Founded in 1948, the relatively young State of Israel is a country of immigrants. As such, as of 2012, Israel celebrates a day called Yom HaAliya, which honors those who have made the choice to immigrate to Israel.
The Land of Israel plays an integral role in Judaism. In the Bible, we are commanded by God, “You shall possess the Land and you shall settle in it, for to you have I given the Land to possess it.” (Numbers 33:53). Many people have taken this to mean that it is a mitzvah (commandment) for a Jewish person to live in the Land of Israel, including famous Jewish scholar the Ramban (Nachmanides), “According to my view this verse is a Positive Commandment;” in addition, he writes in his addendum to Maimonides’ Book of Mitzvot,“The fourth Mitzvah which was commanded to the Jewish people was to inherit the Land…and not to leave it in the hands of one of the other nations or desolate…and this commandment in one which applies at all times.” In addition, the Talmud states, “Anyone who walks four amot (cubits) in the Land of Israel is assured a place in the World to Come” (Ketubot 111a). The Bible predicted that when the Jewish people would be exiled, Israel would become a wasteland, “I will make the land desolate; and your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate.” (Leviticus 26:32). The Jews were in exile for 2,000 years, and during that time, the land lay desolate and barren. Upon visiting Israel in the mid-19th century, Mark Twain referred to the land as, “A desolate country… A silent mournful expanse…unlovely.” Israel was a bleak land of malaria-ridden swamps and no life. With the return of the Jewish people in the 20th century, life was restored to the land. Farmers planted citrus orchards and dried up swamps, and some died of malaria doing so. Israel is the only country in the world that had more trees at the end of the 20th century than at the beginning. Israel experienced a revival, with an agricultural revolution even occurring in the deserts of the Negev, and with vineyards growing on the rocky hills of Samaria. Prophecies are being fulfilled, as it says, “Again shalt thou plant vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall have the use thereof” (Jeremiah 31: 4). Combining faith with innovation, history with technology, the Jewish people have restored life to the Land of Israel. As the Jewish people grow, thrive, and blossom, so too does the land.
There has never been any other example in history where an entire nation was exiled from its land and then returned back to it, but the Jewish people have returned home twice, just as it is stated in the Bible.