First Aliyah

First Aliyah

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The First Aliyah was the first modern widespread wave of Zionist
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 aliyah
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...

. Jews who migrated to Palestine in this wave came mostly from Eastern Europe and from Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

. This wave of aliyah began in 1881–82 and lasted until 1903. An estimated 25,000–35,000 Jews immigrated to 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...

 during the First Aliyah. While all throughout history Jews immigrated to Israel (such as the Vilna Gaon's group
Perushim
The Perushim were disciples of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, who left Lithuania at the beginning of the 19th century to settle in the Land of Israel, then under Ottoman rule...

), these were generally smaller groups with more religious motives, and did not have a purely secular political goal in mind.

Reasons for immigration


The immigration to Palestine occurred as part of the mass emigrations from Eastern Europe of approximately 2.5 million people that occurred towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

A rapid increase in population had created economic problems in Eastern Europe. The problems affected Jewish societies in the Pale of Settlement
Pale of Settlement
The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited...

, Galicia, and Romania.

Russian persecution of Jews was also a factor. In 1881, the czar Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

 was assassinated, and the ruling bodies blamed the Jews for the assassination. Consequently, in addition to the 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...

, major anti-Jewish pogrom
Pogrom
A pogrom is a form of violent riot, a mob attack directed against a minority group, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres...

s swept the Pale of Settlement
Pale of Settlement
The Pale of Settlement was the term given to a region of Imperial Russia, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and beyond which Jewish permanent residency was generally prohibited...

. A movement called Hibbat 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....

 (love of Zion) spread across the Pale (helped by Leon Pinsker's pamphlet Auto-Emancipation), as well as the similar Bilu
Bilu
Bilu was a movement whose goal was the agricultural settlement of the Land of Israel. "Bilu" is an acronym based on a verse from the Book of Isaiah "בית יעקב לכו ונלכה" Beit Ya'akov Lekhu Venelkha...

 movement, which both encouraged Jews to immigrate to Palestine.

Jews emigrated in relatively high numbers, proportionate to the Jewish population. About 2 million of the 3.5 million went to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Only a small minority of 25,000 Jews moved to Palestine.
Immigration took place in two primary stages 1881-2 and 1890-1.

The first central committee for the settlement of Israel and Syria was established by a convention of "Unions for the Agricultural Settlement of Israel" (Focsani Congress) held on January 11, 1882 in Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

. The committee was the first organization to form group aliyahs, such as the Jewish passenger ships it set sail from Galaţi
Galati
Galați is a city and municipality in Romania, the capital of Galați County. Located in the historical region of Moldavia, in the close vicinity of Brăila, Galați is the largest port and sea port on the Danube River and the second largest Romanian port....

.

After the first wave (early 1880s) there was another spike in aliyah
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...

 in 1890. The reasons for the increase were:
  • The Russia
    Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    n government officially approved the activity of 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....

     in 1890. That same year the "Odessa Committee
    Odessa Committee
    The Odessa Committee, officially known as the Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Palestine, was a charitable, pre-Zionist organization in the Russian Empire, which supported emigration to the Biblical Land of Israel, then Ottoman Syria.The pogroms of 1881-1884 and...

    " began its operation in Jaffa
    Jaffa
    Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

    . The purpose of this organization was to absorb immigrants in Palestine that came as a result of 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....

     in Russia.
  • Russian Jewry's
    History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
    The vast territories of the Russian Empire at one time hosted the largest populations of Jews in the diaspora. Within these territories the Jewish community flourished and developed many of modern Judaism's most distinctive theological and cultural traditions, while also facing periods of...

     situation deteriorated:
    • The authorities continued to push Jews out of business and trade.
    • Moscow
      Moscow
      Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

       was almost entirely "cleansed
      Ethnic cleansing
      Ethnic cleansing is a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic orreligious group from certain geographic areas....

      " of Jews.
  • The financial situation of the settlements from the previous decade improved due to the Baron de Rothschild's
    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...

     assistance (orchards were planted, wineries started).

The immigrants


Nearly all of the Jews from Eastern Europe before that time came from traditional Jewish families, hoping to improve their lives. The immigrants that were part of the First Aliyah, however, came more out of a connection to the land of their ancestors. Most of these immigrants worked as artisans or in small trade, but many also worked in agriculture. Only some of them came in an organized fashion, with the help of Hovevei Zion, but most of them were unorganized, in their 30s, and had families.

Aliyah from Yemen


The first group of immigrants from Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 came approximately seven months before most of the Eastern European Jews who arrived in Palestine.

Settlement



The First Aliyah laid the cornerstone for Jewish settlement in Israel and created several settlements - Rishon LeZion, Rosh Pina, 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...

