Israel Record

Immigration to Israel

Immigration: The Early Years
Immigration: Since the 1930's

Israel Record Home

Seal of State of Israel

The Early Years


INSPIRED BY ZIONIST IDEOLOGY and the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe, groups of Jews began immigrating to Palestine in the late 19th century. The Jewish community already there was primarily supported by charitable donations from abroad. Many of the new immigrants sought an end to Jewish dependence on charity, and they established agricultural settlements in Palestine in order to work the land.

The first modern, organized wave of Jewish immigration is known as the First Aliyah. Aliyah is a Hebrew word meaning ascent and refers to those Jews who ascend or go up to the land of Israel. Between 1882 and 1903, 25,000 Jews entered Palestine.


In 1878 a group of Orthodox Jews from Jerusalem purchased a tract of land in the Sharon Valley, six miles from Jaffa. The 26 families built mud huts to live in and called the farming community Petach Tikvah Gate of Hope. Malaria, hunger and the flooding caused by the nearby Yarkon River led the early pioneers to abandon their settlement and return to Jerusalem. Newcomers from Europe resettled Petach Tikvah several years later and by 1888 they were receiving financial support from Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the legendary French-Jewish philanthropist who became one of the leading benefactors of early Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine.

Hannah Trager was a young girl living in Petach Tikvah in the 1880s. She later recorded her experiences on the agricultural settlement.


In contrast to the early pioneers who came to Palestine with socialist principles to work the land, a wave of Yemenite Jews came to Palestine for purely religious reasons. An American Christian woman, Bertha Vesper, who lived in Jerusalem in the American Colony in the late 19th century, described the arrival of Yemenite Jews in Jerusalem and the help the American Colony extended to them.


The First Aliyah was followed by four other waves of immigration. The Second Aliyah (1904-1914) was sparked by a fresh wave of persecution of Jews in Russia. An estimated 40,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine during this time. Although First Aliyah immigrants initiated agricultural settlement of the land, by the end of the wave, only 5,000 of the 25,000 immigrants were living in rural settlements. Agricultural settlement really took off during the Second Aliyah.

In 1933, the year Hitler came to power, Jewish immigration to Palestine markedly increased. Coming primarily from Central Europe, these Jews brought with them a great deal of capital, as well as skills and experience in industry, science, banking, medicine, law and international commerce. By 1936, the Jewish population of Palestine was close to 400,000.

Deborah Dayan, the mother of legendary Israeli war hero Moshe Dayan, immigrated to Palestine from Russia. She was a member of the collective settlement of Degania, the first kibbutz. In her memoirs she recalled her inner struggles in Russia and what motivated her to immigrate to Palestine during the Second Aliyah.

[ back to top ]

Israel Record Front Page | Israel Front Page

ADL On-line Home | Search | About ADL | Contact ADL

© 1999 Anti-Defamation League