the Day of Atonement and on Passover Jews have fervently declared “Next year in Jerusalem!”

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The Earliest Religious Aliyah

While individuals and small groups tried to make their way back to the Land of Israel throughout the millennia, the first significant “Aliyah” took place in the late 17th century. In 1697, Rabbi Judah HaHassid, a rabbi in Poland, left for the Land of Israel with 31 families from among his followers. They spent a year traveling through Germany and Moravia trying to inspire others to join them . By the time they arrived in Italy, the group numbered 1,500 people. Close to one-third died along the way but after finally arriving in the Land of Israel on October 14, 1700, they made their homes in Jerusalem.

The next large group moved to the Holy Land between 1740 and 1750 when thousands of religious Jews moved including two of the greatest rabbis of the time – Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto from Italy and Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, also known as the Or Hachaim, from Morocco.

Jerusalem as depicted by 19th century painter David Roberts

They were followed in the last decades of the 18th century by hundreds of students of the founder of the Hassidic movement , the Baal Shem Tov. These Hassidim who were from present-day Ukraine, did not seek to build a state. Rather, they saw themselves as the spiritual emissaries of the Jewish people around the world and focused on religious study and prayer.

The next large group in this religious Aliyah were the students of Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna (the Vilna Gaon) who arrived in the land in the hundreds during the first decade of the 19th century. While this group also focused on spirituality, they also purchased land for farming. They viewed the reflourishing of the land through the lens of Biblical prophecies and the coming of the Messiah.

Five Waves of Modern Aliyah

A rash of pogroms in Russia and rising antisemitism throughout Europe led to five distinct waves of aliyah between 1882 and 1939. These influxes were much larger than the previous religious aliyah.

The First Aliyah (1882-1903): The immigrants of this period worked toward the establishment of a Jewish state in the Holy Land. 60,000 members of two movements – Chibat Zion which had more of a religious perspective and Bilu with more of a focus on the agricultural – made the move to the Holy Land.

The immigrants of the First Aliyah established new settlements which became cities – such as Rishon Letzion, Rechovot, Hadera, Gedera, and others – by purchasing 90,000 acres of land from Arabs. They also made their homes in cities such as Jaffa where 3,000 of these new immigrants moved. This wave of aliyah was most responsible for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language and Hebrew schools were established.

The Second Aliyah (1904-1914): This was characterized by younger, secular Russian immigrants with socialist ideals. They sought to create a workers’ commonwealth in pre-State Israel and worked as laborers. This group, which numbered around 40,000, established the first kibbutzim.

This group also began the process of building a Jewish army with their Hashomer defense association. David Ben Gurion, Yitzchak Ben Zvi, and other idealistic future leaders of the State were part of this Aliyah.

Halutzim (pioneers) in Migdal, 1912.

The Third Aliyah (1919-1923): Immigration to the Land of Israel paused during World War I but it picked up in 1919. Spurred by the 1917 Balfour Declaration, 35,000 Jews with a stronger Zionist spirit made their way from Russia, Poland and Lithuania, along with another 1,000 from other European countries. The mostly younger pioneers from this Aliyah founded the Histadrut, the countrywide labor organization, and provided workers for construction of housing and roads.

The Fourth Aliyah (1924) saw the arrival of new types of immigrants: middle-class shopkeepers and artisans, mostly from Poland, who fled harsh economic restrictions. The 67,000 Jews of the Fourth Aliyah settled in cities like Tel Aviv and started factories, stores, restaurants and small hotels.

The Fifth Aliyah (1929-1939) brought more than 250,000 Jews to pre-State Israel and was the first large influx of Central and Western European Jews. Many were highly trained professionals including doctors and other academic professions, and musicians and other cultural skills. They settled in cities such as Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem.

This Fifth Aliyah coincided with the clandestine efforts to bring Jews to the Holy Land, also known as “Aliyah Bet.” In 1934 the HeHalutz movement chartered a Greek ship, the “Vellos,” to bring 350 “illegal” immigrants as the British tried to cut down on Jewish immigration to the Holy Land. Between 1937 and 1939 thousands more came on ships organized by Betar and Revisionist groups. After the Holocaust these efforts continued in defiance of British restrictions on Jewish immigration. Between 1934-1948, 115,000 Jews reached what is now Israel. 51,000 were incarcerated by the British and were only freed to enter the land when the Jewish state was founded in 1948.

