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Aliyah, War and Peace

Between 1970 and 1979, great dramas took place inside and outside of Israel, the Jewish nation and the Zionist movement, leaving Israel seriously shaken. When the War of Attrition with Egypt ended in 1970, relative quiet reigned along Israel's borders and there was no reason to believe that this situation would not continue for years to come. Alas, it was not to be. In the autumn of 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise attack on Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year - Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) - in order to recapture territories taken by Israel in the course of the Six-Day War. The Yom Kippur War was one of the fiercest wars Israel had known since its establishment, but within a few short days the Israel Defense Forces had repulsed the attack and conquered large parts of Egypt and Syria. A ceasefire came after 18 grueling days of fighting.

The Yom Kippur War left scars on the fabric of Israeli society. Instead of the glorious victories of the Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War, the battle proved to be hard and cruel. Israel was shocked not only at having lost more than 2,500 of its soldiers but at having had its very existence threatened. The outcome of the war resulted in the government's resignation, and Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan left the political arena.

There were no further wars during the 1970s, but the struggle against Arab terror in Israel, in the territories and even outside Israel's borders, escalated. Although successful in this ongoing war, Israel paid a bloody price.

In the mid-70s, an interim agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt, and the IDF withdrew its forces from parts of Sinai. This move opened the way for a daring Egyptian move in late 1977 - the historic visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem. The initiative was prompted by the new government in Israel and Israel's commitment to withdraw from Sinai. Towards the end of the decade, a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the biggest Arab state, was signed.

In 1977 Israel experienced its first political upheaval. Mapai, and its successor the Labor party, which had been in power since the founding of the State (and, in fact, long before that) lost the election to the right wing Likud party, headed by Menahem Begin. The Likud had taken advantage of the public's disillusionment with prolonged Labor party rule and the frustration of olim who had made aliyah in the 1950s. Begin, who was considered a political "hawk," surprised everyone with his willingness to concede the Sinai, thus paving the way for peace with Egypt.

Throughout the decade, Soviet Jewry continued to struggle for national independence and for permission to leave the USSR and make aliyah to Israel. The Soviet authorities were mostly heavy-handed in their treatment of the Jews, arresting, imprisoning, judging and coercing them in every way possible. Only pressure from Western countries and the desire of the USSR to be awarded favorable trade agreements from the United States brought about a change in Soviet policy towards the Jews. During these years, a phenomenon known as "refuseniks" developed - Jewish activists who made their desire to immigrate to Israel known, and, consequently, were fired from their jobs, tried on trumped-up charges, and even imprisoned. They were not alone in their fight, however, for the State of Israel stood by them, as did Jewish and Zionist organizations and even non-Jewish bodies and personalities from all over the world.

Despite all the obstacles that the USSR created, 160,000 Soviet Jews managed to make aliyah to Israel, constituting approximately half the number of olim who arrived in the country during the 1970s. Although they encountered some absorption difficulties, their contribution to the country, both economically and socially, has been considerable. A worrying problem that later became a central issue was that of "dropouts" - Soviet Jews who decided to "drop out" in Vienna rather than continue on to Israel. As the years went by, this phenomenon grew and during the 1980s, there were years when almost all Soviet Jews bound for Israel "dropped out" along the way.

During these years, even before the Likud's rise to power, Jewish settlement in Judea, Samaria, the Golan and the Gaza Strip was being expanded. The government supported most of it but expressed opposition to some, especially in areas heavily populated by Arabs. After the political upheaval of May 1977, the project was moved forward.

Zionist organizations and federations around the world devoted tremendous effort in three main areas during the 1970s: aid to Israel, especially after the Yom Kippur War; continued aid to Soviet Jewry; and the strengthening of education and Jewish-Zionist consciousness among Jews throughout the world. In addition, they joined the joint struggle against the UN Assembly resolution of 1975 equating Zionism with racism and supporting the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This struggle continued for sixteen long years, until the UN Assembly was convinced of the need to rescind the unjust resolution.



Aliyah from the USSR increases despite attempts by the authorities to end it by forcing Jewish public figures to attack aliyah and Israel. The Soviet government does all it can to blacken Israel's image in the world.

January 23
A ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice orders Israel to register children who have a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother as Jews. The issue of 'Who is a Jew?' is renewed.

April 26
A massive Jewish demonstration in New York calls for the Soviet regime to "Let My People Go!"

