Jewish Immigration In Palestine

Among the global communities that have experienced many upheavals, storms, and turmoil in the course of history, Jews are easily at the top of the list. Many people know there is a Jewish State, but few understand how it came to be. This article delves into the Jewish migrant issue and tries to explain the story behind the Jewish immigration in Palestine pictures.

When Did Jewish Immigration Into Historical Palestine Start?

As the 19th Century was winding up and the world was ushering in the 20th Century, the Jewish migration was taking place. These were dramatic happenings that shaped the lives of the Jewish people and whose repercussions and reverberations are felt even today in the region.

An Ancient Community of Jews

Contrary to the opinion that there were no Jews in Palestine before this period, there existed an indigenous population of Jews during the rule of the Ottoman Empire and before. This population was scattered in the holy cities of Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron, and Safed.

However, before the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, the Jewish population in Palestine has fluctuated over the years. In 1880, before the immigration, the number of Jews in Palestine numbered around 25,000 and had been there for a few generations.

The Jews immigrated to Palestine in waves, known as Aliyah, ranging from the First Aliyah to the Fifth Aliyah.

The First Aliyah

The first Aliyah easily laid the foundation for the rebirth of the Jewish state and took place between 1881 and 1903. The migration of 1881 will always hold a special place in the history of Jewish Palestine.

This wave occurred before political Zionism in the 1800s and brought immigrants from Yemen and 20,000 to 30,000 Russians fleeing the Czarist Russia’s pogroms. These immigrants established themselves and settled in the towns such as Zikhron Ya’akov, Rishon LeZion, and Petah Tikvah, among others.

The Second Aliyah

This wave of immigrants to Palestine took place prior to the Second World War, between 1903 and 1914. This Aliyah exclusively comprised of around 35,000-40,000 Russian Jews who were escaping anti-Semitism waves and pogroms in Russia. The majority of these immigrants were socialists, and the growing sense of Jewish nationalism appealed to them. They proved vital in reviving the Hebrew language, formation of Kibbutzim, and building of Tel Aviv.

The Third Aliyah and The Balfour Declaration

In 1919, the First World War was over, and up until 1923, the third wave of immigrants made Palestine their home. This group of Jews, numbering about 35,000, was mostly from Russia, although there were immigrants from the Baltic countries and Poland.

This wave of immigrants arrived after the British Mandate over Palestine was established to create a sustainable Jewish agricultural economy by reinforcing the Kibbutz movement.

The Balfour Declaration was the brainchild of Lord Balfour. Keep in mind that the Ottoman Empire fell after WWI, and Palestine came under the mandate of the British, who were in favor of the formation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In 1917, Balfour wrote a letter expressing his agreement that ‘…nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …’

This declaration provided a legal foundation for Jewish immigration and actually encouraged Jewish immigrants to go to Palestine.

An Increase in Jewish Immigration to Palestine After WWI

The Fourth Aliyah

This wave of immigration took place between 1924 and 1929. It consisted of around 82,000 Jews, mainly from the Balkan states and the Near Orient. Some of the immigrants were fleeing anti-Semitism in Hungary and Poland. The majority of these immigrants are credited for establishing small businesses and creating a more rounded economy. By late 1931, the number of Jews in Palestine had reached 174,600

After the First World War, there was a surge in the number of Jewish immigrants in Palestine. Interestingly, around 15% of Transoceanic Jewish migration was to the Palestine region.

British Policy on Jewish Immigration

British policy was one of the reasons behind the spike of immigrant numbers. During the mandate period from 1919 to 1930, there was a significant change in British policy concerning Jewish immigration into Palestine. More notably was the response of the European Jews to this favorable policy on immigrating to Palestine.

However, after increased immigration to Palestine, especially in the first decades of the 20th Century, Arabs in Palestine started piling pressure on Great Britain. Consequently, from the 1930s, Britain started issuing fewer immigration certificates to the Jews than the demand at the time.

The Fifth Aliyah and the Rise of Nazism and Anti-Semitism

The fifth Aliyah or wave of immigrants into Palestine coincided with the rise of extreme nationalism in Eastern Europe and Nazism in Germany. These two factors led many Jews to flee their countries. It is worth noting that the biggest number of immigrants up to date entered Palestine between 1929 and the start of WWII. These immigrants numbered around one-quarter of a million and consisted primarily of professionals, lawyers, artists, and doctors.

The majority of these immigrants arrived before 1936 when Britain started implementing harsh restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine due to the growing anger and violence among Palestinian Arabs.

After 1932 and the Nazi Party’s domination in Germany, persecution of Jews in the then Czechoslovakia and Austria intensified, which led to a dramatic surge in Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Between 1932 and 1939, a total of 247,000 immigrants went to Palestine, a 46% fraction of the total number of Jewish immigrants from Europe. In a nutshell, this Fifth Aliyah was more of a flight than a Zionist choice.

The U.S Immigration Act of 1924


The U.S Immigration Act of 1924 played a considerable role in slowing down immigrants from Europe into the United States by initiating strict quotas per country. This, in turn, led to most Jewish immigrants choosing Palestine as their destination of choice.

The Rise of Jewish Illegal Immigration to Palestine From 1939

One of the factors that contributed significantly to the illegal immigration of Jews in Palestine was the White Paper of 1939. This paper was issued by the British, and it severely curtailed Jewish immigration. It restricted the number of Jews immigrating to Palestine to 75,000 over a period of 5 years and restricted Jews from buying land.

This was the time of the Holocaust, and the measures by the British left many European Jews with nowhere to run to. It must be noted that during this period, illegal immigration, despite the dangers involved, became necessary and increased tremendously.

Nonetheless, this policy, instead of slowing down Jewish immigration, it gave rise to a vibrant illegal immigration movement. Even after the Second World War, tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants entered Palestine and established themselves.

The versatility of the immigrants must also be mentioned. Most of them found loopholes in the British system of regulation and exploited them. For instance, to study in Palestine, students weren’t required to have an immigration certificate, so lots of immigrants enrolled at the Hebrew University and remained in the country. Other young women arrived in Palestine courtesy of fictitious marriages to Palestinians.

Immigration after the Creation of the State of Israel

After the State of Israel was created in 1948, all restrictions on immigration of Jews were lifted, and this led to an influx of displaced people and migrants after the Second World War. Israel also passed the Law of Return, which allowed any Jewish person to immigrate to Israel.

Also, Jews in Arab states such as Iraq immigrated to Israel after facing hostilities due to the conflict in Palestine and after encouragement from the Israeli Government. Today, Israel has