First Aliyah

The First Aliyah (Hebrew: העלייה הראשונה, HaAliyah HaRishona), also known as the agriculture Aliyah, was a major wave of Jewish immigration (aliyah) to Ottoman Syria between 1881 and 1903.[1][2] Jews who migrated in this wave came mostly from Eastern Europe and from Yemen. An estimated 25,000[3] Jews immigrated. Many of the European Jewish immigrants during the late 19th-early 20th century period gave up after a few months and went back to their country of origin, often suffering from hunger and disease.[4]

Because there had been a wave of immigration to Palestine starting in the mid-19th century (between 1840 and 1880, the Jewish population rose from 9,000 to 23,000),[5] use of the term "First Aliyah" is controversial.[6] Nearly all of the Jews from Eastern Europe before that time came from traditional Jewish families who were not inspired by modern Zionist ideology, but rather by traditional ideas of the holiness of the land combined with practical / economic considerations.[5]


The First Aliyah occurred from 1881 to 1903 and did not go as planned as Zionists ran out of funds.[7][better source needed] The Rothschild organization rescued the Zionist movement by funding Zionists and by purchasing large settlements and by creating new settlements.[8]

The first central committee for the settlement was established by a convention of "Unions for the Agricultural Settlement of Israel" held on January 11, 1882, in Romania. It arranged passage to Israel aboard ships operating out of Galați.[citation needed]

After the first wave in the early 1880s, there was another spike in 1890. The Russian Empire officially approved the activity of Hovevei Zion in 1890. The same year, the "Odessa Committee" began its operation in Jaffa. The purpose of this organization was to absorb immigrants to Ottoman Syria who came as a result of the activities of Hovevei Zion in Russia. Also Russian Jewry's situation deteriorated as the authorities continued to push Jews out of business and trade and Moscow was almost entirely cleansed of Jews.[9]

The relationship of the members of the First Aliyah with the Old Yishuv was strained. There were disagreements about economic and ideological issues. Only a few groups from the Old Yishuv sought to take part in the First Aliyah's settlement effort, one such group being the Peace of Jerusalem (Shlom Yerushalayim).[10]

Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote:

But the major cause of tension and violence throughout the period 1882–1914 was not accidents, misunderstandings or the attitudes and behaviors of either side, but objective historical conditions and the conflicting interests and goals of the two populations. The Arabs sought instinctively to retain the Arab and Muslim character of the region and to maintain their position as its rightful inhabitants; the Zionists sought radically to change the status quo, buy as much land as possible, settle on it, and eventually turn an Arab-populated country into a Jewish homeland.
For decades the Zionists tried to camouflage their real aspirations, for fear of angering the authorities and the Arabs. They were, however, certain of their aims and of the means needed to achieve them. Internal correspondence amongst the olim from the very beginning of the Zionist enterprise leaves little room for doubt.[11]

From Eastern EuropeEdit

Jewish immigration to Ottoman Palestine from Eastern Europe occurred as part of mass emigrations of approximately 2.5 million people[12] that took place towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. A rapid increase in population had created economic problems that affected Jewish societies in the Pale of Settlement in Russia, Galicia, and Romania.[7][better source needed]

Persecution of Jews in Russia was also a factor. In 1881, Tsar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated, and the authorities blamed the Jews for the assassination. Consequently, in addition to the May Laws, major anti-Jewish pogroms swept the Pale of Settlement. A movement called Hibbat Zion (love of Zion) spread across the Pale (helped by Leon Pinsker's pamphlet Auto-Emancipation), as did the similar Bilu movement. Both movements encouraged Jews to emigrate to Ottoman Palestine.[citation needed]

From YemenEdit

The first group of immigrants from Yemen came approximately seven months before most of the Eastern European Jews arrived in Palestine.[citation needed]

Due to the changes in the Ottoman Empire, citizens could move more freely, and in 1869, travel was improved with the opening of the Suez Canal, which reduced the travel time from Yemen to Ottoman Syria. Certain Yemenite Jews interpreted these changes and the new developments in the "Holy Land" as heavenly signs that the time of redemption was near. By settling in Ottoman Syria, they would play a part in what they believed could precipitate the anticipated messianic era. Emigration from Yemen to the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem (Ottoman Syria) began in early 1881 and continued almost without interruption until 1914. It was during this time that about 10% of the Yemenite Jews left. From 1881 to 1882, a few hundred Jews left Sanaa and several nearby settlements. This wave was followed by other Jews from central Yemen who continued to move into Ottoman Syrian provinces until 1914. The majority of these groups moved into Jerusalem and Jaffa. In 1884, some families settled into a new-built neighborhood called Yemenite Village Kfar Hashiloach (Hebrew: כפר השילוח) in the Jerusalem district of Silwan, and built the Old Yemenite Synagogue.[13][14]