July 14
Eighty Jews turn to the Supreme Soviet in Moscow requesting that they be allowed to leave the USSR and make aliyah to Israel.

August 7
The War of Attrition ends on the Egyptian front. Both sides agree to the US proposal and a three-month ceasefire goes into effect.

August 27
An agreement is signed at the president's residence in Jerusalem by the World Zionist Organization, the United Jewish Appeal and the Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal for the reconstitution of the Jewish Agency.

December 16
The Leningrad Trials open in the USSR in which 11 Jews are accused of hijacking a plane in order to escape from the country. The Knesset holds a special session (on December 17) on the subject and calls on public opinion throughout the world to mobilize and act against the continued attacks on Jews in Russia. A hunger strike is held at the Western Wall to express solidarity with the accused Leningrad Jews.

December 24
Two of the 11 indicted Jews in the Leningrad Trials are sentenced to death, and the remainder to prolonged prison terms.

The year is marked by increased Palestinian terror against Israel, the launching of Katyusha rockets into population centers and the infiltration of terrorist groups across the border into Israel. Terror in the skies also continues.

Among the new settlements established this year are Petza'el and Mitzpe Shalem in the Jordan Valley and Ketura in the Arava.

More than 36,000 olim arrive this year. Some 10,000 of them are from the USSR, a record number despite the restrictions and the increasing difficulties created by the Soviet authorities.


January 11
Nathan Tzirolnikov, a new immigrant from the Soviet Union, is welcomed to Israel in a festive ceremony. He is the three millionth citizen of the State of Israel.

February - March
Jews in Moscow and other cities in the Soviet Union, hold increasing numbers of demonstrations and protests, insisting they be allowed to make aliyah to Israel.

February 23
In Brussels, Belgium, an international congress opens in support of Soviet Jewry attended by some 800 Jewish and non-Jewish representatives from around the world.

June 21
The founding conference of the reconstituted Jewish Agency is held in Jerusalem.

August 22
Seventy Jews from the USSR request Israeli citizenship while still in the Soviet Union. This is an additional step in the struggle of Soviet Jews to immigrate freely to Israel.

Aliyah to Israel from affluent countries and the USSR gains momentum. In 1971, 42,000 olim arrive in Israel. The year is marked by the continued struggle of Soviet Jews for recognition of their national identity and the right to immigrate to Israel. Protests are held in dozens of cities in Israel and throughout the Jewish world.

Settlement in the territories is expanded. Among the settlements established are: Ophira (Sharm El Sheikh), Di Zahav (Dahab), Neviot (Nuweiiba), Sadot in the Yamit district and Elrom in the Golan.

The Zionist Council is founded in Israel in 1971 and takes upon itself the nurturing of Zionist consciousness and volunteerism in the country. Some 100 voluntary bodies join it, including the Student Association and bodies from the kibbutzim and moshavim.


January 2
A famous new immigrant arrives in Israel: Eliahu Rips from Riga, Latvia, who in 1969 set himself on fire to protest the Soviet authorities restrictions on aliyah to Israel.

January 18-28
The Twenty-eighth Zionist Congress convenes in Jerusalem and the plight of Soviet Jewry receives special attention. A resolution is approved and adopted - "The Duties of the Individual Zionist." The Congress announces that close to one million Jews throughout the world belong to the different Jewish bodies of the World Zionist Organization.

Aliyah from the USSR increases despite the restrictions, and in May 1971 more than 2,500 olim arrive in Israel.

September 5
Terrorists from the Black September organization kill 11 Israeli athletes and trainers during the Munich Olympic Games. Palestinian terror has reached new heights.

Fifty-six thousand olim arrive in Israel throughout the year, more than half of them from the USSR. The building of more than 50,000 new apartments contributes to economic prosperity in Israel.

The Soviet demand that all those wishing to make aliyah to Israel pay a "diploma tax" is rejected by Israel, the United States and other countries.

During the year, various Jewish and Zionist organizations initiate protests and demonstrations throughout the world on behalf of Soviet Jewry. There is increased pressure on Jews in the USSR, especially those requesting to make aliyah to Israel, including show trials in which Jews are charged with "maligning the USSR."


January 13
The World Jewish Congress holds its first conference. Representatives from Jewish communities throughout the world attend, including Romania and Yugoslavia from the Eastern bloc.

January 15
An historic meeting at the Vatican: Golda Meir, the Prime Minister of Israel, meets with Pope Paul VI for the first time.

