Modern Jewish history: Ashkenaz, Ottoman Empire, Aliyah, Immigration, War

Modern Jewish history

It took the new Jewish nation more than100 years to emerge as the modern nation of Israel as it is now. The period between 1914 and 1945 was the turning point for Jewish history. Jews in Europe experienced brutality, starvation, civil war, followed by the oppressive communist leadership. The expectation that the progression of the European civilization would solve the Jewish question turned out to be a great nightmare as waves of social violence and intellectual anti-Semitism in Central and Western Europe prevented their liberation. In Eastern Europe authorities organized murderous activities against the Jews to curtail their emancipation.

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Ashkenaz experiences

The name Ashkenaz was applied to Jews who lived along the Rhine River in northern France and western Germany. These Jews later spread to Poland and Lithuania. In France, the Ashkenaz Jews owned vineyards and made wine. The Ashkenazi Jews experienced anti-Semitism, mob violence in these areas. Many Jews were willing to die rather than convert from their religion.

Heavy taxes were imposed on the Jews, blood libels, accompanied by violence, and later were expelled.

Ashkenazi Jews, although they continued to build communities and grow in Germany were faced with riots and massacres. German authorities later forced the Jews to live apart from the rest of society in ghettos with between 100 and 500 inhabitants. In Poland the Jews faced blood libels and riots. The growth of Hasidism in Poland drew them from Ashkenazi practice. After the Chmielnicki massacres in Poland they spread through Western Europe, the Atlantic.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire controlled the Middle East from the 16th to the 20th century. The inhabitants in these areas were mainly Arab subjects of the Ottoman Empire, living in loosely organized tribal communities. The Jews in Israel were not fairly received by the Ottoman Empire before World War I started. When the war started Israel was disconnected from the rest of the world which led to a severe shortage of food. The Empire imposed war taxes, confiscations of work tools and food.

Many of them died from hunger, as the settlement in which they lived depended on donations from outside of the country. The Jews were not allowed to carry any weapons neither were they allowed to hold stamps of the Jewish National Fund or to write any letters in Yiddish or Hebrew language. It became a must to learn Turkish in the schools of the Jewish population and it became prohibited to wave the Zionist flag. The peak of the confrontation was when the Ottoman authorities required that some of the Jewish people enroll in the Turkish army or leave the country.

The Ottoman authorities made several deportations of the Jews from the country. In 1915 the Ottomans collected people that revolted in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jaffa and deported them with a ship to Egypt.

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In 1917 the Ottoman deported the Jewish population of Tel Aviv and Jaffa as a result of the progress of the British front in the south of the country for fear that they would assist the British in taking control of the country. The Ottoman authorities also deported the leaders of the Jewish population in the Land of Israel.

First Aliyah

The year 1882 marked the first such aliyah, which arrived in large numbers and founded 28 new settlements among them Hadera, which has been a target of vicious terrorist attacks in the recent past. Early Zionists purchased large pieces of land from absentee Arab landowners. They Went ahead and converted these undevelopable lands and made them bloom.

But the efforts of the first Aliyah to create new agricultural settlements under a corrupt, hostile environment could have ended in both economic and social disaster… The Soviet regime cut Jews of Russia off from the rest of the Jewish people, thus depriving the young Palestine of its main source of human labor.

The first danger of economic hardship was avoided in time by the assistance of the Russian Hibbat Zion movement and later by the more modern methods of the Zionist Organization and the second was avoided by the Second Aliyah, a wave of several thousand new Jewish pioneers who arrived in Erez Israel. During World War II, the aliyah effort focused on rescuing Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Some came back through the White Paper system and the majority came as illegal immigrants this immigration, called Aliyah Bet, arrived by land and by sea, from Europe and the Middle East, in infringement of the Mandatory Government’s orders.

The loss of contact with European countries, the hazards of maritime travel under wartime conditions, and the difficulty in obtaining vessels for the transport of illegal immigrants placed severe constraints on Aliyah Bet. This illegal immigration was the major method of immigration because the British quota of 18,000 per made it impossible for legal immigration. But the immigrants that arrived were sent back by the British authorities upholding the quota system where many lost their lives in the sea or were exterminated by the Nazis.

