"The LORD had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.'” — Genesis 12:1
Aliyah is Hebrew for “ascent” or “to go up.” In biblical times, it was used to describe the pilgrimage all Jews made three times a year to Jerusalem for holy festivals. Today, it refers to immigration to Israel. This is one of 12 devotions exploring aliyah and the fulfillment today of biblical prophecy that God will bring His children back to their ancient homeland, Israel. For more teachings on prophecy, download our complimentary study here.
Since God first called Abraham back in Genesis 12:1, Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel, were promised a land. It would be a good land, a spacious land, a land flowing with “milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). It would also be a long time in coming. God’s people would endure 400 years of slavery under Egyptian oppression, 40 years of wandering in the desert after God had rescued them, and then they would need to conquer the land under Joshua’s leadership. Only then could they call this promised land home.
Fast-forward to more modern times, and the children of God once again are home in this land promised to them. But again, it would be a long time in coming. The Israelites were exiled from their land, not once, but twice, expelled to the four corners of the world by the Romans in 70 C.E. But always a remnant remained in the Holy Land, clinging to their roots.
The exiled Jews settled into new lands and established their families, but it was never home. They were never wholly welcomed wherever they went. When the persecution became so great and organized killings ensued, many Jews turned to the land which had always been at the center of their hearts and souls — Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.
Beginning in the 1800s through today, waves of Jews have returned to their promised land during times of persecution and oppression. We call these waves aliyah, a Hebrew term that describes the return of Jewish immigrants to Israel. As we have also learned, the root word of aliyah means “to ascend” or “to go up,” and was used to describe the Jewish pilgrims “going up” to Jerusalem to worship God (Psalm 122:4).
While the literal interpretation “going up” may seem strange, it makes sense when you understand that no matter from which direction or elevation the pilgrims came, Jerusalem was always considered “up.” It was the spiritual center of Israel and the place where God’s presence dwelled in His Temple. When Jews return to Israel, they are returning to their spiritual center, to a land promised to them since the time of Abraham. They are returning home.
God has been faithful to His promises to His people throughout time and history. And He remains faithful today as Jews continue to make aliyah and return home. That should be an encouragement for us all.