Aliyah (Hebr. ascent) – an essential concept of the Zionist ideology and an ideal to which the Zionist pioneers aspired, the term “aliyah” refers to the immigration of Jews to Israel. This concept is also used to refer to the subsequent waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine (Israel).  Aliyah was perceived as a personal fulfilment of the key element of Zionist ideology and as participation in the process of national revival. The notion comes from the traditional term aliyah leTorah – when a Jew is called to the bima to read a fragment of the Torah (this was a way to publicly honour the person called). There are five major immigration waves; their participants have taken part in the creation of the economic, cultural and political foundation of the Yishuv. The first aliyah, involving approx. 25.000 young people (who were linked, among others, with the Bilu and Hibbat Zion movements), arrived in Palestine in years 1882–1903, with most settlers arriving from Eastern Europe. The second aliyah, dating back to years 1904–1914, also mostly involved immigrants from Eastern Europe as well; this wave of immigrants laid the foundation for the development of the socialist movement and trade unions.   Approximately 40.000 people arrived in Palestine during this aliyah; it was subsequently interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. The third aliyah (1919–1923) comprised approx. 35.000 immigrants, among them many young people connected with the Zionist organisations HeHalutz and HaShomer HaTzair. After arriving in Palestine, they worked on road construction, set up kibbutzim and the first agricultural settlements (moshavim). During the fourth aliyah (1924–1928), also known as the Grabski aliyah (taking its name after the Polish prime minister and treasury minister, author of fiscal reforms perceived as imposing unbearable fiscal burdens on the Jewish middle class), approx. 67.000 Jews arrived in Palestine, including a relatively high number of middle class Jews, most of whom settled in cities.  More than a half of immigrants who came to Palestine during that wave originated from Poland. The fifth aliyah (1929–1939) comprised approx. 250.000 Jews and significantly altered the character of the Yishuv as German Jews represented a considerable percentage of all those who arrived. The aliyah did not cease completely during World War II or after its end: a total of approx. 100/000 immigrants flowed in during the years 1940–1948. In the times of the British mandate (years 1918–1948), the numbers of people who could officially arrive in Palestine was governed by the Palestinian government (immigration certificates). During political crises, especially during Arab riots, the aliyah was either considerably limited or forced to cease altiogether. In years 1934–1948 approx. 115.000 Jews arrived illegally and over 50.000 were apprehended and detained in a camp in Cyprus. They have only regained their freedom when the State of Israel was formed. Once the establishment of the State of Israel was declared, all restrictions on immigration were abolished. The Law of Return, passed in 1950, offered a guarantee that any Jew had the right to settle in Israel and to become its citizen. New immigrants received aid from the state during the initial period after arrival.

Natalia Aleksiun

Quoted after: Tomaszewski J., Żbikowski A., Żydzi w Polsce. Dzieje i kultura. Leksykon. [Jews in Poland – Their History and Culture. A Lexicon.], , Warsaw 2001.


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