Second Aliyah

This second group of immigrants arrived between 1904 and 1914, mainly from Russia following pogroms and outbreaks of anti-Semitism in that country. This group started the first kibbutz in 1909. It also started self-defense organizations, to counter hostility from Arabs and their bandits.

Third Aliyah

This brought about 40000 Jews between 1919 and 1923 40,000 Jews, mainly from the Russian Empire. This group arrived in the wake of the Balfour Declaration. Many of these were pioneers trained in agriculture. By the end of this period, the number of Jews reached 90,000 despite the immigration quotas imposed by the British administration. The Hefer Plain marshes were converted to agricultural use and additional national institutions like an elected assembly started.

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Fourth Aliyah (1924-1929)

This began in 1924 and continued up to 1929 in which 82,000 Jews arrived. This group contained middle-class Jews that moved to start small businesses and light industries. This brought rapid urban development mainly in Tel Aviv which absorbed a considerable amount of the immigrants. But during the years 1926 – 1927 a severe economic crisis occurred and due to the crisis about 23000 immigrants decided to leave the country.

Fifth Aliyah

This was occasioned due to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party to power. Jews were not allowed to run the economy. The Jews in Nazi Germany faced straightforward anti-Semitism, and many decided to immigrate back to their land. Also, anti-Semitism in the world prevailed as many European countries adopted a policy of anti-Semitism.

This group came during world war II. This war reshaped the history of the Jews in which over seventy percent of European Jewry perished in the Holocaust. (The organized, state-sponsored persecution and attempted annihilation of Jews) by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 during which six million Jews were murdered. In Poland and the U.S.S.R, the Jews were decimated; those Eastern European Jews who survived the war faced anti-Semitism in the post-war period. Stalin closed down Jewish cultural institutions and imprisoned many Jews. Between 1944 and1948, the Jews in Eastern Europe sought to leave that continent by any means.

Emissaries from the yishuv, Jewish partisans, and Zionist youth movements established the Bertha organization, which helped nearly 200,000 Jews leave Europe. This period against the Jews left many dead and resulted in the reduction of the population of the Jewish community in Hebron. This was followed by more violence between 1936 and1939. The British issued the White Paper of 1939, which restricted Jewish immigration to 75,000 people for five years when the second world war was starting

Aliyah Bet: Illegal immigration (1933-1948)

The British government limited Jewish immigration to Palestine with quotas, and following the rise of Nazism to power in Germany illegal immigration to Palestine commenced.

This illegal immigration was known as ”Aliyah Bet” and was organized by the Mossad Le’aliyah Bet, as well as by the Irgunand they were done mainly by sea, and also through the land. The British made further restrictions on immigration in 1939 limiting it to 75.000 for five years after which the immigration was to end The British made it illegal to sell land to Jews in 95% of the mandate. But regardless of British efforts to curb illegal immigration, 110,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine. In 1945 many Jews turned openly against the British Mandate because of the Holocaust and illegal immigration increased.

War of Independence

Britain announced its intention to withdraw from Palestine in 1947 and the UN voted to divide Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state with Jerusalem becoming an international enclave a move that was opposed by the Arabs of Palestine together with the neighboring countries. The Arabs started using violence against the Jews. But the movement to establish an independent Jewish state in Israel, reached its peak in 1948, when the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine together Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, made a Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel (declaration of independence), and the state of Israel was established.

Immigration from 1948-1950

The process of numbering aliyot ceased after Aliyah Bet but immigration did not. A major wave of immigration of over half a million Jews went to Israel between 1948 and 1950, many running away to avoid the renewed persecution in Eastern Europe, and progressively more hostile Arab countries. This period of immigration is often termed ”kibbutz galuyot’’ because it resulted in a large number of Jewish Diaspora communities that made aliyah.

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Brand, etal, (2003) Immigrants in Turmoil: Mass Immigration to Israel And Its Repercussions 1950s and After, Syracuse University Press.

E.W.G.Masterman (1903): The Jews in Modern Palestine.

Katz, Samuel (1973) Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine Shapolsky.

William Whiston (1975) Complete and Unabridged New Updated Edition Translated by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.,

Yehuda Bauer (1970) Flight and Rescue: Random House; New York.

Zeev W. Mankowitz (2002) Life between Memory and Hope: The Survivors of the Holocaust.

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