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Hebrew term for Jewish immigration to Palestine.

The Hebrew word for "ascent," aliyah (also aliya ) is the term used in both religious tradition and secular Zionism to refer to Jewish immigration to Palestine. Within those ideological frameworks, emigration from Israel is called yeridah (descent).

During the almost two-thousand-year absence of Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land, Palestine continued to play a significant role in traditional Jewish culture. Small Jewish communities persevered in Jerusalem, Safed, and a few other areas, aided by contributions from Jews in the Diaspora. Some Diaspora Jews visited Palestine, others actually managed to settle there on a more permanent basis, and others arranged to be buried there. Overall, the numbers who actually immigrated were small. During the nineteenth century, with the emergence of the Zionist movement, as well as a growing deterioration in the condition of Jews in Europe, Jewish immigration to Palestine increased. From that time until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, historians and demographers have categorized various waves of immigration, or aliyot.

The first aliyah, or wave, lasted from 1881 to 1903. It was comprised of 30,000 to 40,000 Jews, most of whom were from Eastern Europe. They were part of a much larger emigration of Jews out of Eastern Europe at the time, sparked by economic, political, and physical persecution, especially pogroms. The vast majority who fled went to the United States, but many of those who had been in the early Zionist movements went to Palestine and, with support from Baron Edmund de Rothschild, established agricultural communities, including Petah Tikvah,
Zikhron Yaʿacov, Rehovot, Hadera, and Rishon le-Zion. During this period some 2,500 Jews from Yemen also emigrated to Palestine.

Another series of pogroms in Russia in 1903 and 1904 led to the next wave, the second aliyah, which numbered between 35,000 and 40,000 (mostly socialist-Zionists) and lasted until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Among them were the pioneers of the kibbutz movement and the labor Zionist establishment in the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration as well as the Russian Revolution and its aftermath sparked the third aliyah. Between 1919 and 1924 another 35,000 Jews, mostly from Russia and Poland, immigrated and contributed to the early pioneering efforts in building up the Yishuv, including the establishment of the first cooperative settlements, moshavim.

The fourth aliyah, which lasted from 1924 to approximately 1930, differed from the previous waves in that it was sparked almost exclusively by economic conditions. As a result of a series of harsh taxation policies in Poland, some 80,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine, and the vast majority settled in the developing urban center, Tel Aviv. It may be assumed that a significant number of them would have preferred immigrating to the United States but were prevented from doing so by the restrictive immigration acts of 1921 and 1924, which brought immigration into the United States to a halt. That assumption is bolstered by the relatively high emigration rate among those of the fourth aliyah who settled only briefly in Palestine.

Approximately 225,000 Jews, primarily from Eastern Europe and also including a significant minority from Germany, arrived during the 1930s and were known as the fifth aliyah. Many of the immigrants

table 1: aliyah, 18402000
Years Numbers Countries of Emigration Motivation
source: courtesy of chaim i. waxman
Table by GGS Information Services, The Gale Group.
18401881 20,00030,000 primarily central and eastern europe religio-national
18821903 35,000 primarily eastern europe"first aliyah" religio-national and "push" factors
19041914 40,000 primarily central and eastern europe"second aliyah" religio-national and "push" factors
19191923 35,000 primarily eastern europe - "third aliyah" religio-national and "push" factors
19241930 80,000 primarily poland"fourth aliyah" "push" factorsholocaust
19311939 225,000 primarily central and eastern europe"fifth aliyah" "push" factorsholocaust
19401948 143,000 primarily central and eastern europe "push" factorsholocaust
19481951 667,613 about half north african and asian mixed "push" and "pull" factors
19521967 582,653 about 65% north african and asian mixed "push" and "pull" factors
19681988 532,744 more than 75% european and american, 43% of whom were from ussr religio-national and economic factors
19892000 1,039,821 overwhelmingly fsu; about 56,000 ethiopians fsuprimarily economic;
      ethiopiansreligious and "push" factors

from Germany had high educational and occupational status, and they played an important role in the economic development of the Yishuv.

