But you, Israel my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, The offspring of Abraham, my friend; You whom I took from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest corners… — Isaiah 41:8-9
Since the beginning of the 20th century, millions of Jews have left their homes in approximately 100 countries to move back to their homeland in Palestine—from nations on every populated continent and from many islands of the seas.
The Lord of the Nations was calling Jewry from the world’s farthest corners.
QUESTION: Has there been anything like this scattering of a single nation of people to the ends of the earth…and then its gathering? Anything like it in history?
ANSWER: No, indeed!
The prophet Ezekiel prophesied this wondrous phenomenon two and a half millennia ago: As a pleasing odor, I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples, and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered; and I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. You shall know that I am the Lord when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your ancestors.” (Ezekiel 20:41-42)
QUESTION: Yes, God was calling them, but what human factor or factors are there in the movement?
ANSWER: #1: Widespread and severe persecution of the Jews.
ANSWER #2: Expulsions. Mainly from so-called “Christian” countries in Europe and Russia. Expulsions of the Jews from the nations took place from the time Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A. D. Many expulsions. Some were from nations that eventually changed their policies and invited the Jews back such as England. Expelled: 1290 A. D.—Readmitted: around 1650. In Germany, expulsions and readmissions came frequently one upon another producing a back-and-forth movement.
The Reasons for the Expulsion of the Jews
The failure of Gentile Christian groups to convince the Jews to convert.
The envy and hostility of merchants.
Chief among the motives: hatred of the Jews, disgust with the poor ones and envy and resentment of the rich Jews.
The expulsions meant loss of property, sickness of body and spirit with many diseases, and the feeling of having no place in the world….except their ancient homeland.
The Desire to Return
Historically, the return to Palestine—to Zion—had lived as a hope, a dream, a prayer and an article of faith for the observant Jew down through the ages. After nineteen centuries of wandering, they began to return to the homeland. During that time, they had been praying in their synagogues: “Save us, God our Savior; gather and deliver us from the nations that we may give thanks to your holy name.” (The Koren Siddur [prayerbook]) They yearned to experience life once again in Jerusalem, Judea and the hills of Galilee.
Opposition to the Return
Yet, opposition was strong even among their own people! Many Jews in the early 20th century participated in this opposition, and that resistance was fierce. Their loyalty to their adopted nations was strong. These Jews insisted that they constituted a separate religion—Judaism--but NOT a separate nation. They insisted that the Jewish people were meant to live among the nations to be an asset. They didn’t believe in the prophecies of their return to the land that Yahweh gave them. They were staying where they were!
So, you had (1) first of all, the need for the return because of persecution and expulsions throughout history, (2) secondly, the profound longing for the ancient land among some of the Jews, and finally (3) the resistance to return among many who had been assimilated into Gentile society.
But the return did begin with waves of Jewish immigrants (called alijahs), and when, after World War II, the British left Palestine, those waves became huge. Getting out of Europe was a necessity. And moving from North African and Middle East nations was then forced—another instance of expulsion.
Some of the nations with the largest number of Jewish immigrants moving to the new state of Israel from 1948 to 2012 are these: Romania – 276,586; Iraq – 131,138; Iran – 76,934; Argentina – 59,925; Libya – 35,000; India – 28,702; Germany – 19,905; South Africa – 19,378. There are many more.
But….the place with the largest population of Jews was the Soviet Union—mainly Russia and the Ukraine. The door had been locked shut from getting out of Russia and the Soviet Union. It was not that the Jews didn’t try. They were forced to remain in place by the Czarist and Communist regimes. There in the Soviet Union their only places to live were called—get this: PALES OF SETTLEMENT! Well, well, well. That is apartheid, you know.
However, due to the pressure that came from other nations and the prayers ofbelievers, especially in the United States and Canada, the Russian leaders finally began issuing permits to leave. The small beginnings of release picked up speed and soon became an avalanche of visas issued. By 2012, the number of Russian and Ukrainian Jews making “Alijah” meaning “to go up”, that is, to the Holy Land– was 1,214,993!
Yes, God Almighty was gathering His Chosen People But it didn’t happen until He called them.
Finally, God was saying “NOW!” The birthing pangs were acute. And the Jews were brought from the farthest corners of the earth. They were being gathered from the nations where they had previously been scattered by the Lord God.
And then, they could proclaim: “Break forth together into singing You waste places of Jerusalem.” — Isaiah 52:9