First Aliyah

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The First Aliyah (also The Farmers' Aliyah) was the first modern widespread wave of Zionist aliyah. Jews who migrated to Ottoman Palestine in this wave came mostly from Eastern Europe and from Yemen. "The First Aliyah began in 1882 and continued, intermittently, until 1903".[1][2] An estimated 25,000[3]–35,000[4] Jews immigrated to Ottoman Palestine during the First Aliyah. While all throughout history Jews immigrated to Israel (such as the Vilna Gaon's group), these were generally smaller groups with more religious motives, and did not have a purely secular political goal in mind.

Eastern European immigration[edit]

Reasons for immigration[edit]

The immigration to Ottoman Palestine occurred as part of the mass emigrations from Eastern Europe of approximately 2.5 million people[5] that occurred towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

A rapid increase in population had created economic problems in Eastern Europe. The problems affected Jewish societies in the Pale of Settlement, Galicia, and Romania.

Russian persecution of Jews was also a factor. In 1881, the czar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated, and the ruling bodies 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 well as the similar Bilu movement, which both encouraged Jews to immigrate to Ottoman Palestine.

Jews emigrated in relatively high numbers, proportionate to the Jewish population.[clarification needed] About 2 million of the 3.5 million went to the United States.[6] Only a small minority of 25,000 Jews moved to Ottoman Palestine.[7] Immigration took place in two primary stages 1881-2 and 1890-1. Land of Israel, also referred as Palestine and Southern Syria, was a part of the Ottoman Empire during this period.

The first central committee for the settlement of the Land of Israel and Syria which was also under the Ottoman rule was established by a convention of "Unions for the Agricultural Settlement of Israel" (Focsani Congress) held on January 11, 1882 in Romania. The committee was the first organization to form group aliyahs, such as the Jewish passenger ships it set sail from Galaţi.

After the first wave (early 1880s) there was another spike in aliyah in 1890. The reasons for the increase were:

  • The Russian government officially approved the activity of Hovevei Zion in 1890. That same year the "Odessa Committee" began its operation in Jaffa. The purpose of this organization was to absorb immigrants in Ottoman Syria that came as a result of Hovevei Zion in Russia.
  • Russian Jewry's situation deteriorated:
    • The authorities continued to push Jews out of business and trade.
    • Moscow was almost entirely "cleansed" of Jews.[8]
  • The financial situation of the settlements from the previous decade improved due to the Baron de Rothschild's assistance (orchards were planted, wineries started).

The immigrants[edit]

Nearly all of the Jews from Eastern Europe before that time came from traditional Jewish families, hoping to improve their lives.[citation needed] The immigrants that were part of the First Aliyah, however, came more out of a connection to the land of their ancestors.[3][9] Most of these immigrants worked as artisans or in small trade, but many also worked in agriculture. Only some of them came in an organized fashion, with the help of Hovevei Zion, but most of them were unorganized, in their 30s, and had families.[citation needed]

Aliyah from Yemen[edit]

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

Settlement[edit]

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 etc.

Most settlements met with financial difficulties and most of the settlers were not proficient in farming. Baron Edmond James de Rothschild took several of the settlements under his wing, which helped them survive until more settlers with farming experience arrived in subsequent aliyot.

Immigrants of the First Aliyah also contributed to existing towns and settlements, notably Petah Tikva. The first neighbourhoods of Tel Aviv (Neve Tzedek and Neve Shalom) were also built by members of the aliyah, although it was not until the Second Aliyah that Tel Aviv was officially founded.

