The Day the Jews Came Home
By Justin Amler
There’s a special holiday coming up in Israel – a day that might not shine with the glamour of Yom Ha’atzmaut, a day that might not hold the poignancy of Yom HaZikaron, a day that might not sway with the music of Purim or allow us to reflect with the gravitas of Yom Hashoah, but it is a day that reflects the essence of our Jewish story in ways few others do.
That day is Yom HaAliyah – the day when the Jews finally came home to Israel.
But while the day might be to celebrate the day when Jews physically entered the Land of Israel, it also holds significance on another even deeper level. Because Aliyah is more than just one person coming home, it’s about one people returning to their homeland, not just on a physical level, but a spiritual one too.
Despite what many in the world might believe, there has always been a Jewish existence in the Land of Israel. Even after the Roman and the Babylonian expulsion, there were Jews who remained in the Land throughout the last few thousand years; however the sovereignty that allowed Jews to pilot their own destiny in their own land was destroyed.
Throughout the centuries Jews longed to return to their ancestral homeland, praying constantly for that moment in their daily prayers. And even as that moment drew closer in the 1930s and 1940, despite the British attempt to prevent them from doing so, they persisted. That was until 1948, when the modern State of Israel was proclaimed and Jewish sovereignty over their land was restored to the Jewish people after 2 thousand years.
In that moment, something happened that affected every Jew in the world.
Because while Aliyah means immigration to Israel, it also means to ascend upwards on a spiritual level such as when Jews are called to read from the Torah at the synagogue, it’s also known as an Aliyah.
So in the moment on May 14th 1948, when the modern State of Israel was proclaimed, an Aliyah was granted to the entire Jewish people. After the horror of the Shoah and the darkness of so many years of torment and persecution, the spirit of the Jewish people was elevated to a point that had not existed for thousands of years.
Our spirits began to soar, filled with a hope and a joy that had not been known since antiquity. That spirit continues to soar and it continues to bring us joy and hope and pride and honour and optimism and faith, causing our souls to rise and dance among the heavens.
Aliyah is about returning to Israel, and we should honour all those amazing people who have come home to their land, in spite of the often many difficulties and obstacles placed in their path, for it is the greatest honour to live in the land of your ancestors.
Today, not all Jews live in Israel and we remain scattered among the nations of the world, yet our souls have already come home even before our physical selves do the same.
Yom HaAliyah is the day that we remember when Joshua first crossed the Jordan River to fulfill the promise made by God to Abraham. It was the first mass immigration of Jews into the Land of Israel. And today, 3500 years later, we continue to return home to the Land of Israel to fulfill that promise.
Jews can be a complex people, with views and opinions as diverse as the various countries we live in, yet Israel remains a core value of our essence on Earth and even as we sometimes continue to wander among the world and its population, we still follow Moses with his raised staff leading us across the desert, and we still hear the voices of Joshua and David and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob ringing out across the centuries and across the lands, across the valleys and across the seas, across the mountains and across the forests, calling us home.