In modern times, immigration to Palestine began in earnest in the 1880's. Prior to that, most immigrants were traditional religious Jews who had little interest in creating a nation.
Until 1917, the end of World War I, Palestine was a Turkish possession. For four centuries, from the time it was conquered in 1517, it had been a neglected part of the Ottoman Empire. England took possession of the land as part of the spoils of World War I. Palestine appealed to Jewish settlers for historic reasons and their interest in creating their own nation. There were five distinct stages of immigration known as Aliyahs, each with its own special characteristics.
FIRST ALIYAH 1882-1903
The first Aliyah began with 14 people landing in Yafo (Jaffa) in July 1882. They were a different than earlier settlers. They represented the emerging desire of Jews to return to Palestine to create a Jewish National home. This occurred at the height of Jewish emigration from Europe to the United States and elsewhere. The primary impetus behind emigration was the pogroms and general repression following the reign of Czar Alexander II.
Societies called Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) were formed to encourage the immigration to Palestine of pioneers willing to form agricultural settlements. The movement attracted many university students, who along with many Orthodox Jews were part of the 20,000 to 30,000 immigrants of the First Aliyah. On average, they came at the rate of over a thousand a year. Through various groups in Eastern Europe they had purchased land in which they settled. The first settlement, Rosh Pinah (the Cornerstone) was established in Upper Galilee in the summer of 1882. By 1900 twenty-two settlements or villages had been founded with a total population of nearly 5,000; Attrition by death and emigration was enormous. Conditions were deplorable.
The following 1903 newspaper article describes the situation.
"Jewish colonists face hard times in Palestine, according to a letter sent to the Forward. Cholera rages in Jaffa, claiming as many as 1,000 lives and completely shutting down the city. The harbor at Haifa is also closed, though there is no sign of epidemic there. No goods can enter the country, causing massive shortages and sharply driving up prices of whatever products remain."
Despite the terrible toll, the First Aliyah was considered a success. Five thousand Halutzim (Pioneers) remained in Palestine. They became the nucleus of the new nation.
During this period the town of Hadera came into existence in 1891. Hadera was to become the home of the Telechan Ajzenbergs. To this day Hadera remains the residence of almost all of my Israeli family members.
The people of the Second Aliyah were primarily secularists. Many were the intellectuals who belonged to the underground socialist and revolutionary groups of the time. They were the radicals who questioned the old ways of both the society in which they lived in East Europe and of their traditional religious beliefs. Many of them were young, militant people including teenagers who viewed the years of Diaspora life as a shameful existence. Among them was David Ben Gurion who believed in the Socialist-Zionist philosophy of the Poalei Zion (Workers of Zion) movement. In 1903 Chiam Weizman, a native of Motol, a town near Telechan, wrote about the young Jews who had turned into political and religious revolutionaries. He described one situation where, "in one small town near Pinsk, (Jewish) youngsters tore the Torah scrolls to shreds." This could have been Telechan..
The people of the Second Aliyah believed in labor Zionism, often rejecting what they perceived as the romanticism of the First Aliyah. Their energy was directed to the more practical problems of colonization. Like their predecessors, most came from Russian Poland, particularly after the abortive revolution there in 1905. They were pioneers who believed in physical labor, cooperation and self-defense. Like their predecessors, they owned property for the first time. They were the developers of the Kibbutz movement.
The rate of immigration of these dedicated Zionists increased from the 1,000 per year of the First Aliyah to 3,000 annually during the Second Aliyah.
During the combined period of the First and Second Aliyahs the United States was still the major attraction for Jews who emigrated from Europe. Only three percent (3%) of intercontinental migrants went to Palestine. The first two Aliyahs together accounted for the immigration of 70,000 Jews to Palestine. Many of them later left because of the hardship of the life there. Of the more than 100,000 who entered in the years up to World War I, approximately one half did not stay. Still by 1914 there were 50 Jewish agricultural settlements with a population of 15,000. Palestines total population before World War I of almost 700,000. Only 85,000 (12%) were Jewish.
According to Abba Eban, World Jewry as a kind of Magna Carta greeted the Balfour Declaration. It was, in reality, a cautious statement by the British government, favoring the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews, without prejudice to the rights (civil and religious) of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.
Previously to the Balfour Declaration, the British government had offered Uganda territory in British East Africa for a Jewish homeland. The Zionist congress meeting at the time initially accepted the British offered, but later decided against it. Four days after the Balfour Declaration--November 6, 1917-- the Bolshevik revolution began.According to Abba Eban, the idea of a Jewish national homeland had now passed, "from a fantasy into the real world of politics."
"The conditions under which the reality was to be built were unusual. There were scarcely any funds; there was little experience and not much training in the pursuits most closely relevant to the task at hand. People who for centuries had been divorced from the land now threw themselves into intensive agricultural development. Intellectuals, shopkeepers, merchants, and students turned by an act of conscious will toward the soil. By every rational test, the experiment seemed doomed to fail. Yet the Jewish population of Palestine grew...to 450,000 in 1939. Each new immigrant made way for the next. The central aim was to create opportunities for those to come."
The following appeared in the October 30, 1992 issue of the Forward. It describes an article that was printed in the same paper in 1917 (75 years ago).
"Jewish life in Palestine is bleak and hunger is rampant,.... Milk costs five times what it did at the beginning of the war, while the price of bread has increased eleven fold and kerosene, thirty fold. A Hebrew teacher writes that 'even when one has a little bit of money there are great problems. Merchants will not accept paper currency, only coins.....The streets are full of Jewish beggars, both make and female, the sick and the dying. They sell whatever they have for a piece of bread.'"THIRD ALIYAH 1919-1924
World War I ended in 1918. As immigration to the Untied States decreased significantly after the war, Aliyah to Palestine increased. Between 1919 and 1926 almost 100,000 Jews immigrated to a Palestine that was a demoralized, impoverished community at the time.
