The vision of Aliyah
The placing of the vision of the ingathering of the Jewish exiles at the head of the principles of the State of Israel as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in the Law of Return, reflects both the essence and the intention of the Zionist vision for future generations.
The Declaration of Independence
On Friday, May 14, 1948, at 4:00 pm, 8 hours before the end of the British Mandate over Palestine, the Provisional State Council met in Tel Aviv to declare the establishment of the State of Israel. “Based on the historic right of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel”, “the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state”, “based upon the United Nations resolution of November 29, 1947, we hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, the State of Israel”, David Ben Gurion read out from the Declaration of Independence that is the founding document of the State of Israel.
About half of the Declaration of Independence is dedicated to presenting the historic, moral and legal basis for the renewal of Jewish independence in the Land of Israel and to the establishment of the State of Israel. The second half of the document presents principles based on which the new country will operate:
“The State of Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and to the ingathering of the exiles; it will work towards the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on fundamentals of freedom, justice and peace in light of the vision of Israel’s prophets; there will be complete equality of social and political rights for all of its citizens irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the United Nations Charter.”
The placing of the vision of the ingathering of the exiles and the opening of its borders for Jewish immigration at the head of the list of the new state’s principles is not incidental, but the product of its establishment as the state of the entire Jewish people, according to the vision of Theodore Herzl and the concept of the Zionist movement.
Law of Return
The Law of Return is the central legal expression for the existence of the State of Israel, a state for the entire Jewish people. This law, which was passed by the Knesset on July 5, 1950, grants all Jews the right to immigrate to Israel and to receive an immigrant’s card which, in accordance with the Citizenship Law, entitles immediate Israeli citizenship.
In 1970, this law was amended to allow the immigration also of anyone who is the grandchild of a Jew, anyone whose spouse is Jewish or anyone whose spouse is the child or grandchild of a Jew, not including anyone who was Jewish and who voluntarily converted to another religion.
Why “immigration - aliyah”?
The term “aliyah - immigration” may be found even in the Bible in the section dealing with the Children of Israel leaving Egypt, and it was also frequently referred to by the prophets in their prophecies regarding the return to Zion after the destruction of the First Temple (586 BCE). The first immigrants came from the Babylonian exile who returned to Zion after the Declaration of Koresh, King of Persia (538 BCE). From that time, immigration became a permanent phenomenon in the history of Israel, the main point of which is the ingathering of the exiles from all corners of the globe into the Land of Israel.
The secret of the Zionist enterprise’s magic
About 3.5 million Jews have immigrated into Israel between the beginning of the 20th century and the end of 2008. What brought them to Israel? The reasons are many and varied: ideology, religion, finances, social and even randomness. Some of them came to realise the Zionist vision or to build here a new and more ideal society, some of them came to study the Bible and a return to a former glory, others found refuge here owing to evil decrees, persecution and humiliation, while some immigrated simply because they thought that this country held the promise of a better future for them and their children.
These waves of immigration included young people, adults, children and the elderly; widows and orphans; poets, professors, farmers, engineers, shoemakers and penniless refugees; rich people and beggars in rags; those with excellent educations and those who had never even learned to read and write. The fact of their being Jewish and wishing to connect their fate and that of their children with the State of Israel was a sufficient reason for their being accepted with open arms as citizens with equal rights in their new country, irrespective of age, skin colour, reason for their arrival, language, education, personal persuasion or economic standing. Perhaps it is precisely its democracy, solidarity and equality that are the secret of the magic and success of the Zionist enterprise.