Before World War I, there was another wave that began in 1906 and continued until 1914. Hundreds of Yemenite Jews made their way to Ottoman Syria and chose to settle in the agricultural settlements. It was after these movements that the World Zionist Organization sent Shmuel Yavne'eli to Yemen to encourage Jews to emigrate to the Land of Israel. Yavne'eli reached Yemen at the beginning of 1911 and returned to Ottoman Syria in April 1912. Due to Yavne'eli's efforts, about 1,000 Jews left central and southern Yemen, with several hundred more arriving before 1914.[15]


Kindergarten in Rishon Lezion, c.1898

The First Aliyah laid the cornerstone for Jewish settlement in Israel and created several settlements – Rishon LeZion, Rosh Pinna, Zikhron Ya'akov, Gedera, among others. Immigrants of the First Aliyah also contributed to existing Jewish towns and settlements, notably Petah Tikva. The first neighbourhoods of Tel Aviv (Neve Tzedek, 1887; and Neve Shalom, 1890) were also built by members of the aliyah, although it was not until the Second Aliyah that Tel Aviv was officially founded.[citation needed]

The settlements established by the First Aliyah, known in Hebrew as moshavot are:



  1. ^ Bernstein, Deborah S. Pioneers and Homemakers: Jewish Women in Pre-State IsraelState University of New York Press, Albany. (1992) p.4
  2. ^ Scharfstein, Sol, Chronicle of Jewish History: From the Patriarchs to the 21st Century, p.231, KTAV Publishing House (1997), ISBN 0-88125-545-9
  3. ^ "New Aliyah – Modern Zionist Aliyot (1882–1948)". Jewish Agency for Israel. Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2008-10-26.
  4. ^ Joel Brinkley, As Jerusalem Labors to Settle Soviet Jews, Native Israelis Slip Quietly Away, The New York Times, 11 February 1990. Quote: "In the late 19th and early 20th century many of the European Jews who set up religious settlements in Palestine gave up after a few months and returned home, often hungry and diseased.". Accessed 4 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b Salmon, Yosef (1978). "IDEOLOGY AND REALITY IN THE BILU". Harvard Ukrainian Studies. [President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute]. 2 (4): 431. ISSN 0363-5570. JSTOR 41035804. Retrieved 2023-02-03. Jewish influx into Palestine. Between 1880 and 1907, the number of Jews in Palestine grew from 23,000 to 80,000. Most of the community resided in Jerusalem, which already had a Jewish majority at the beginning of the influx. [Footnote: Mordecai Elia, Ahavar Tziyon ve-Kolel Hod (Tel Aviv, 1971), appendix A. Between 1840 and 1880 the Jewish settlement in Palestine grew in numbers from 9,000 to 23,000.] The First Aliyah accounted for only a few thousand of the new-comers, and the number of the Biluim among them was no more than a few dozen. Jewish immigration to Palestine had begun to swell in the 1840s, following the liberalization of Ottoman domestic policy (the Tanzimat Reforms) and as a result of the protection extended to immigrants by the European consulates set up at the time in Jerusalem and Jaffa. The majority of immigrants came from Eastern and Central Europe - the Russian Empire, Romania, and Hungary - and were not inspired by modern Zionist ideology. Many were motivated by a blend of traditional ideology (e.g., belief in the sanctity of the land of Israel and in the redemption of the Jewish people through the return to Zion) and practical considerations (e.g., desire to escape the worsening conditions in their lands of origin and to improve their lot in Palestine). The proto-Zionist ideas which had already crystallized in Western Europe during the late 1850s and early 1860s were gaining currency in Eastern Europe.
  6. ^ Halpern, Ben (1998). Zionism and the creation of a new society. Reinharz, Jehuda. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 53–54. ISBN 0-585-18273-6. OCLC 44960036.
  7. ^ a b "Palestine/Israel".[better source needed]
  8. ^ Malley, JP O’. "With spy Sarah Aaronsohn's suicide, Israeli history was rewritten, claims author". Retrieved 2020-12-12.
  9. ^ History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union#Mass emigration
  10. ^ Kark (2001), p. 317
  11. ^ Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–2001. Vintage Books, 2001, p. 49.
  12. ^ "Industrial Revolution". Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  13. ^ Jaskow, Rahel (6 May 2015). "Jewish activists move into building in Arab Jerusalem neighborhood Structure in Silwan was once the synagogue of a village built there for Yemenite immigrants in the 1880s, NGO claims". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  14. ^ Ben-Gedalyahu, Tzvi (7 May 2015). "Jews Move into Former Yemenite Synagogue in Silwan Valley The building is one of many where the British Mandate evicted Jews and let Arabs take over". The Jewish Press. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  15. ^ The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times, by Reeva Spector Simon, Michael Menachem Laskier, Sara Reguer editors, Columbia University Press, 2003, page 406


Further readingEdit

  • Ben-Gurion, David (1976), From Class to Nation: Reflections on the Vocation and Mission of the Labor Movement, Am Oved (in Hebrew)