Defining Aliyah

The meaning and history of Jewish return to Zion

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What is Aliyah?

Throughout history, the Jews have often been exiled, or expelled from their homeland. In 70 AD, with the destruction of the second temple they were dispersed from the Straits of Gibraltar to the edges of India. Although dispersed throughout the world, the longing to return to their homeland, however, was never abandoned. It is a centuries old custom for Jews, when closing out the Passover Meal, to say “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Aliyah is a Hebrew word that means to “go up.” While originally it referred to ascending to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Feasts, today it has come to mean the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel.
Aliyah, simply stated, is the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth —   it is the immigration of Jews back to their ancestral homeland. Aliyah “is rooted in the Jewish people’s fervent hope to rebuild its national life in the country from which it was exiled nearly 2,000 years ago.”
Aliyah is Biblical
Although you may not hear the term “Aliyah” preached from the pulpit, taught in Sunday School or even listed in the concordance of your bible (no matter the version), it is biblical. It is also very much on the heart of God, and he wants you to be involved (more about that later).
The prophets spoke of Aliyah — God’s plan to bring the children of Israel home. Isaiah penned some of these promises:
“He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; He will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:12)
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 43:5-6)
“See. I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up My banner to the peoples; they will carry your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders.” (Isaiah 49:22)
Jeremiah suggested that an Aliyah would come that would eclipse the return of the children of Israel out of Egypt. In chapter 16:14,15 we find these words:
“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when men will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say ‘As surely as the Lord lives who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers.”
And in 30:2,3 God told Jeremiah:
“Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming, declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess.”

Waves of Aliyah

In the Land of Israel, Jews have always maintained a presence down through the centuries. However, it was during the late 1800’s that increasing numbers of Jews, seeking refuge from anti-Semitism and inspired by Zionist ideology, returned to what was then called Palestine. These early pioneers drained swamps, reclaimed wastelands, afforested bare hillsides, founded agricultural settlements and revived the Hebrew language for everyday use.
The return of the Jewish people to Palestine, and later Israel seemed to come in waves.
The First Aliyah (1882-1903) - This Aliyah followed pogroms in Russia in 1881-1882, with most of the 35,000 immigrants coming from Eastern Europe, Imperial Russia and what was later to be the Soviet Union.
The Second Aliyah (1904-1914) — In the wake of pogroms in Czarist Russia, 40,000 young people, inspired by socialist ideals settled in Palestine.
The Third Aliyah (1919-1923) — Triggered by the October Revolution in Russia and the pogroms in Poland and Hungary, this Aliyah was a continuation of the Second Aliyah that was interrupted by WWI.
The Fourth Aliyah (1924-1929) — The Fourth Aliyah was a direct result of the anti-Jewish policies in Poland and stiff immigration quotas in America.
The Fifth Aliyah (1929-1939) — This Aliyah was a result of the Nazi accession to power in Germany (1933).
Aliyah during WWII and its aftermath (1939-1948) — Effort focused on rescuing the Jews from Nazi occupied Europe. The yishuv, Jewish partisans and Zionist youth movements, cooperated in establishing the Beriah (escape) organization, which assisted 200,000 Jews to leave Europe.
Exodus of 1947 — From 1945-1947, during this period, the number of immigrants (legal and illegal alike) was 480,000, 90% of them from Europe.
Mass immigration after 1948 — On May 14, 1948 the State of Israel was proclaimed. The Proclamation of the State of Israel stated:
“The State of Israel will be opened for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for all of its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace envisioned by the prophets of Israel…”
Mass immigration from the FSU - From 1989 to the end of 2010, more than 1 million Jewish people from the former Soviet Union have made their home in Israel. There are still another 1 million Jews still in the former Soviet Union (FSU) yet to come. Plus  800,000 in Germany the USA and Canada.
ICEJ has assisted more than 110,000 Jews from the FSU and other countries!
Operation Magic Carpet - In May 1949, when the Imam of Yemen agreed to let 45,000 Jews in his country leave, Israeli, British and American planes flew them “home” in Operation Magic Carpet. The Yemenite Jews, mostly children, were brought to Israel on some 380 flights.
Operations Joshua and Moses - Under a news blackout for security reasons, Operation Moses began on November 18, 1984, and ended six weeks later on January 5, 1985. In that time, almost 8,000 Jews were rescued and brought to Israel. Later that year, through Operation Joshua, another 800 Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel.
Operation Solomon - On Friday, May 24, 1991 and continuing non¬stop for 36 hours, a total of 34 El Al jumbo jets and Hercules C-130’s—seats removed to accommodate the maximum number of Ethiopians — began a new chapter in the struggle for Ethiopian Jewry.
Operation Solomon was a modern exodus of the grandest design, and it ended nearly as quickly as it began. Within 36 hours, 14,324 Ethiopian Jews were rescued and resettled in Israel. Many of these Jewish people were being reunited with family members with whom they had been separated since Operations Moses and Joshua.