The Soviet authorities continue to pressure and intimidate Jews wishing to make aliyah. Some of them are tried and given long prison terms or sentenced to hard labor. This anti-Zionist and anti-Israel campaign continues in the coming months and many Jewish and non-Jewish leaders throughout the world speak out against it.

The Soviet authorities abandon their demand for a "diploma tax" from Jews wanting to make aliyah to Israel.

May 7
An especially festive Independence Day in Israel and the Diaspora: the State of Israel is 25. Celebrations take place in a relatively relaxed atmosphere as Israel believes that a major Arab offensive is highly unlikely. Economic prosperity in Israel also contributes to a feeling of security.

September 28
Palestinian terrorists take over a train in Austria that is transporting Russian immigrants to Israel. They demand that the government of Austria close the transit camp near Vienna. The Austrian government gives in to their demands.

October 6-24
The Yom Kippur War. Egypt and Syria launch a surprise attack on Israel and Israel finds itself in grave danger. It quickly rallies, however, capturing large areas of Egypt and Syria. Jews throughout the world come to Israel's aid. During and after the war, 5,000 young volunteers arrive in Israel from Jewish communities around the world in an operation organized by the Youth and Hechalutz Department of the Jewish Agency. In an emergency Keren Hayesod campaign conducted between October and the year's end, 300 million dollars are raised.

In 1973, some 55,000 olim arrive in Israel, despite the war and the state of emergency in effect two months after the war. Sixty percent of the olim (33,000) are from the Soviet Union - a record number from this country.


February 25
The IDF evacuates its forces from the area west of the Suez Canal.

April - May
A War of Attrition between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights and the Syrian enclave, which the IDF conquered in the Yom Kippur War.

May 31
The War of Attrition ends. Israel begins to disengage its forces from the enclave.
Throughout the Jewish world and the various Zionist organizations, the emphasis is on aid to Israel, following the Yom Kippur War, and on continued action on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

The tension brought on by the Yom Kippur War results in an economic and social crisis in Israel, and there is a sharp decline in aliyah to Israel. In 1974, only 32,000 olim arrive in Israel, a reduction of 72% in comparison to the previous year.


January 7
Israel marks the arrival of the one hundred thousandth immigrant from the USSR since the first wave of aliyah from this country in the late 1960s. Despite this, there are growing fears of increased "dropping out" on the way to Israel (usually in Vienna) of olim from the Soviet Union. At this point, one-third of olim have "dropped out."

24 A new settlement is founded east of Jerusalem - Ma'alaeh Adumim - later to become a city.

October 21
Twenty-seven years after its closure during the War of Independence in 1948, the newly restored Hadassah hospital on Mt. Scopes reopens.

November 10
An excessively harsh resolution is adopted by the UN Assembly equating Zionism with racism. Israel, the Jewish world and Zionist organizations throughout the world are enraged. Jewish leaders in countries that supported the resolution protest to their governments, and the American Congress expresses its objection to the resolution. Aliyah continues to fall and throughout 1975, only 20,000 olim arrive in Israel. Soviet Jews continue to drop out in Vienna in increasing numbers, and the Soviet authorities persist in their policy of placing obstacles in the way of those genuinely wishing to make aliyah. Throughout the world, Jews continue to protest and demonstrate for the unrestricted aliyah of Soviet Jews.


February 17
The second Brussels Conference on Soviet Jewry begins. Jewish representatives from dozens of countries discuss the situation of Soviet Jews and seek ways in which to help them.

June 23
The Knesset proposal by MK Gideon Hausner in favor of conducting civil wedding ceremonies is rejected in the plenum by a majority of 31 to 18.

June 27 - July 4
The Entebbe Operation. Palestinian terrorists hijack an Air France airliner carrying more than 100 Israeli passengers from Tel Aviv to Paris, and land it in Entebbe, Uganda. In a brilliant and daring airborne commando operation that staggers the world, the Israel Defense Forces free the hostages and return them to Israel.

August 31
Registration begins for residency of a new town in the Golan - Katzrin.

Aliyah to Israel continues at a slow pace - less than 20,000 olim in 1976 - half of them from the USSR. The dropout rate in Vienna is growing. Jews and non-Jews throughout the world continue their activities on behalf of Soviet Jewry in the form of protest rallies, demonstrations and petitions.

By 1976, some 50 absorption centers and immigrant hostels are operating around the country, with room for 10,000 olim.

