Israel creates new national holiday celebrating immigrants

Knesset establishes ‘Aliyah Day’ to honor newcomers’ ‘decision to tie their fates with Israel,’ and contributions to the state

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Illustration. New immigrants arrive to Ben Gurion airport in Israel. (Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)
Illustration. New immigrants arrive to Ben Gurion airport in Israel. (Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

Israel — a country made up nearly entirely of immigrants and their descendants — has formally declared a new national holiday celebrating its Jewish immigrants and acknowledging their various contributions to the state.

The Knesset passed the National Aliyah (immigration) Day into law in its second and third readings on Wednesday, with 21 Knesset members in favor and five opposed.

Literally “ascension,” aliyah is a Hebrew term used to refer to Jewish immigration to Israel.

The new holiday, which falls out on the Hebrew calendar as the 7th day of Cheshvan (late October-early November), was the result of a bill by MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), formally of the Soviet Union, Avraham Neguise (Likud), Israel’s sole Ethiopian-Israeli in parliament, Hilik Bar (Zionist Union) and Micky Zohar (Likud), and other lawmakers.

The Aliyah Day will be marked by celebrations in the Knesset, a special cabinet session, and events at the president’s residence, in schools, the army, and the police force, the law stipulates.

“Israel’s prosperity was achieved, in part, thanks to those who left what they had behind and moved to the land of Israel,” the law reads. “Moreover, the immigration to Israel is a symbol of Jewish history, during which the Jews lived in Israel, were expelled, but never abandoned it for a moment and returned to it — their historical home — as part of the Zionist national miracle.”

Immigration is the “most significant factor in Israel’s development, empowerment, and growth as a state and as a nation,” said Ilatov. “By marking this day, we are saying thank you to the immigrants and proudly acknowledging their decision to tie their fates with Israel.”

Nearly all Israelis are the descendants of immigrants, many of whom fled Europe before and after the Holocaust, or were expelled from Arab countries in the early 1950s.

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