In its simplest sense, aliyah is when a Jewish person immigrates to Israel – but this is part of a larger movement, the return of the Jewish people from exile around the world back to the land promised to them by God.
The term is derived from a Hebrew word meaning “to go up” or “to ascend,” referring to the journey to a land with exalted meaning for the Jewish people – the land of their spiritual ancestors.
For many Jews living outside Israel, making aliyah is a lifelong dream with deep spiritual motivation. As Rabbi Eckstein writes in his book How Firm a Foundation:
Israel for Jews is far more than a mere abstraction or antiquated theological proposition. It is ‘the Holy Land,’ the heart and lifeblood of the Jewish people. It is also God’s land and ‘vineyard,’ ‘the beloved of my [God’s] soul’ (Jeremiah 12:10, 7). It is the land where divine providence is especially manifest, where ‘the eyes of the Lord . . . are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year’ (Deuteronomy 11:12). . . . God’s love for Israel, the land, is intertwined with his special love for Israel, his people.
For Jews living in countries where anti-Semitism still has a vicious stronghold, making aliyah is a move toward peace and security, a chance to finally live in a place where being a Jew isn’t a liability but a celebrated blessing.
Still other Jews living in parts of various parts of the world, such as Ethiopia, India, and Latin America (including members of the “lost tribes”), have an added dimension of the promise of a better life in Israel – educationally, socio-economically, and vocationally. Making this huge transition to a culture so unlike their own is not easy, but there are many programs and organizations in place – many of them sponsored by The Fellowship – to help them acclimate to life in the Holy Land.
Read about The Fellowship’s work to help thousands of Jews make aliyah every year through our On Wings of Eagles program. And don’t miss the moving story of Rabbi Eckstein’s parents, who made aliyah last year at ages 91 and 84.