The other day, I highlighted the memorial garden Ramat Hanadiv, one of the three stops on our ulpan's day trip up north. However, prior to even setting foot on this living legacy, we started our morning tour by visiting the First Aliyah Museum in Zikron Ya'akov. You already know how much I love the small town of Zikron Ya'akov (see previous post here) so I was delighted to be returning there. This return visit would give me the chance, however, to visit the First Aliyah Museum which I heard was a must-see, especially for a new oleh (immigrant).
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term Aliyah, the Hebrew word implies "return", as in a return to one's homeland (and in this case, specifically a return to the Jewish homeland). So, you may hear Jewish people throwing around conversation about "making aliyah", which would imply making the move to Israel, back to one's roots. Though I never imagined that I would be making aliyah in my lifetime, I can now say that I have done it, thanks to my husband. It has been a very rewarding experience and one that I did not see coming.
Every Jewish person has the right to capitalize on the law of return. And I can tell you that having gone through the process, no other country makes it so compelling for you to move there. After filing an application which contains your basic information, a letter from your Rabbi, proof of your Jewish identity (mother is Jewish or you have Jewish heritage somewhere in your family line) and 2 passport-sized photos, among other things, you are eventually contacted by a shaliach (aliyah counselor) whom you will eventually meet in person before being given permission to make aliyah. The whole process is relatively simple and pain-free.
A classic aliyah package from the Israeli government includes a paid-for one-way ticket to Israel, a lump stipend upon your arrival "home", an additional package of stipends to be paid out over your first 7-8 months in Israel, an Israeli ID card, 6 months of intensive 5-days-a-week Hebrew lessons at a local ulpan as well as other perks including tax breaks, job assistance, car discounts, mortgage deals and other major incentives. It does not stop there, one of the biggest perks is a free college level or graduate education if you are interested in that. There are options in Hebrew and in English, so it's not too good to be true. It's actually very real. I told you the incentives were amazing! Additionally, if you apply for aliyah through a private organization such as Nefesh B'Nefesh, there are handfuls of other financial incentives and additional perks offered to new olim. While simultaneously applying for my husband's greencard for the US, I can tell you that the difference between the two immigration processes cannot be more night and day.
However, it was not always this way. There were many, many people who came before me who paved the road for the amazing opportunities we receive today. And the road was not an easy one by any means. Although the world largely recognizes and associates the founding of the Jewish homeland with those who came in the Second Aliyah, the truth is that they in turn owe thanks to the immigrants of the First Aliyah who made what came later possible. The Museum of the First Aliyah tells their story.
These anonymous pioneers of the First Aliyah came to the land that is now Israel between 1882-1904. Roughly 20,000-30,000 men, women and children came from various nearby locations in Europe, Ukraine, Russia and Poland hoping to escape the rough life in the pogroms and planning to build a new life in the Jewish homeland. This first wave of Aliyah was composed primarily of family units, rather than individuals.
Life was not easy for these pioneers. Many died on the journey over and many more died in the arid, unlivable and unforgiving conditions that characterize Israel. Malaria was rampant, the soil was difficult, produce would not grow, diseases were commonplace and death was imminent. On top of this, the pioneers were not wanted nor welcomed, making their struggles duly more challenging. On several occasions, they wanted to give up. Yet, despite everything, they did not. Better yet, they prevailed. Enormous amounts of money were poured into the rehabilitation and development of Israel through the philanthropic and Zionistic efforts of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Though the pioneers were disappointed and frustrated with the manner in which Rothschild's efforts reorganized their farms and land plots, it eventually led to the beautiful landscape that Israel is today. He paid tenured farmers to come into Israel and teach the men how to grow crops successfully in this soil and in this heat, he introduced them to the native Israeli crops of olive oil, olives, grapes, wine, dates and figs, just to name a few. Eventually, produce bloomed, financial stocks rose, vaccinations were provided and life began to blossom. Thanks to the hard work of these men and women, communities developed and modern life in Israel had finally begun.
It is because of these men and women that future olim (immigrants) were able to make Aliyah. Their blood, sweat and tears nourished the soil and laid the foundation for what was to come later on. They sacrificed everything for future generations, not knowing whether it would be worth it or not. Obviously, I am sitting here in Israel typing these words nearly 130 years later. So, clearly their hard work has paid off. It was a very moving and humbling experience to see the sacrifices they made and to know that their work and effort was not in vain.
The First Aliyah Museum opened its doors to the public in February 1999. It was established in memory of Moshe & Sara Arisohn, who were among Zikron Ya’akov’s first settlers. The modern exhibits, which are clearly labeled in English, are spread out over three floors and are comprised of reconstructions and a variety of multimedia aids. You will see a series of videos which takes you along one family's journey from their European pogrom, to arriving in Israel, to the trials and tribulations of life in the holy land, and then all the way to their eventual successes. These videos give you an inside look into what it must have been like for those brave families who persevered through so many hardships.
First Aliyah Museum
2 Hanadiv Street, Zikron Ya’akov.
Visiting Hours: Sunday closed, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Tuesday, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Friday, 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Saturday, closed.
Entry fees: Adults, 15 NIS/pp, Teens 12 NIS/pp, Children 10 NIS/pp, Senior Citizens 8 NIS/pp, New Olim 8 NIS/pp.