World War II gave a critical impetus to aliyah. The numbers legally entitled to immigrate under the 1939 MacDonald White Paper quota were much too low for the hundreds of thousands who were fleeing the Holocaust in Europe. An illegal immigration movement known as Aliyah Bet was established by a branch of Yishuv's defense force, the Haganah, enabling approximately 70,000 Jews to reach Palestine.

With the establishment of Israel as a sovereign state, aliyah was accorded formal priority with the enactment of the Law of Return, which grants immediate citizenship to Jews who immigrate. Although the law initially had both ideological and self-interest componentsit was widely perceived that the country was in need of population growth for its defense and survivalthe resulting massive immigration, especially from North African countries, was viewed by some as threatening to Israel's economic stability and to the Ashkenazic or Westernized character of the state, and they called for restrictions on immigration. Nevertheless, the government continued to encourage mass immigration, even though it was ill-equipped to manage it. The mass immigration during the years of early state-hood dramatically altered the ethnic composition of Israel, and continuing interplay between ethnicity and socioeconomic status has been an increasing source of tension and strain on the entire society.

Following the 1967 War there was a significant increase in aliyah from Western countries because of heightened nationalistic attachments as well as the pull of Israel's growing economy. By the end of the 1970s, those numbers receded to pre-1967 levels.

During the 1970s aliyah was boosted by emigrés from the Soviet Union, most of whom came for both ideological and persecution reasons. By contrast, the vast majority of the massive influx of close to one million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) in the 1990s came for economic reasons. The Soviet immigrants in general, and especially those of the 1990s, retain strong identification with their former backgrounds and have forced Israeli society and politics to become much more multicultural. In addition, the relatively high rate of religious intermarriage among the FSU immigrants has created or heightened Jewish interreligious tensions in the country.

Finally, the immigration of some 60,000 "Beta Israel" or Falasha Jews from Ethiopia has created a whole set of new social, political, and religious issues that will probably increase before they recede, if indeed they ever do. This is a group that was cut off from contact with other Jewish communities for millennia. Their contemporary process of connection began with Christian missionary activities that brought them and world Jewry to mutual awareness. Since then, there had been only sporadic efforts to assist them. The mass immigration to Israel was sparked by deteriorating political and economic conditions after the Marxist overthrow of Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie and the rescue efforts of the Israeli government. The radical and immediate changes experienced by the Ethiopian immigration are unique and make it a fascinating case study for students of migration and absorption.

see also ethiopian jews; law of return; zionism.


Corinaldi, Michael. Jewish Identity: The Case of Ethiopian Jewry. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1998.

Eisenstadt, S. N. The Absorption of Immigrants: A Comparative Study Based Mainly on the Jewish Community in Palestine and the State of Israel. New York: Free Press, 1955.

Eisenstadt, S. N. Israeli Society. New York: Basic Books; London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967.

Leshem, Elazar, and Shuval, Judith T., eds. Immigration to Israel: Sociological Perspectives. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998.

Medoff, Rafael, and Waxman, Chaim I. Historical Dictionary of Zionism. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Rebhun, Uzi, and Waxman, Chaim I., eds. Jews in Israel: Contemporary Social and Cultural Patterns. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England/Brandeis University Press, 2004.

Waxman, Chaim I. American Aliya: Portrait of an Innovative Migration Movement. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1989.

Chaim I. Waxman

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ʿAliyah (Heb., ‘ascent’).
1. Emigrating from the diaspora to the land of Israel to become a permanent resident.

2. The calling up of a member of the congregation in a synagogue to recite a blessing or to read from the Torah scroll (in full, ʿaliyah la-Torah).

3. Making pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

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aliyahAchaea, aliyah, Almería, Apia, Bahía, Caesarea, Cassiopeia, Chaldea, Cytherea, Euboea, foreseer, freer, galleria, gynaecea, Iphigenia, Kampuchea, kea, keyer, Latakia, Leah, Lucia, Nicaea, Nicosia, onomatopoeia, Oriya, Pangaea, Pantelleria, pharmacopoeia, pizzeria, ria, rupiah, sangría, seer, sharia, Shia, skier, spiraea (US spirea), Tanzania, taqueria, Tarpeia, Thea, trachea, trattoria, urea •sightseer

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