A day before Israel marks its first official “Aliyah Day” holiday to honor its immigrants, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday praised their “tremendous contribution” to the country.
The Knesset passed the National Aliyah Day into law in June, with 21 Knesset members in favor and five opposed. Literally “ascension,” aliyah is a Hebrew term used to refer to Jewish immigration to Israel.
Nearly all Israelis, if not immigrants themselves, 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.
“The contribution of so many different communities is so broad and deep,” Netanyahu said at a meeting of his Likud party’s MKs. The prime minister also praised immigrants’ contribution to Israel’s relationship with the countries from which they emigrated.
“I see it in Russia, in Ukraine, in France. They don’t just contribute to Israel, they contribute to Israel’s foreign relations,” he said.
“Aliyah is the foundation of the state of the Jews and the fulfillment of the biblical prophecy of the Jewish people returning to its land and building it.”
The new holiday, which will be celebrated on Tuesday this year, was the result of a bill by MKs Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) of the former Soviet Union, Avraham Neguise (Likud), Israel’s sole Ethiopian-born Israeli in parliament, Hilik Bar (Zionist Union), Micky Zohar (Likud) and other lawmakers.
As part of Tuesday’s events, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky and Immigration Minister Sofa Landver will take part in a special meeting of the Immigration Committee to mark the day.
The 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.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.