In the late 19th century, the rise of religious and
racist anti-Semitism led to a
resurgence of pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, shattering promises of
equality and tolerance. This stimulated Jewish immigration to Palestine from Europe.
Simultaneously, a wave of Jews immigrated to Palestine
from Yemen, Morocco, Iraq and Turkey.
These Jews were unaware of Theodor Herzl's political Zionism or
of European pogroms. They were motivated by the centuries-old dream of the
Return to Zion and a fear of intolerance. Upon hearing that the
gates of Palestine were open, they braved the hardships of travel and went
to the Land of Israel.
The Zionist ideal of a return to Israel has profound
religious roots. Many Jewish prayers speak of Jerusalem,
Zion and the Land of Israel. The injunction not to forget Jerusalem, the
site of the Temple, is a major tenet of Judaism. The Hebrew language, the Torah,
laws in the Talmud, the Jewish
calendar and Jewish holidays and festivals such as Shavuot all
originated in Israel and revolve around its seasons and conditions. Jews
pray toward Jerusalem and recite the words next year in Jerusalem
every Passover. Jewish religion,
culture and history make clear that it is only in the land of Israel that
the Jewish commonwealth can be built.
In 1897, Jewish leaders formally organized the Zionist
movement, calling for the restoration of the Jewish national home in
Palestine, where Jews could find sanctuary and self-determination, and
work for the renascence of their civilization and culture.