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The Land of Israel before the first Aliyah (1882)

Decades before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the establishment of a Jewish state embodying Zionist ideology had already started.

Before the different waves of Aliyot, a relatively small group of devoted Jews lived in the Land of Israel, mainly concentrated in the four holy cities: Jerusalem, Tzfat, Tiberias, and Hebron, and called "the Old Yishuv" ('Hayishuv Hayashan'). Some Jews lived in Jaffa, where most of the community was made up of immigrants from North Africa and Ashkenazim who came after them.

In the following video, you can see old original photographs from 1896 in Jerusalem.

The Old Yishuv was mainly characterized by Ashkenazy Kollelim (places dedicated to studying Torah), which operated according to their countries of origin and were funded by the "Haluka" (organized collection of funds from the diaspora, distributed to the Jewish residents of the Land of Israel).

On the other hand, the structure and orientation of the Sephardic Yishuv, which represented the majority of the Old Yishuv at that time, were more diverse. Most Sephardic people worked for a living and received economic support for specific populations (orphans, widows, old persons, and Yeshiva students).

From the beginning of the first Aliyah, new Olims arrived in Israel and received the nickname "The New Yishuv" ("Hayishuv Hahadash").

The main evolution during that period was the increasing number of people living in the Land of Israel, especially the Jewish population, which increased from 6000 at the beginning of the 19th century, to more than 26 000 in 1880.

Two main changes happened at that time:

  • The establishment of new Jewish districts outside the old walls of Jerusalem,

  • The beginning of agricultural settlements in Petah Tikva and Rosh Pina.

Other developments occurred around that time, such as the opening of secular schools (like Lemel School in Jerusalem), the development of local Hebrew newspapers ("Habetzelet" or "Halevanon"), and the increasing number of Jews living in Jaffa and other places.

Outside the old city of Jerusalem

"The Exit from the Walls" is the name given to the development of modern Jerusalem, where new neighborhoods started to be built outside the Jewish quarter of the old city.

Until the mid-1800s, the city's borders were the old walls built hundreds of years before. The growing number of inhabitants made the city really narrow, dense, and crowded, with difficult living conditions.

The first to settle outside the Old Walls were European Empire representatives who built churches and monasteries for pilgrims. Later on, wealthy Arabs settled outside the old city, willing to get rid of its narrowness. You can see these new places on our special map.

The Jewish settlement started with Jewish philanthropist families who wanted to help the local community. One of the most famous examples is Moshe Montefiore's initiative (1784-1885).

Moshe Montefiore was born in Livorno (Italy) and emigrated to Great Britain, where he became an important public figure. On multiple occasions, he used his public status to help Jewish communities all around the world.

In 1860, he initiated the foundation of the first Jewish quarter outside the old city of Jerusalem, called Mishkenot Sha'ananim. Many people in the Jewish community doubted this place. However, the difficult living conditions in the old city made the establishment of new quarters outside the old city necessary, such as Mahane Israel, Nahalat Shiva, or Meah Shearim.

Some of these initiatives were public, and others were private. In decades, the new city became the center of the New Yishuv in Jerusalem.

Rosh Pina and Petah Tikva

At the same time, Jewish agricultural settlements started to emerge. In the area of Tzfat, public figures such as Yisrael Bak, Shmuel Abu, and Eleazar Rokach bought some land to establish an agricultural settlement.

In 1878, Rosh Pina was born. 17 families from Tzfat moved there, willing to cut ties with the "Haluka" and live independently. However, most of these families left due to the drought and agricultural results absence.

When the Romanian immigrants arrived in the Land of Israel in 1882, during the first Aliyah, Rosh Pina was extended and renewed.

In those years, another settlement was established in the Sharon Region: Petah Tikva, nicknamed "Em Hamoshavot" ("The Mother of Settlements"). The new Moshav was founded by inhabitants of the Old Yishuv living in Jerusalem, like Yehoshua Stampfer, David Gutman, Joel Moses Salomon, or Yehuda Ben Ezer. For the same reasons as Rosh Pina, the Moshav was almost abandoned after its first years and renewed during the first Aliyah.

Praying in the Sephardic synagogue "Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakhai", between the walls of the old city, 1893. Source: Wikipedia, public domain.

Jewish workers in Kerem Avraham neighborhood of Jerusalem in the mid-19th century. Source: The David B. Keidan Collection of Digital Images from the Central Zionist Archives

Group of old Jews in the Old Yishuv. Source:


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