Aliyah is a Hebrew word that means "ascent," or "going up." According to Jewish tradition, traveling to the Land of Israel is an ascent, both geographically and metaphysically. Anyone traveling to Eretz Israel from Egypt, Babylonia or the Mediterranean basin, where many Jews lived in early rabbinic times, climbed to a higher altitude. Visiting Jerusalem, situated 2,700 feet above sea level, was also an "ascent." Aliyah is an important Jewish cultural concept and a fundamental component of Zionism. It is enshrined in Israel's Law of Return, which accords any Jew (deemed as such by halakha and/or Israeli secular law) and eligible non-Jews (a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew), the legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel, as well as Israeli citizenship. Someone who "makes aliyah" is called an oleh (m. singular) or olah (f. singular); the plural for both is olim. Many Religious Jews espouse aliyah as a return to the Promised land, and regard it as the fulfillment of God's biblical promise to the descendants of the Hebrew patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Aliyah is included as a commandment by some opinions on the enumeration of the 613 commandments . Return to the Land of Israel is a recurring theme in Jewish prayers recited every day, three times a day, and holiday services on Passover and Yom Kippur traditionally conclude with the words "Next year in Jerusalem." Since Judaism is both a nation and a religion, aliyah (returning to Israel) has both a secular and a religious significance. In all historical periods during which return to the Land of Israel was possible, Jewish groups and individuals have immigrated back to the Jewish homeland. The number of Jews returning to the Land of Israel rose significantly between the 13th and 19th centuries, mainly due to a general decline in the status of Jews across Europe and an increase in religious persecution. The expulsion of Jews from England (1290), France (1391), Austria (1421) and Spain (the Alhambra decree of 1492) were seen by many as a sign of approaching redemption and contributed greatly to the messianic spirit of the time. Pre-Zionist resettlement in Palestine met with various degrees of success. For example, little is known of the fate of the 1210 "aliyah of the three hundred rabbis" and their descendants. It is thought that few survived the bloody upheavals caused by the Crusader invasion in 1229 and their subsequent expulsion by the Muslims in 1291. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and the expulsion of Jews from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1498), many Jews made their way to the Holy Land. Then the immigration in the 18th and early 19th centuries of thousands of followers of various Kabbalist and Hassidic rabbis, as well as the disciples of the Vilna Gaon and the disciples of the Chattam Sofer, added considerably to the Jewish populations in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron, and Safed. Between 1882 and 1903, approximately 35,000 Jews immigrated to the south-western area of Syria, then a province of the Ottoman Empire. The majority, belonging to the Hovevei Zion and Bilu movements, came from the Russian Empire with a smaller number arriving from Yemen. Many established agricultural communities. Among the towns that these individuals established are Petah Tikva (already in 1878), Rishon LeZion, Rosh Pina, and Zikhron Ya'aqov. In 1882, the Yemenite Jews settled in an Arab suburb of Jerusalem called Silwan located south-east of the walls of the Old City on the slopes of the Mount of Olives . Between 1904 and 1914, 40,000 Jews immigrated mainly from Russia to south-western Syria following pogroms and outbreaks of anti-semitism in that country. This group, greatly influenced by socialist ideals, established the first kibbutz, Degania, in 1909 and formed self-defense organizations, such as Hashomer, to counter increasing Arab hostility and to help Jews to protect their communities from Arab bandits. The suburb of Jaffa, Ahuzat Bayit, established at this time, grew into the city of Tel Aviv. During this period, some of the underpinnings of an independent nation-state arose: The national language Hebrew was revived; newspapers and literature written in Hebrew published; political parties and workers organizations were established. The First World War effectively ended the period of the Second Aliyah. Between 1919 and 1923, 40,000 Jews, mainly from the Russian Empire arrived in the wake of World War I, the British conquest of Palestine; the establishment of the Mandate, and the Balfour Declaration. Many of these were pioneers, known as halutzim, trained in agriculture and capable of establishing self sustaining economies. In spite of immigration quotas established by the British administration, the population of Jews reached 90,000 by the end of this period. The Jezreel Valley and the Hefer Plain marshes were drained and converted to agricultural use. Additional national institutions arose: The Histadrut (General Labor Federation); an elected assembly; national council; and the Haganah. Between 1929 and 1939, with the rise of Nazism in Germany, a new wave of 250,000 immigrants arrived; the majority of these, 174,000, arrived between 1933 and 1936, after which increasing restrictions on immigration by the British made immigration clandestine and illegal, called Aliyah Bet. The Fifth Aliyah was again driven mostly from Eastern Europe as well as professionals, doctors, lawyers and professors, from Germany. Refugee artists introduced Bauhaus (the White City of Tel Aviv has the highest concentration of Bauhaus architecture in the world) and founded the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra. With the completion of the port at Haifa and its oil refineries, significant industry was added to the predominantly agricultural economy. The Jewish population reached 450,000 by 1940.
