Ever since Jews were exiled from the Land of Israel in 70 C.E. the longing to return to Zion was expressed in daily prayer.
A central belief in Zionism, the Jewish national liberation movement, is "the ingathering of the exiles" through aliyah. A word with biblical origins, which literally means to ascend, aliyah originally applied to religious pilgrimage to Israel. Since the advent of Zionism, aliyah has been understood to refer to a type of immigration that creates, builds and sustains the Jewish State and offers a renaissance of Jewish identity to those who choose to live there.
There were six waves of aliyah until Israel's establishment in 1948. In the First Aliyah (1882-1904), 30-40,000 migrants were initially influenced by Hovevei Zion, Lovers of Zion a forerunner of Zionism. They were ideological; seeking to renew Jewish national life by establishing privately funded agricultural settlements (moshavot), such as that in Petach Tikva.
During the Second Aliyah (1904-1914), 35-40,000 immigrants arrived, following a renewed outbreak of pogroms in Eastern Europe, but they were pioneers and the first socialist Kvutza, the forerunner to Kibbutz, was established during this period.2 In the early twentieth century, the ideal of the Zionist socialist pioneer who gave selflessly of himself by settling in barren parts of the land developed. By physically reconnecting with the land, such pioneers would be transformed from the passive urban European Jew that Zionism was rejecting into the physically strong rural new Jew whom Zionism sought to establish. "We will build the land and be built by it" was a song sung by the pioneers. The Zionist leadership knew that the borders of the State would be determined and consolidated by settlements. "A people for a land for a land with a people" proclaimed an early Zionist slogan.
During the Third Aliyah (1919-1923), the number of 35,000 immigrants was enhanced by the 1917 Balfour Declaration (which pledged British support for the establishment of a "Jewish national home" in Palestine, which was incorporated into the British Mandate in Palestine in 1920). Another factor influencing immigration was the number of Jews escaping the Russian Civil War (1918-20) and the Russo-Polish War (1919-20). This was primarily a highly ideological migration, however, with the majority of pioneers establishing kibbutz settlements. Following Arab-Settler unrest in 1921, the
British imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration. Ultimately, however, it was economic depression that brought this aliyah to a close.
During the Fourth Aliyah (1924-31), 80,000 urban capitalist immigrants arrived, half of who were escaping the harsh fiscal decrees aimed at Jews residing in Poland. Up until this point, the majority of Eastern European Jews immigrants had traveled to America where restrictions were now introduced compelling them to go to Palestine instead. Following the Wailing Wall Riots of 1929, the British limited immigration.
The Fifth Aliyah (1931-39) saw 224,785 European Jews escaping anti-Semitism. 1932 witnessed the start of illegal immigration designed to circumvent quotas. Political instability following the Arab Great Revolt of 1936-9 culminated in the 1939 White Paper which limited immigration to 75,000 over five years. The paper was followed by the creation of a single Palestinian State incorporating Arab and Jewish citizens. But it was the outbreak of World War II that defined the Sixth Aliyah of 19391-48; 60,000 immigrants arrived during the war years and a further 60,000 during the years between the end of the war and independence, of whom around 40,000 were illegal.
With the establishment of the State, the Jewish population had grown from 24,000 to 650,000 Jews. In 1950, the first law passed by the State was the Law of Return. It gave all Jews from anywhere in the world the automatic right of citizenship so that after the Holocaust no Jew would ever again be homeless. Following the establishment of the State of Israel, Oriental Jewish communities that had lived in Arab countries for centuries were expelled as part of the Arab response to Israel's formation. From 1948-51, Israel's population more than doubled as 687,000 immigrants arrived.3 These and subsequent aliyot were known by their country of origin rather than the year of their arrival.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Oriental immigrants were settled in tent cities (Ma'abarot), but this led to social problems and unemployment culminating in riots in 1959. During the 1950s, with further aliyah from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco following the collapse of French rule, Prime Minister Eshkol, as the head of Jewish Agency Land Settlement Department, implemented the Ma'abarot system, in the hope of avoiding further unrest.
Development towns were established to prevent the emergence of urban slums and encourage the dispersal of the population. Such measures were also regarded as necessary elements of the collective efforts of the government to prevent Arab infiltration across Armistice lines, and to fulfill the socialist-Zionist vision of a healthy economy based on agriculture, a vision held dear by Eshkol as a founder and lifetime member of a kibbutz.
Oriental immigrants were largely illiterate and unskilled, and as the majority of them were children, they represented an economic liability. To help bridge the social gap, longer school hours were introduced which led to the development of an expanded teacher-training program. By the mid-1960s, Oriental Jews has come to equal the number of Askenazi/Europeans in the State and were soon to become a majority, and political parties came to recognize the need to attract oriental candidates and votes (particularly of Jewish immigrants from Iraq).
The Israeli-Arab community received fewer resources, but as Israel began to feel more secure militarily from the mid-1950s it eased restrictions on its Arab population and increased state investment. Education was instrumental in reducing Jewish-Arab tension, especially as there were virtually no Arab teachers left after 1948. The Mapai party headed by Eshkol also needed to offer services to the Arabs to win their votes. It is in this context that his comments below should be understood.
Aliyot continued to arrive from various countries, including the airlift of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s. The next mass aliyah followed the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989 when almost one million Jews arrived over a period of ten years.