Like the immigrants of the second Aliyah, the people of the third Aliyah were true Halutzim pioneers. They ushered in the era of the National home.
The following exerts are from Abba Eban's book My People.
"The word pioneer does not fully exhaust the meaning of Halutzim which became the central ethic of Palestine Jewish life. The concept is one of self-abnegation, austerity, practical mysticism, and a creative refusal to face uncomfortable facts. The pioneer was totally consecrated to the social and national vision. His satisfactions came not from personal advantage but from the spectacle of growth and expansion...The first task was to make the land itself a fitting environment for civilized pursuits. The draining of swamps, the planting of trees, the building of roads, gradually deprived part of the land of its incredible harshness. Deadly malaria carried by clouds of mosquitoes hovering over neglected bogs and swamps took a heavy toll. A Jewish idealism, suppressed for many centuries, now found heroic outlet. The emerging society was nothing like anything heretofore associated with the Jewish image. The new national prototype was not the businessman or ascetic scholar, but the farmer and laborer. Suffering was the badge of this new Jewish tribe. They lacked money and medical facilities, and sometimes were short of food. In their outlying settlements, they were subject to sharp cultural isolation and very often to physical danger. There were times when men went hungry in order that their cattle might eat. The explanation was engaging. "We are Zionists, but our cows are not." The new society was marked by a deep sense of moral preoccupation. The settlers tormented themselves with endless debates about the meaning of their lives, the purpose of their actions and the shape of the nation that they were struggling to build. Rigorous ideals of justice and equality were pursued in the socialized communities that they founded. They were driven by a fierce and constant sense of mission. They learned from experiment and failure. Above all, they sought an inner spiritual rebuilding of their souls, a total reconstruction of the national will"
"Together, the second and third alitot made an incredible mark on the Yishuv. Among the pioneers were two who became Prime ministers and one who became president of Israel."Chiam Ajzenberg, third son of Dov Berel and Elka, with his wife Libby/Liba, were the first Ajzenbergs from Telekhan to immigrate to Palestine. The year was 1922 during the third Aliyah, not long after the end of World War I. They settled in Hadera.
As just stated, life was very difficult at that time. According to Moshe (son of Chiam and Liba) as told to Sara Plen in 1992 visit in Hadera, Chiam had an additional problem. Allegedly he was rejected in the community because he was a communist.
FOURTH ALIYAH 1924-1931
"Not all immigrants were idealists, of course. The thirty-four thousand polish Jews-the fourth Aliyah-who arrived in 1925 were refugees, pure and simple, from Polish anti-Semitism."
Dov Berel and Elka arrived in Palestine during this period. They came from the United States. For them it was not so much as Aliyah. People who made Aliyah went there to live. That was in part true. More likely for older Jews, they went to die and be buried there.
FIFTH ALIYAH 1932-1939
In the 1930's Palestine became enormously important as a destination for Jewish migrants. Anti-Semitism was worse than ever because of the rise of Nazism, and the United States had slowed acceptance of immigrants drastically. It was during this period that the vast majority of Telekhan Ajzenbergs immigrated to Palestine. Only Chiam and Liba arrived in the 1920's. However, the 1930's brought:
Together, the fourth and fifth aliyahs "differed considerably in attitude, average age, and background from those of the second and third aliyot. There was an absence of a developed ideology among them. Most were fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany. Many had sought to immigrate to West European countries or the United States but had been denied entrance. Palestine was a refuge for them, where they could survive and resume the normal courses of their lives.Because there were relatively few Zionists or socialists among them, they disturbed the initial socialist homogeneity of the Jewish community. They were unsuited to and cared little for agricultural life; most became urban dwellers and private entrepreneurs or professionals. They functioned within a traditional nuclear family household and on the whole sought to establish in Palestine cultural and educational institutions modeled after familiar European ones. Their life-style differed markedly from that of the kibbutzim, but there were common denominators in their worldview. They shared a belief in the importance of continuing the revival of Hebrew as the language of the whole Jewish community and the need to transform itself into a modern state based on Western models.
The opposition on the part of the native Palestinian Arabs to displacement by the Jews meant that they had to be prepared to defend their interests by force. Although the immigrants of the second and third aliyot were more prominent in the militia groups, those of the fourth and fifth aliyot were active and willing to participate in a wider variety of organizations, which were perceived as being in the best interest of the Jewish community. Their unique contributions included the beginning of a diversified economy and the establishment of prototypes for the future state's cultural and educational institutions.
It all ended with the beginning of World War II and the 1939 White paper, which closed Palestine from further immigration. At the time there were 450,000 Jews in Palestine. Most Jews were unable to leave Europe between 1940-1945. The nearly 45,000 who did leave Europe reached Palestine only to be turned back by the British, who denied entrance to Jews up to the creation of the state of Israel in May 1948.Since its creation, Israel has become the most popular destination of Jewish intercontinental migrants. Between May 1948-1951, 650-700,000 Jews went there. During the 1960's immigrations slowed down considerably, but by 1968 (after 20 years of statehood) the population was 2.7 million.
"No other state in history had more than trebled its population in 20 years."
"After World War II, "The exodus of Jews from Europe, of which I was an eye witness, is the greatest in the history of the Jewish people, greater than the migration of the past out of Egypt and Spain."
 Abba Eban.