Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). The word Aliyah is derived from the verb “laalot” which means “to go up”, or “to ascend” in a positive spiritual sense. In the Hebrew language, the word is written: עֲלִיָּה.
A person who makes Aliyah is called an Oleh, meaning “one who goes up”. It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology and an important component of Judaism. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida (“descent”).
The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile. Large-scale immigration to Palestine and later Israel began in 1882.
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 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.
For generations of religious Jews, aliyah was associated with the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Jews prayed for their Messiah to come, who was to redeem the Land of Israel from the gentile rule and return world Jewry to the land under a Halachic theocracy.
If you want to make aliyah, don’t forget to learn Hebrew.