The Mass Aliyah - 1948-1951 (see map)
The early years of statehood witnessed the beginning of the realization of the ancient prophetic dream -- the "ingathering of the exiles". The right to Aliyah was explicitly stated in the Law of Return (July 5, 1950).
First to arrive after the departure of the British and the Declaration of Independence (May 14, 1948) were the former "illegal" immigrants detained by the British in Cyprus. During May - August 1948, while the War of Independence was raging, 33,000 immigrants entered; then the pace stepped up, with 70,000 arriving from September to December -- mostly survivors of the Holocaust from displaced persons' camps in Germany, Austria and Italy. Over the next four months, January - April 1949, the number of immigrants reached 100,000. In all, 203,000 Jews from 42 countries arrived in the first year of independence.
This mass immigration continued until the end of 1951. During this period, entire Jewish communities were transplanted to Israel. More than 37,000 of Bulgaria's 45,000 Jews came; 30,500 of Libya's 35,000; all but about 1,000 of the 45,000 in Yemen; 121,512 of the 130,000 in Iraq; two thirds - 103,732 - of Polish Jewry; and one third - 118,940 - of the Jews in Rumania.
These migrations were organized as special operations. The most dramatic were Operation Magic Carpet, for the Yemenite Jews, and Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, which brought over Iraqi Jewry. All in all, 684,201 immigrants -- more than the entire Jewish population when independence was declared -- came between May 14, 1948 and the end of 1951.
Aliyah was the lifeblood of the new state, but it was only the beginning of the process of integrating veterans and newcomers from a hundred countries into one nation. The second stage was Klitah - "absorption" or integration. Complete absorption was a challenge that affected all areas of the country's life and demanded massive financial participation by Diaspora Jewry through the Jewish Agency.
More than two-thirds of the 393,197 immigrants who arrived from May 1948 to May 1950, were settled in towns and villages: 123,669 were accommodated in houses abandoned by Arabs and 53,000 in permanent housing in towns and villages; 35,700 settled in new established moshavim (see moshav) and 16,000 in kibbutzim (see kibbutz); 6,000 children were placed in Youth Aliyah.
Less than one third - 112,015 persons - remained in immigrant camps and temporary housing. As the pressure of immigration increased, these camps filled to capacity. It was necessary to find better methods of dealing with those for whom permanent housing was not yet available. The immediate solution, devised in 1950, was the ma'abarah, the transitional camp or quarter, in which the newcomers were provided with work. The construction of a large ma'abarah only took about a few weeks, and thus thousands of immigrants were provided temporary shelter within a short period. By May 1952, there were 113 ma'abarot (ma'abarah) with a population of 250,000.
Aliyah from 1952 to 1967
Following this peak, a decline in the rate of aliyah set in. In the years 1952-1954, the number of immigrants totaled only 51,463. In 1955, mass immigration was renewed. From 1955 to the end of 1957, immigration totaled 162,308, mostly from Morocco, Tunisia and Poland.
Immigration from Morocco was stimulated by the surge of nationalism and the achievement of independence. Between 1955 and 1957, more than 70,000 Moroccan Jews arrived. Following a similar surge of Tunisian nationalism and independence in 1956, more than 15,000 Jews came from that country in the same period. The political situation in Poland also led to a considerable rise in Aliyah: 34,426 in the years 1955-1957. Following the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, thousands of Jews succeeded in fleeing to Austria, whence the Jewish Agency brought over 8,682; after the Sinai Campaign of the same year, 14,562 Egyptian Jews reached Israel.
From 1958 to 1960 immigration slowed down again, totaling 72,781. The largest group came from Rumania (27,500). After the 1958-1960 regression, immigration swelled again from 1961-1964, when a total of 215,056 immigrants arrived. More than 80,000 Jewish immigrants came from Morocco and some 80,000 from Rumania. From 1965 to 1967 there was a decline in the rate of aliyah.
All in all, from 1952 to The Six Day War on June 1967, 503,770 Jews came to Israel. The absorption of the mass immigration of 1955-1957 was facilitated by the country's economic recovery. There was considerable industrial growth and the new settlement method was put into general use: immigrants founded villages and towns in the regional settlement areas (see development towns and areas).
During the years 1958-1960, while immigration slowed down, there was an increase of the number of professional men among the immigrants - doctors, engineers, economists and teachers - a trend which had started in 1956. In order to cope with immigrants of this type, the Jewish Agency set up a network of hostels where they could stay with their families in small flats for periods of up to six months, while learning Hebrew and looking for suitable work and housing. The ulpanim (see ulpan) were expanded.
During the years 1961-1964, the liquidation of the ma'abarot (ma'abarah) was speeded up, as more permanent housing schemes were launched in all parts of the country. During 1965-1967, while Aliyah slowed down, the Jewish Agency devoted much thought and resources to the requirements of western immigrants. This led to the establishment of absorption centers, each containing all the services and facilities - residential, social, and cultural - that the new immigrants required until they could move into permanent housing.
The Six-Day War in 1967 was followed by a considerable overall increase in aliyah from western countries - the U.S.A., Canada, Western Europe, Latin America and South Africa. During the second half of 1967, there was a visible rise in the rate of aliyah. In 1968, the total increased to over 30,000 and in each of the years 1969 and 1970 - to over 40,000.
The Six-Day War was also followed by the intensification of Jewish consciousness and devotion to Israel among Soviet Jews. In the preceding years, only a few Jews had been allowed to leave the U.S.S.R to join relatives in Israel. In 1969 and 1970, there was a new development: scores of Soviet Jews publicly declared, in letters to the Israeli government and international organizations, that they regarded Israel as their historic homeland. Toward the end of 1970, the severe sentence imposed on a number of Jews who tried to hijack a Soviet plane in order to reach Israel -- after trial in Leningrad -- aroused widespread support for the Soviet Jews everywhere. From 1968 to 1973, some 100,000 succeeded leaving the Soviet Union and settled in Israel.
After the Six Day War, the Polish government unleashed an anti-Semitic campaign against the small remaining Jewish community in Poland, but allowed them to leave. Some 5,000 came to Israel. In all from the Six-Day War, in June 1967, to the Yom Kippur War, in October 1973, 260,000 Jews came to Israel.
With the rapid increase in immigration from the West, it was necessary to introduce radical changes in the immigration machinery. Thus, in 1967 a joint Government-Jewish Agency Authority on Immigration and Absorption was created. New absorption centers, hostels and kibbutz ulpanim were set up all over the country. Absorption became an issue that involved several government agencies in housing, employment and other services more directly .
In 1968 it was decided to set up a Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. It was agreed that, in the main, the Jewish Agency would handle immigration while the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption would deal with absorption. One of the objects of the new arrangement was to cut down on the bureaucratic procedures of absorption which had often fallen under criticism, especially by newcomers from the West. In 1970, a program of facilities and concessions available to immigrants was set up, consisting of special concessions in the spheres of customs, taxation, housing, school and university tuition fees, etc. Most of the concessions were available for three years from the date of immigration. In order to assist the greatly increased number of students - many of them originally volunteers - who wanted to study in Israel after the Six Day War, a Student Authority was also established.