Over 50 years Israel has absorbed over 3 million immigrants from over 100 countries; less than 15 percent have come from the West where the Zionist message of aliyah has not resonated. With the growing birth rate of Palestinian citizens of Israel and a declining Jewish birth rate, Israel continues explicitly to attract aliyah.
Next year will mark an historic occurrence: by aliyah [i.e., immigration] and natural increase our population will pass 2.5 million and begin to move toward its third million. This means a fresh effort for us all, but it will make it possible to settle unpopulated and undeveloped areas.
New agricultural settlement will be guided mainly to the north -- to Galilee. In the heart of Galilee, barren areas must be redeemed. A long-term plan of development is envisaged, establishing new settlements, enlarging Nazareth, Ma'alot and Carmiel, all on a foundation of fruit orchards and export crops, crafts and manufacturing, vacation resorts, and services to the Arab and Jewish inhabitants of the area.
Here stony fields must be cleared, terraces laid out, the soil prepared and roads built to make outlying areas accessible. New ways of cultivation suited to local conditions must be found.
There is more to it than economic planning. There is a social and ideological significance. Perhaps it is no accident that we begin just when the "Year of the Pioneers" ends, the eighty-fifth anniversary of the founding of Petach Tikva. In those days, in that colony and its sister-colonies, the cry was heard: "To Galilee!" The response charted the map of the State. Today we renew the call. The development of Galilee, the founding of co-operative settlements there, is a challenge to our youth, from town and countryside. Let them take the task upon themselves!
If we can make the North bloom again, we shall do much to better the lives of all who dwell in it. They will enjoy the finest of services the State can offer its citizens, in education and health, in water, electricity and communications, in employment and in economic development. The new settlers will break down barriers and promote intercommunal understanding among Jews, Arabs, Druzes and Circassians, newcomers and veterans.
Indeed, the plan as a whole is a link in the chain of our measures to integrate our minorities absolutely into every sphere of the State's life and activity.
The minorities are also, indeed primarily, involved in all we do, but they cannot simply make demands upon the State. They -- particularly their intelligentsia and their youth -- must come to a far-reaching and irrevocable decision of the spirit, to identify themselves with the State, to link their lives and future with it. If they so decide in sincerity, the people, the Government and its policy will be radiantly and finally influenced. Arab youth and intellectuals must strive to elevate the standard and status of their fellows. They can be a bridge between the two peoples. That is what we expect of them.
A growing aliyah has begun from the New World, especially Latin America, and other strong, living links between Jews in the West and ourselves were forged. Congresses, conferences and reunions, mounting tourism, bring tens of thousands of overseas Jews into intimate contact with the State. Our needs, on the one hand, and the situation of Diaspora Jewry, on the other, justify a supreme endeavor to make the rapport more intense, to bring to Israel, in their thousands, enlightened young Jews who will be willing and able to settle here and share in the rebuilding. The Zionist and other bodies connected with Israel must be fortified with a spirit of personal pioneering and all its obligations. We must spread a knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish history, educating a generation of newcomers, builders and settlers. The Jewish Agency must widen the scope of its activities in this area, and the Government will stand by it to help it.
We have traveled part of the way towards integration of aliyah and the Ingathering of Exiles, but not far enough. There is still a wide gap, the legacy of time, dividing territorial origins. The Government and the public must concentrate their energies upon closing the gap.
It cannot be done in a year or so, but we can and must hasten the process. Education is the most effective instrument for fostering true equality. In recent years, our investments in advancing the education of groups in need of special attention have been multiplied. About a quarter of the country's elementary school pupils, more than a hundred thousand, go to schools where they are given preferential treatment to bring them up to the level of knowledge of other pupils. Teacher training has been intensified: about two thousand teachers in these schools are advised and helped by educational experts. The Ministry of Education has drawn up a plan to apply parallel methods of teaching in all underprivileged classes, and this should even up all the pupils educationally. This year, about twenty thousand children will have a 'long school day', twelve extra hours of teaching and guidance a week; and a 'long school year' with an additional month of studies is contemplated. Thirty thousand pupils get free auxiliary lessons, and the number will increase. All the schools have been assisted to abolish classes whose enrollment is above the national norm, to provide teaching aids for pupils and classes, and to form culture and study groups.
More than fourteen thousand children of three and four years of age go to free kindergartens. The standards of secondary schooling are being developed by teacher training, extra hours of study, rooms for study, libraries and laboratories. A secondary boarding-school exists for gifted children of the Oriental communities, so that they can develop their talents to the utmost.
The Government intends to expand its efforts to close the cultural gap between the communities, and afford equal opportunities to every child.
Education in school, however, is not the whole answer. We must unify all social elements and bring old-timers into harmony with new arrivals, our sabras, with immigrants from Europe and Africa, from Asia and America. To contrive communal schisms, or to heighten contrasts, slows down and obstructs the process of fusion and endangers national unity and solidarity. I think people have begun to see the truth of that, as local government elections in many places have shown, with an overwhelming majority of voters giving their allegiance to national parties and not to the factions that try to exploit communal separatism. But the problem has not been solved; it is perhaps the most serious domestic problem the State has to tackle, and we shall do all that we can to speed a solution.