“As long as in the heart within, the Jewish soul yearns . . . our hope is not yet lost – the hope that is 2,000 years old, to be a free nation in our own land.”
These words from Israel’s national anthem express a longing in many Jewish people that causes them to miss a home where they’ve never lived – Israel. Thousands of Jewish people move to Israel each year. But why?
The Hebrew word aliyah means “to go up, ascend or rise.” It is the term used for Jewish immigration to Israel, also known as “making aliyah.” Over the centuries, various factors have motivated Jewish people to move to Israel.
Several times in Israel’s history, her people were removed from the Land that God had promised to them. Then, in 70 A.D., Roman armies took over Jerusalem, destroying the Temple and scattering the Jewish people throughout the world into a “diaspora” (dispersion) that still exists today. The Jewish dream of returning has been alive ever since.
Zionism – the pursuit of re-establishing Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people – inspired many to immigrate. As a movement, Zionism was officially born in 1897 with the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. But the first Zionist writings were published some 50 years prior when more than 7,000 Jewish people lived in Israel, sustaining a foothold in the Land.
Since 1948, when the State of Israel was reborn, Zionism continues as a movement to protect and secure Israel’s future. For some Jewish people today, supporting Zionism means making aliyah.
PERSECUTION and POVERTY
Ever since the Jewish people were scattered, they have endured the weight of prejudice, superstitions and blame for “killing Jesus.” Throughout the centuries, this everyday discrimination gave rise to waves of violent persecution unlike anything consistently directed at any other people group. It is no surprise that such a history would stir up the longing for a homeland of their own.
The Holocaust left hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors without a home or citizenship. With the rebirth of Israel, after millennia of expulsions and persecution, at last, the Jewish people had a homeland from which no one could kick them out. The fledgling country opened its doors to Jewish people the world over, and hundreds of thousands immigrated in the first three years.
Though the Holocaust ended, anti-Semitism has not. Jewish people are still discriminated against and persecuted in various ways. Aliyah offers them the hope of relief and the ability to defend themselves as Jewish people in a Jewish State and homeland.
Poverty in some Jewish communities around the world creates an added motivation. For many, Israel offers the hope of a better life in a first-world country.
But what about Jewish people who are neither Zionistic, nor persecuted nor impoverished?
ISRAEL is HOME
On average, more than 6,000 people immigrate to Israel each year from the U.S., Canada, France and the United Kingdom. Why would they leave comfortable lives in prosperous countries to move to Israel?
The simple reason is that Israel has always been “home” to the Jewish people. Passover Seders worldwide end with the saying, “Next year, in Jerusalem!” Many Jewish people long to live in a place where their faith and people are the norm rather than the exception. Despite never having lived in Israel, aliyah is like going home to where they don’t have to try to fit in amid a non-Jewish culture. Home to a place that, instead of challenging their Jewish identity, strengthens it. Home to a deep sense of belonging rather than irreconcilable difference.
ULTIMATELY, GOD is at WORK
Why do people make aliyah? The ultimate answer is that God is working through many inspirations to
bring His people back into the Land, just as He promised.
“Then say to them, thus says Adonai Elohim: ‘Behold, I will take Bnei-Yisrael from among the nations, where they have gone. I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land.”
Above all motivations, God is fulfilling His promise by placing in Jewish hearts an inexplicable longing. One immigrant described it on the website of a radio program dedicated to aliyah:
“Something inside is driving us. It’s almost [un]explainable, but it is real. I can tell you that it was an unstoppable feeling. It was a constant pull from the inside . . . . Every time I visited Israel, I felt at peace; when I left, I was in pain. I am not alone in the phenomenon. Others describe the same.”1
Yes, the Jewish heart still yearns with a longing to return to the Land of their fathers. It resides in Jewish hearts because God has planted it there.
Jewish Voice supports aliyah efforts by providing financial support to ministries that provide practical aid to those seeking to emigrate. Services offered by our partner ministries include consultations and archive research and translation to help prove their Jewishness. Jewish Voice and our partner ministries also teach Jewish and Christian communities throughout the world to connect with each other and with God’s plan for the return of His Jewish people to the Land.
1 Arutz Sheva Radio, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/News.aspx/4688