The Aliyah Work of the ICEJ

Since the founding of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) in 1980, there has been an understanding that one day the ICE] would be involved in helping Jews return to Israel from around the world. As such, a special account was set up for donations regarding Aliyah.
In the early 1990’s, the ICEJ’s Aliyah ministry expanded rapidly in order to help with the sudden influx of tens of thousands of Soviet Jews anxious to relocate to Israel. While sponsoring 54 flights of Russian Jewry, the ICEJ also partnered with other ministries to transport Jews from the Ukraine and other areas. Working closely with the Jewish Agency, our “fisherman” began seeking out Jewish communities, offering assistance and supplying the needed finances for the journey home to Israel.
During this time, the ICEJ began working in a practical way on two fronts. First, the Finnish Branch began helping Jews return to Israel from the Western part of Russia and all over the Soviet Union. Once the Immigrants arrive in Finland, they are cared for by loving Finnish Christians for 3 days as they travel through Finland to Helsinki for their flight to Israel.
In the years that followed, the Aliyah work of the ICE] has continued to expand dramatically, and we now have the following offices operating today:
St Petersburg, Russia
ICEJ Director of Aliyah Operations: Howard Flower
Works closely with Finnish Branch led by Kari O. Neimi, funded by ICEJ and is responsible for overseeing the aliyah work in Russia, Belarus as well as all of worldwide Aliyah operations of ICEJ.
Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Georgia
Coordinator: Serguei Popov, ICEJ Finnish Branch
The ICEJ and Ministry to Israel fund this office. Working closely with the Jewish Agency in Tashkent, it funds fishing trips, and has supplied computers and office equipment for Jewish Agency programs in Uzbekistan and assistance to Jews making aliyah in Ukraine, as well as fishing work in all three countries.
Latvia and Lithuania
Director: Ilze Saulite, ICEJ representative for Latvia
This office is responsible for fishing, as well as van transportation for immigrants from the Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania.
Recently, the ICEJ has expanded its Aliyah operations in France. Also in 2006 ICEJ resumed its Aliyah flight program and has sponsored group and individual flights fro Russia, India, Ethiopia, China, Sweden, France, and Finland.
ICEJ Norway has sponsored a bold fishing initiative in Germany to locate and encourage Russian-speaking Jews to come home. ICEJ is also working through social media such as Facebook to get information to potential Olim. 

How You Can Help

The prophets spoke of Aliyah, and it is happening NOW! The numbers of Jewish people returning home to Israel, and the witness of the Holy Spirit among Christian believers confirms this fact.
The Bible also speaks of those who will be involved in helping the Jews return to Israel— the Gentiles. This means you and me!
“See. I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will carry your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders” (Isaiah 49:22).
We live in a unique period in history where we can have a part in God’s great plan. We can help! How?
You Can Pray:
  • When we ask God to bring the Jews home from the north, south, east and west we are praying according to God’s will. Please pray for all Jews to come home
  • Pray for God’s timing. When He moves upon the nations, pray that the Jewish people would discern the time to return home to Israel
  • Pray for the ”fishers”
  • Pray that the church would catch the vision of God’s heart for Aliyah. This may include the congregation that you attend
  • Pray for the Aliyah from the West, and that the church be ready for this season
  • Pray that God would speak to individuals, churches and businesses to finance the Aliyah

You Can Give:

Would you like to help the Jews return home to Israel by “carrying their sons in your arms, and their daughters on your shoulders?” While this may be physically impossible for you, it is entirely possible through your financial gifts. You will discover the double blessing of both praying and giving to something that is burning on God’s heart. What an honor to assist in the fulfillment of His words spoken through the prophets.


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