Palestinian acts of terror continue in Israel and in the administered territories - mostly the launching of Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into northern Israeli settlements. In a gesture of goodwill Israel provides medical and humanitarian aid to Christians in southern Lebanon at what comes to be called the "Good Fence."


1977 is an especially turbulent year for Israel. During the election campaign, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin resigns and the Labor party is defeated in the general elections.

The first World Zionist Youth Congress convenes in Jerusalem with the participation of youth both from Israel and the Diaspora.

May 17
After 29 years in power the Labor party formerly Mapai loses to the Likud. Menahem Begin is to be the next prime minister of Israel.

November 19
Egyptian president Anwar Sadat makes his first visit to Israel - an initial step towards signing a peace agreement with Israel. Israel, the Arab states, and the entire world are stunned.

Some 21,500 olim arrived in Israel during 1977. The majority of recent settlement projects were over the green line. Between 1971 and 1977, 44 new settlements were established by the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization. After the 1977 political upheaval, settlement in the territories was expanded. Also during this year - 17,000 youth were educated in Aliyat haNoar (Youth Aliyah) institutions; the Department for Education and Culture in the Diaspora continued its worldwide activities; 60 Hebrew teachers were trained in Jerusalem for work in Jewish communities abroad; more than 2,000 since the beginning of the 1950s. A census taken in 1977 throughout the Jewish world revealed that some 1.2 million Jews are affiliated to a variety of Zionist bodies outside of Israel.


February 20 - March 1
The Twenty-ninth Zionist Congress convenes in Jerusalem: the Jerusalem Program is reconfirmed, as are "The Duties of the Individual Zionist." Other resolutions emphasize the centrality of Israel and the existence of a national Zionist liberation movement - an additional response to the 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.

May 11
Israel celebrates 30 years of statehood. Festive gatherings and events take place around the country and in Jewish communities throughout the world.

May 15
Beit HaTefutsoth - the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora - opens in Tel Aviv.

The USSR puts one of many refuseniks on trial - Natan (Anatoly) Sharansky. The prosecution claims that he betrayed his homeland, spied for the West and distributed anti-Soviet propaganda. Sharansky is sentenced to 13 years in prison - 3 in isolation and 10 in a labor camp.

September 18
The Camp David Accords, constituting a basis for peace between Israel and Egypt, are signed by Israel, Egypt and the United States.

December 10
Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat receive the Nobel Prize for Peace this year.

In 1978, aliyah recovers to a great extent and more than 26,000 olim, mostly from the USSR, arrive in Israel. The number would have been greater if not for the massive dropping out (50%) of Soviet Jews in Vienna en route to Israel.

The establishment of settlements in Samaria and in the Jordan Valley continues, and an operation to establish mitzpim (hilltop settlements) begins in the Galilee.

Despite the improved relationship with Egypt, and perhaps because of it, Palestinian terrorists continue to attack Israel, launch Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into Israel's northern settlements, and harm its citizens. After a serious attack on a bus on the coastal road, the IDF implements the Litani Operation, which aims to destroy the infrastructure of the terrorists in southern Lebanon (March-May 1978).

World Jewry responds to the government of Israel's call to finance a neighborhood rehabilitation campaign. For 15 years Keren Hayesod will invest more than 160 million dollars in rehabilitating 35 underprivileged neighborhoods throughout the country.


March 26
Israel and Egypt sign a peace agreement between them after protracted negotiations.

April 10
The Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University reopens after more than 30 years. The campus has been rebuilt and the faculties of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law are located there.

June 23
The two large kibbutz movements - HaKibbutz haMeuhad and the lhud haKevutzot vehaKibbutzim - amalgamate and establish the United Kibbutz Movement (UKM).

June 24
The Jubilee Assembly of the Jewish Agency - 50 years after the establishment of the Jewish Agency in Zurich, Switzerland - is held in Jerusalem, with the participation of heads of state, Zionist leaders from Israel and the Diaspora and numerous citizens of Israel.

In the last two years of the 1970s, some 80,000 Jews are allowed to leave the USSR. Only half of them arrive in Israel.

In summing up the decade (1970-1979), 330,000 olim arrive in Israel during these years, 160,000 of them from the USSR, 36,000 from the US, 18,000 from Argentina and 17,000 from France.

In 1979, after the Ayatollah Humeini comes to power in Iran, many of the country's Jews make aliyah. Not all of the Jews who leave Iran, however, go to Israel.


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