The meaning and history of Jewish return to Zion
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 Jewish people’s 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 which means to “go up.” While originally it referred to ascending to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish pilgrimage feasts, today it has come to mean the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel.
Simply stated, Aliyah is the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth—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 1800s 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 wave 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 to 1947: During this period, the number of immigrants (legal and illegal alike) was 480,000, 90 percent 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 one million Jewish people from the former Soviet Union have made their home in Israel. There are still another one million Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU) yet to come, plus 800,000 in Germany, the USA, and Canada.
ICEJ has assisted more than 120,000 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-130s—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.
We have been assisting Jews return to Israel from all around the world since we were founded in 1980. We already had people even in the 70s helping Jews who could come out through Vienna and Hungary. That was the only way out before the fall of communism. Since then we have helped over 140,000 Jews make Aliyah to Israel.
In 2017 alone, we helped more than 3,000, and looking back over our first 40 years of existence, nearly every year the ICEJ helped about 10 percent of all the Jews coming back to Israel. Although other Christian ministries are also involved in Aliyah, the ICEJ continues our work in this area because we believe it is the hand of God who said, “Hear the word of the Lord, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd (Jeremiah 31:10).’’
There is an invitation in the book of Isaiah, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples;
they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips (Isaiah 49:22).'” We are invited to play a role in the positive side of this Bible prophecy, the restoration of Israel. It is so important for Christians to see the Jews come back to their homeland, and it’s exciting, too!
We have been at the airport welcoming the Bnei Menashe from North East India, Ethiopian Jews, Ukrainian Jews escaping the Civil War, Russian Jews, of course, and even French Jews on flights that we sponsored—and it never gets old. There is such an excitement as we witness these precious people who are starting their lives over in the land which belonged to their ancestors many generations ago.
We believe that for everyone who moves to Israel, whether secular or religious, God honors that step of faith. And He says, “I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” (Jeremiah 32:41)
ICEJ’s Aliyah work continues to expand dramatically, and today we operate these offices:
St Petersburg, Russia
ICEJ Director of Aliyah Operations: Howard Flower
Works closely with the ICEJ’s Finnish Branch led by Jani Salokangas, and is responsible for overseeing the Aliyah work in Russia, the Baltic states, and Belarus, as well as all of ICEJ’s worldwide Aliyah operations.
Belarus, Estonia, 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 from 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 provide information to potential Olim (immigrants to Israel).
How You Can Help
The prophets spoke of Aliyah and the fulfillment 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 participate 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 western nations, and that the church would 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.