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Bilu (or Palestine Pioneers) was a movement whose goal was the agricultural settlement of the Land of Israel
Land of Israel
The Land of Israel is the Biblical name for the territory roughly corresponding to the area encompassed by the Southern Levant, also known as Canaan and Palestine, Promised Land and Holy Land. The belief that the area is a God-given homeland of the Jewish people is based on the narrative of the...

. "Bilu" is an acronym based on a verse from the Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

 (2:5) "בית יעקב לכו ונלכה" Beit Ya'akov Lekhu Venelkha ("House of Jacob
Jacob "heel" or "leg-puller"), also later known as Israel , as described in the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, the New Testament and the Qur'an was the third patriarch of the Hebrew people with whom God made a covenant, and ancestor of the tribes of Israel, which were named after his descendants.In the...

, let us go [up]"). Its members were known as the Bilu'im.


The wave of pogroms of 1881-1884 and anti-Semitic May Laws
May Laws
Temporary regulations regarding the Jews were proposed by minister of internal affairs Nikolai Ignatyev and enacted on May 15 , 1882, by Tsar Alexander III of Russia...

 of 1882 introduced by Tsar Alexander III of Russia
Alexander III of Russia
Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov , historically remembered as Alexander III or Alexander the Peacemaker reigned as Emperor of Russia from until his death on .-Disposition:...

 prompted mass emigration of Jews from the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. More than 2 million Jews fled Russia between 1880 and 1920. The vast majority of them emigrated to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, but some decided to make aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...


The first Biluim group consisted of fourteen university students from Kharkov who reached Ottoman Syria
Ottoman Syria
Ottoman Syria is a European reference to the area that during European Renaissance from the late 15th to early 18th century was called the Levant within the early period of the Ottoman Empire, the Orient until the early 19th century, and Greater Syria until 1918...

 in July 1882. They were led by Israel Belkind
Israel Belkind
Israel Belkind was a Jewish educator, author, writer, historian and founder of the Bilu movement. A pioneer of the First Aliyah, Belkind founded the Biluim, a group of Jewish idealists aspiring to settle in the Land of Israel with the political purpose to redeem Eretz Yisrael and re-establish the...

, who later became a prominent writer and historian. After a short stay at the Jewish farming school in Mikveh Israel
Mikveh Israel
The name Mikveh Israel may refer to:* Mikveh Israel, agricultural school and village in Israel* Congregation Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia, United States* Congregation Mickve Israel, Savannah, Georgia, United States...

, they joined Hovevei Zion
Hovevei Zion
Hovevei Zion , also known as Hibbat Zion , refers to organizations that are now considered the forerunners and foundation-builders of modern Zionism....

 colonists in establishing Rishon LeZion ("First to Zion
Zion is a place name often used as a synonym for Jerusalem. The word is first found in Samuel II, 5:7 dating to c.630-540 BCE...

") as an agricultural cooperative
A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit...

 on land purchased from the Arab village Ayun Kara, as they had also done in Argentina and the USA. Plagued by water shortages, illness and financial debt, the group abandoned the site within a few months.

The group then sought help from Baron Edmond James de Rothschild
Edmond James de Rothschild
Baron Edmond Benjamin James de Rothschild was a French member of the Rothschild banking family. A strong supporter of Zionism, his generous donations lent significant support to the movement during its early years, which helped lead to the establishment of the State of Israel.- Early years :A...

 and Maurice de Hirsch
Maurice de Hirsch
Maurice de Hirsch was a German-Jewish philanthropist who set up charitable foundations to promote Jewish education and improve the lot of oppressed European Jewry. He was the founder of the Jewish Colonization Association which sponsored large-scale Jewish immigration to Argentina...

, who provided the funding that led to the establishment of a wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

 industry at their first venture: the Wine Cellars at Rishon Le Zion and Zikhron Ya'aqov
Zikhron Ya'aqov
Zikhron Ya'akov is a town in Israel, south of Haifa, and part of the Haifa District. It is located at the southern end of the Carmel mountain range overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, near the coastal highway...

. In 1886, construction began on the Rishon Le-Zion winery, which became a successful wine-exporting enterprise. According to Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary
Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary
The Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary is, in its scope and style, the Russian counterpart to the Encyclopædia Britannica. It contains 121,240 articles, 7,800 images, and 235 maps...

, the region's export of wine and cognac in 1895 alone amounted to
The franc is the name of several currency units, most notably the Swiss franc, still a major world currency today due to the prominence of Swiss financial institutions and the former currency of France, the French franc until the Euro was adopted in 1999...


With financial assistance from Rothschild, the Biluim also founded Zikhron Ya'akov. In 1884, eight members of the group were offered land in Gedera
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