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.[10]

Morris provides excerpts from three letters written in 1882 by these first arrivals:

  • Vladimir (Ze'ev) Dubnow, one of the Biluim wrote to his brother, the historian Simon Dubnow, in October 1882: "The ultimate goal ... is, in time, to take over the Land of Israel and to restore to the Jews the political independence they have been deprived of for these two thousand years .... The Jews will yet arise and, arms in hand (if need be), declare that they are the masters of their ancient homeland." (Dubnow himself shortly afterward returned to Russia.)[11]
  • Ben-Yehuda, who settled in Jerusalem in September 1881, wrote in July 1882 to Peretz Smolenskin in Vienna: "The thing we must do now is to become as strong as we can, to conquer the country, covertly, bit by bit ... We will not set up committees so that the Arabs will know what we are after, we shall act like silent spies, we shall buy, buy, buy."[12]
  • In October 1882 Ben-Yehuda and Yehiel Michael Pines, who had arrived in Palestine in 1878, wrote to Rashi Pin, in Vilna: "We have made it a rule not to say too much, except to those ... we trust ... the goal is to revive our nation on its land ... if only we succeed in increasing our numbers here until we are the majority [Emphasis in original] .... There are now only five hundred [thousand] Arabs, who are not very strong, and from whom we shall easily take away the country if only we do it through stratagems [and] without drawing upon us their hostility before we become the strong and populous ones."[13]

The Jewish Virtual Library says of the First Aliyah that nearly half the settlers did not stay in Palestine.[14]

Relationship with the Old Yishuv[edit]

The relationship of the members of the First Aliyah with the Old Yishuv was strained. The First Aliyah's settlement efforts were opposed not only by the Old Yishuv's traditionalists, but also by their own settlers. The First Aliyah's people, on their part, viewed the Old Yishuv as a foreign agency. There were additional 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).[15]

The 28 colonies established by the First Aliyah[edit]

The colonies established by the First Aliyah are known in Hebrew as moshavot. These are:

Rishon LeZion (1882)

Rosh Pinna (1882, taking over and renaming the colony of Gei Oni established in 1878 and down to three families by 1882)

Zikhron Ya'akov (1882)

Petah Tikva (1882; reestablished after first attempt in 1878)

Mazkeret Batya (1883 established as "Ekron")

Ness Ziona (1883; began as "Nahalat Reuven")

Yesud HaMa'ala (1883)

Gedera (1884)

Bat Shlomo (1889)

Meir Shfeya (1889)

Rehovot (1890)

Mishmar HaYarden (1890)

Hadera (1891)

Ein Zeitim (1892)

Motza (1894)

Hartuv (1895)

Metula (1896)

Be'er Tuvia (1896 reestablished and renamed by Hovevei Zion; first settled in 1887 under the name Castina)

Bnei Yehuda (1898; not identical with the new Bnei Yehuda)

Mahanayim (1898-1912)

Sejera (1899)

Mas'ha (1901), renamed Kfar Tavor in 1903

Yavne'el (1901)

Menahemia (1901)

Beit Gan (1903; next to Yavne'el)

Atlit (1903)

Giv'at Ada (1903)

Kfar Saba (1904)

Not included here: the five ephemeral colonies of the First Aliyah in the Hauran.

Notes[edit]

  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. ^ a b "New Aliyah - Modern Zionist Aliyot (1882 - 1948)". Jewish Agency for Israel. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  4. ^ The First Aliyah
  5. ^ Industrial Revolution
  6. ^ Jewish Immigration
  7. ^ Martin Gilbert (1998). Israel: A History. Doubleday.  pp. 5
  8. ^ History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union#Mass emigration and political activism
  9. ^ Palestine/Israel
  10. ^ Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. Vintage Books, 2001, p. 49.
  11. ^ Shapira, Anita. (Heb).) Land and Power. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1992, p86-87 cited in Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. Vintage Books, 2001, p49.
  12. ^ Be'eri, Eliezer. (Heb.) The beginning of the Israeli-Arab conflict, 1882-1891. Haifa: Sifriyat Po'alim/Haifa University Press, 1985, p38 cited in Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. Vintage Books, 2001, p49.
  13. ^ Be'eri, Eliezer. (Heb.) The beginning of the Israeli-Arab conflict, 1882-1891. Haifa: Sifriyat Po'alim/Haifa University Press, 1985, pp. 38-39 cited in Morris, Benny. Righteous Victims: A history of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. Vintage Books, 2001, p. 49
  14. ^ The First Aliyah (1882-1903) Jewish Virtual Library
  15. ^ Kark (2001), p. 317

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

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