Inside View Jul/Aug 2023
The Jewish people are returning to Israel!
Since the persecution of Jewish people in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century, many Jewish immigrants have arrived in the Holy Land each year.
The Jews’ return from the lands to which they have been exiled is called aliyah, a Hebrew word meaning “to ascend.” Aliyah, the act of going up, is the opposite of yerida, the Hebrew word meaning “to descend,” which is used to refer to Israel’s exile.
In Scripture, aliyah relates to meeting with God. The word is used in Exodus 19:20 when Moses “went up” to meet with God on Mount Sinai and in Psalm 122:4 when David described Jerusalem as the place where the tribes of Israel “go up” to the house of the Lord to give thanks.
Israel’s government embraced the word aliyah for the return of Jews from the Diaspora, those scattered to the four corners of the world. Today, the term refers to the ingathering of Jewish exiles. When Jewish people immigrate to Israel, they say they are “making aliyah.”
This return from the Diaspora is a right established in Israeli law. Shortly after the nation’s rebirth, the government made the homecoming of Jewish exiles a priority. The State of Israel established the Law of Return in 1950, giving the right to become a citizen of Israel to all Jewish exiles, their children, and their grandchildren.
The number of returnees varies each year, and immigration surges when antisemitism and violence spike. God foretold this phenomenon through the prophets, that He would bring the Jews back to Israel from countries where He scattered them with “a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out” (Ezek. 20:33).
Jewish leaders brought this prophecy before the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine in 1947, which led to its support for the establishment of modern Israel. The leaders noted that wherever Jewish people settled in the world, they eventually faced hatred and violence without the right to defend themselves. Relying on Gentile governments for protection left the exiled Jewish people with a tragic legacy of suffering.
On the heels of their greatest tragedy, the Holocaust, the leaders concluded that the Jewish people must become a sovereign nation again in their ancestral homeland to protect themselves. The UN agreed and created UN Resolution 181, which passed in November 1947, authorizing the formation of the State of Israel.
The Jewish Agency for Israel reported that 75,000 Jewish people made aliyah last year. Nearly 8 in 10 olim (Jewish immigrants) came from Ukraine and Russia. The previous year, only 28,600 olim returned; and less than 4 in 10 were from Ukraine and Russia. What caused the sudden increase? The fury we know as Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry (FOI) sprang into action the day the war began and started aiding refugees. In 2022, our Eastern European staff helped 320 people leave Ukraine, housed nearly 1,500 refugees in Poland, made 20 trips into Ukraine to deliver more than 85 tons of humanitarian aid, and supported two Ukrainian food kitchens that feed 75 elderly Jewish people. God has used FOI to help thousands in Ukraine. And we have enabled hundreds to return to Israel through our Aliyah Return Fund and Israel Relief Fund, which are funded by generous Christians.
These numbers don’t begin to tell the whole story. We continue to bring not only physical comfort but also spiritual comfort to those who are suffering. Through these efforts, the Jewish people caught up in this conflict know there are Christians who love them and are willing to risk their lives to help during a time of great need. It gives us vital opportunities to share how our faith leads us to love and help God’s Chosen People.