By Arlene Bridges Samuels, CBN Israel—
“Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).
Aliyah is a Hebrew word meaning “to ascend.” When we read Psalms 120-134, in essence we are participating in the “Songs of Ascent” much like the Jewish pilgrims “going up” to the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, rejoicing. Today, Aliyah is used to describe the immigration of Jews from all over the world to their ancestral homeland. Those numbers have been growing since the 19th century, but it all started when God first spoke to Abraham.
God’s call to Abraham is estimated to have occurred sometime between 2000–1700 B.C. His migratory trip, uprooting from Ur and moving to Canaan, is in a sense the first Aliyah. However, the Jewish tribes didn’t take over the land until after the Exodus, as documented in Exodus 23:31, where God describes the land: “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land.”
Abraham and Sarah—who miraculously parented a family that grew into the Twelve Tribes—received God’s eternal promises and covenants. Since then, miracles like scattered puzzle pieces are strewn along Israel’s ancient and modern path through world history. In God’s plan, the puzzle was never a mystery. Israel has been a light to the world since ancient days, when 66 books of the Bible came together as a beautifully connected and completed puzzle picture. God provided the sacred Scriptures we have today via Jewish scribes and by sending His beloved Son to us through the Jewish people.
Taking a look back at the last 125 years, we see that Israel’s extraordinary Aliyah began in waves after Theodor Herzl convened the first Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897. The Austro-Hungarian Jewish journalist and political activist is considered the father of modern Zionism. At the first Zionist Congress, Herzl wrote in his diary, “At Basle I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be greeted by universal laughter. In five years perhaps, and certainly in fifty years, everyone will perceive it.”
Herzl would have been astonished that some 806,000 Jews would be living in Israel by May 14, 1948, that nation’s first official day of modern independence. Herzl’s amazement would be even greater after reading in the latest report by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics that nearly seven million Jews currently live in Israel—comprising 73.9 percent of the total population. (Arabs make up another 21 percent, with the remaining five percent designated “other.”)
Yet for millennia prior to 1948, “miracle” would not have been the word used to describe Israel. In the rise and fall of history during the Dispersion, the Jewish people scattered all over the world. They seemed to disappear from sight like discarded puzzle pieces. Nevertheless, always in God’s sight and covenant plan, improbable and extraordinary events have unfolded with Israel’s ingathering of the Jewish people who are firmly settled today in their ancestral homeland.
God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 opened the miracle narrative: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Fast forward and try to imagine what the Israelites thought of God’s promise to Abraham during 400 years under the Egyptians. Was the promise impossible? Where was the miracle? Continue Reading….