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Pre-Zionist Aliyah

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Aliyah to Israel and settlement

Pre-Zionist Aliyah
The Return to Zion • The Old Yishuv
Prior to the founding of Israel
First Aliyah • Second Aliyah • During WWI • Third Aliyah • Fourth Aliyah • Fifth Aliyah • During and after WWII • Berihah
After the founding of Israel
Operation Magic Carpet • Operation Ezra and Nehemiah • Jewish exodus from Arab lands • Polish aliyah in 1968 • Aliyah from the Soviet Union in the 1970s • Aliyah from Ethiopia • Aliyah from the Commonwealth of Independent States in the 1990s • Aliyah from Latin America in the 2000s
Judaism • Zionism • Law of Return • Jewish homeland • Yerida • Galut • Jewish Messianism
Persons and organizations
Theodor Herzl • World Zionist Organization • Knesset • Nefesh B'Nefesh • El Al
Related topics
Jewish history • Jewish diaspora  • History of the Jews in the Land of Israel  • Yishuv  • History of Zionism  • History of Israel  • Israeli Jews  • Anti-Zionism  • Revival of Hebrew language  • Religious Zionism  • Haredim and Zionism  • Anti-Zionism

Ever since the Jews were exiled from the Land of Israel, during all generations, many Jews aspired to return to their ancestral homeland. They immigrated as singles, in small groups, with or without immigration permits, and requested to live and be buried in the Land of Israel.

The first in the this category was "the Return to Zion", in which the Jews returned to the land of Israel from the Babylonian exile following a decree by the Persian King Cyrus, the conqueror of the Babylonian empire in 538 BC.

The term "the Return to Zion" was later on borrowed from this event, and adopted as the definition to all the modern immigrations of Jews to the land of Israel.

The period between the biblical Return to Zion and the modern Return to Zion, consisted of many attempts of small groups to immigrate to the land of Israel.

This period, could be roughly divided into two:

  • The immigrations during the Middle Ages and during the period of Renaissance - a number of immigrations which happened during different occasions in different periods and also differed in the motives that eventually caused them to immigrate.
  • The immigrations during the modern era (18th century and at the start of the 19th century), three immigration waves caused by religious Zionist motives, which happened during a period of over thirty years. In these immigration waves over 750 immigrants came to Israel, which consisted of about 10 percent of the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel with a total population of about 6000 people. These were very small immigration waves in comparison with the first Zionist ones which meant over 10,000 immigrants each.

The number of Jews returning to the Land of Israel from the Jewish diaspora rose significantly between the thirteenth and nineteenth 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.

Aliyah was also spurred during this period by the resurgence of messianic fervor among the Jews of France, Italy, the Germanic states, Russia and North Africa. 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 with few other options to make the perilous journey to the Holy Land.

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. Then the immigration in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries of thousands of followers of various Kabbalist and Hassidic rabbis, as well as the disciples of the Vilna Gaon (see Perushim) and the disciples of the Chasam Sofer, added considerably to the Jewish populations in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron, and Safed.

There were also those who like the British mystic Laurence Oliphant tried to lease Northern Palestine to settle the Jews there (1879), hastening the end of the world.

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