At the same time, tensions between Arabs and Jews grew during this period, leading to a series of Arab riots against the Jews in 1929 that left many dead and resulted in the depopulation of the Jewish community in Hebron. This was followed by more violence during the "Great Uprising" of 1936–1939. In response to the ever increasing tension between the Arabic and Jewish communities married with the various commitments the British faced at the dawn of World War II, the British issued the White Paper of 1939, which severely restricted Jewish immigration to 75,000 people for five years. This served to create a relatively peaceful eight years in Palestine while, tragically, The Holocaust unfolded in Europe.
Shortly after their rise to power, the Nazis negotiated the Ha'avara or "Transfer" Agreement with Zionists under which 50,000 Jews and $100 million of their assets would be moved to Palestine . The British government limited Jewish immigration to Palestine with quotas, and following the rise of Nazism to power in Germany, illegal immigration to Palestine commenced. The illegal immigration was known as Aliyah Bet ("secondary immigration"), or Ha'apalah, and was organized by the Mossad Le'aliyah Bet, as well as by the Irgun. Immigration was done mainly by sea, and to a lesser extent overland through Iraq and Syria. During World War II and the years that followed until independence, Aliyah Bet became the main form of Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Following the war, Berihah ("flight"), an organization of former partisans and ghetto fighters was primarily responsible for smuggling Jews from Poland and Eastern Europe to the Italian ports from which they traveled to Palestine. Despite British efforts to curb the illegal immigration, during the 14 years of its operation, 110,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine. In 1945 reports of the Holocaust with its 6 million Jewish dead, caused many Jews in Palestine to turn openly against the British Mandate, and illegal immigration escalated rapidly as many Holocaust survivors joined the Aliyah. After Aliyah Bet, the process of numbering or naming individual aliyot ceased, but immigration did not. A major wave of immigration of over half a million Jews went to Israel between 1948 and 1950, many fleeing renewed persecution in Eastern Europe, and increasingly hostile Arab countries. The massive airlift known as Operation Moses began to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel on November 18, 1985 and ended on January 5, 1986. During those six weeks, some 6,500–8,000 Ethiopian Jews were flown from Sudan to Israel. An estimated 2,000–4,000 Jews died en route to Sudan or in Sudanese refugee camps. In 1991, Operation Solomon was launched to bring the Beta Israel Jews of Ethiopia. In one day, May 24, 34 aircraft landed at Addis Ababa and brought 14,325 Jews from Ethiopia to Israel. Since that time, Ethiopian Jews have continued to immigrate to Israel bringing the number of Ethiopian-Israelis today to over 100,000. A mass emigration was politically undesirable for the Soviet regime. The only acceptable ground was family reunification, and a formal petition ("вызов", vyzov) from a relative from abroad was required for the processing to begin. Often, the result was a formal refusal. The risks to apply for an exit visa compounded because the entire family had to quit their jobs, which in turn would make them vulnerable to charges of social parasitism, a criminal offense. Because of these hardships, Israel set up the group Lishkat Hakesher in the early 1950s to maintain contact and promote aliyah with Jews behind the Iron Curtain.
In the wake of Israel's victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, the USSR broke off the diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Anti-Zionist propaganda campaign in the state-controlled mass media and the rise of Zionology were accompanied by harsher discrimination of the Soviet Jews. By the end of 1960s, Jewish cultural and religious life in the Soviet Union had become practically impossible, and the majority of Soviet Jews were assimilated and non-religious, but this new wave of state-sponsored anti-Semitism on one hand, and the sense of pride for victorious Jewish nation over Soviet-armed Arab armies on the other, stirred up Zionist feelings.
After the Dymshits-Kuznetsov hijacking affair and the crackdown that followed, strong international condemnations caused the Soviet authorities to increase the emigration quota. In the years 1960–1970, the USSR let only 4,000 people leave; in the following decade, the number rose to 250,000. Many of those allowed to leave to Israel chose other destinations, most notably the United States. In 1979 a record 71,000 Soviet Jews were granted exodus from the USSR, of whom only 12,117 immigrated to Israel. Since the dissolution of the USSR, over one million Soviet Jews have immigrated to Israel