The Exodus in Haifa harbor, 1947.


In keeping with its mission of being the Jewish national homeland, Israel enacted the Law of Return to make it possible for Jews to “come home” as easily as possible. Since its founding, Israel absorbed Jewish immigrants in three other waves. These three influxes came from different corners of the world and carried distinct challenges.

Mizrahi Aliyah: Israel’s Jewish population skyrocketed with the immigration of 820,000 Jews from Arab countries beginning in 1948. Jewish refugees from Arab lands were forced to flee their homes in the face of antisemitic pogroms, repression and discrimination.

The first influx of 256,000 came from Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Turkey between 1948-1951. The Jews of Iraq and Yemen were airlifted to Israel in Operations Ezra and Nehemia, and Operation Magic Carpet respectively. Tens of thousands made aliyah from Egypt and Morocco in the mid-1950’s and hundreds of thousands moved to Israel from other North African countries in the 1960’s.

Most of these immigrants were temporarily settled in immigration camps, and were then transferred to Ma’abarot – transit camps made of tin dwellings. These immigrants tended to be more religiously traditional than the founders of the state and they eventually moved to establish their own neighborhoods in Israel’s development towns in the northern and southern peripheries.

Click on image to see full-size infographic

Russian Aliyah: While there was a continuous flow of Jews to Israel from all around the world in the 1970’s and 80’s, the next large influx of immigrants came in the 1990’s as the Soviet Union crumbled. When the Jews at the beginning of this wave had to first fly to transit points in Europe, Israel made every El Al plane available to fly them home. Close to one million made aliyah and Israel set up 430 caravan sites to temporarily house them.

This Russian aliyah contributed greatly to Israel as 60% of these immigrants were college educated – twice the number of college educated Israelis as the time. They included 57,000 engineers compared to 30,000 that were in Israel then, and 12,000 doctors while all of Israel had just 15,000 doctors.

The Russians struggled to integrate into Israeli society, tending to live in their own neighborhoods. In addition, Russian academic degrees were often not recognized, forcing the immigrants to work in jobs that did not match their expertise. But by 2012 their average salary that of native born-Israeli Jews and their children integrated as full-fledged Israelis.

Ethiopian immigrants at an absorption center in 1991 after Operation Solomon.

Ethiopian Aliyah: In 1984, about 7,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in Operation Moses after walking across a Sudanese desert to reach a clandestine airfield. An additional 500 were flown to Israel by the United States in Operation Joshua. And then in 1991 Israel launched Operation Solomon – sending 34 planes, many with their seats removed to increase their capacity, to bring 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel over the course of 36 hours.

Today approximately 140,000 Jews from Ethiopian descent live in Israel. The integration of this population which was not accustomed to a Western style society has been a particular challenge for Israel. The Ethiopian community has unfortunately faced racism and discrimination. Moreover, some 8,000 Ethiopians who are sometimes known as Falash Mura or Beta Israel who have close relatives in Israel also seek to immigrate but the Interior Ministry does not recognize their Jewishness.

But progress is reflected in the new generation of Ethiopian Israelis. Descendants of the immigrants are entering higher education in large numbers, and have reached high levels of the IDF, politics, culture and media.

With nearly six million Jews living in countries throughout the world, Aliyah continues. The first decade of the 21st century saw more than 250,000 new immigrants from 150 countries. The highest numbers came from Russia (66,800), Ukraine (45,670), France (38,000) and the United States (32,000).

Israel is known as a country of immigrants. The story of Aliyah over the last 300 years in addition to those Jews who never left Israel, makes up the wide spectrum of cultures, traditions, customs, and accents which give Israel its unique society.

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Image: Jerusalem via Wikimedia Commons Migdal via Wikimedia Commons Exodus via Wikimedia Commons Ethiopian aliyah CC BY-NC-SA Government Press Office

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