, Gedera
Gedera
-External links:** *...

 etc.

Most settlements met with financial difficulties and most of the settlers were not proficient in farming. 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...

 took several of the settlements under his wing, which helped them survive until more settlers with farming experience arrived in subsequent aliyot.

Immigrants of the First Aliyah also contributed to existing towns and settlements, notably Petah Tikva
Petah Tikva
Petah Tikva known as Em HaMoshavot , is a city in the Center District of Israel, east of Tel Aviv.According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2009, the city's population stood at 209,600. The population density is approximately...

. The first neighbourhoods of Tel Aviv (Neve Shalom and Neve Tzedek
Neve Tzedek
Neve Tzedek is a neighborhood located in southwestern Tel Aviv, Israel. It was the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the walls of the ancient port of Jaffa. For years, the neighborhood prospered as Tel Aviv, the first modern Hebrew city, grew up around it...

) were also built by members of the aliyah, although it was not until the Second Aliyah
Second Aliyah
The Second Aliyah was an important and highly influential aliyah that took place between 1904 and 1914, during which approximately 40,000 Jews immigrated into Ottoman Palestine, mostly from the Russian Empire, some from Yemen....

 that Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

 was officially founded.

Israeli historian Benny Morris
Benny Morris
Benny Morris is professor of History in the Middle East Studies department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in the city of Be'er Sheva, Israel...

 wrote:
But the major cause of tension and violence throughout the period 1882-1914 was not accidents, misunderstandings or the attitudes and behaviors of either side, but objective historical conditions and the conflicting interests and goals of the two populations. The Arabs sought instinctively to retain the Arab and Muslim character of the region and to maintain their position as its rightful inhabitants; the Zionists sought radically to change the status quo, buy as much land as possible, settle on it, and eventually turn an Arab-populated country into a Jewish homeland.


For decades the Zionists tried to camouflage their real aspirations, for fear of angering the authorities and the Arabs. They were, however, certain of their aims and of the means needed to achieve them. Internal correspondence amongst the olim from the very beginning of the Zionist enterprise leaves little room for doubt.


Morris provides excerpts from three letters written in 1882 by these first arrivals:
  • Vladimir (Ze'ev) Dubnow, one of the Biluim wrote to his brother, the historian Simon Dubnow
    Simon Dubnow
    Simon Dubnow was a Jewish historian, writer and activist...

    , in October 1882: "The ultimate goal ... is, in time, to take over the Land of Israel and to restore to the Jews the political independence they have been deprived of for these two thousand years .... The Jews will yet arise and, arms in hand (if need be), declare that they are the masters of their ancient homeland." (Dubnow himself shortly afterward returned to Russia.)
  • Ben-Yehuda, who settled in Jerusalem in September 1881, wrote in July 1882 to Peretz Smolenskin in Vienna
    Vienna
    Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

    : "The thing we must do now is to become as strong as we can, to conquer the country, covertly, bit by bit ... We will not set up committees so that the Arabs will know what we are after, we shall act like silent spies, we shall buy, buy, buy."
  • In October 1882 Ben-Yehuda and Yehiel Michael Pines, who had arrived in Palestine
    Palestine
    Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

     in 1878, wrote to Rashi Pin, in Vilna: "We have made it a rule not to say too much, except to those ... we trust ... the goal is to revive our nation on its land ... if only we succeed in increasing our numbers here until we are the majority [Emphasis in original] .... There are now only five hundred [thousand] Arabs, who are not very strong, and from whom we shall easily take away the country if only we do it through stratagems [and] without drawing upon us their hostility before we become the strong and populous ones."


The Jewish Virtual Library says of the First Aliyah that nearly half the settlers did not stay in Palestine.

Relationship with the Old Yishuv


The relationship of the members of the First Aliyah with the Old Yishuv
Old Yishuv
The Old Yishuv refers to the Jewish community that lived in the Land of Israel from the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE to the First Aliyah in 1881-82, prior to the onset of Zionist immigration....

 was strained. The First Aliyah's settlement efforts were opposed not only by the Old Yishuv's traditionalists, but also by their own settlers. The First Aliyah's people, on their part, viewed the Old Yishuv as a foreign agency. There were additional disagreements about economic and ideological issues. Only a few groups from the Old Yishuv sought to take part in the First Aliyah's settlement effort, one such group being the Peace of Jerusalem (Shlom Yerushalayim).

Further reading

  • Ben-Gurion, David
    David Ben-Gurion
    ' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

    (1976), From Class to Nation: Reflections on the Vocation and Mission of the Labor Movement, Am Oved