The first wave of immigrants in the history of the pioneer settlement in the Land of Israel lasted more than 2o years, from 1882 to 1903 bringing with it 20,000 – 30,000 people. Most of the people were traditional religious people that went to Jerusalem and other holy cities. They joined the people of the “Old Yishuv”‘
Some of the immigrants belonged to “Hovevi Zion”, which was established in Eastern Europe following the pogroms and the repression of the Jews. They hoped to establish a “colony” of farmers in the Land of Israel. These immigrants, from Russia, Romania and Poland, together with some natives of the Land of Israel, founded the villages of Rishon LeZion, Zichron Ya’akov, Rosh Pina, Mazkeret Batya and Yesod Hama’ala in the years 1882-1884.
A second wave of immigrants from Russia and Poland, still part of the “First Aliyah”, arrived in the years 1890-1891. They founded new villages, such as Rehovot and Hadera, which were not connected to the Baron Rothschild and his clerks.
The Response of the Turkish Government
The Turkish government (The Land of Israel was part of the Ottoman Empire) was alarmed by the flow of immigrants and their acquisition of land and so they forbade further immigration. Thus, the flow of immigrants declined and very few new villages were established, such as Motza, Be’er Tuvia (which was then called Kastina and Metulla. At the end of 1900, the Baron Rothschild transferred the care of the colonies to the Jewish Charitable Association. They founded several villages in the Lower Galilee between 1901 and 1903, including Menachmia, Kfar Tabor, Yavniel and Ilania (Shajara).
Education and Culture During the First Aliyah
Before the first Aliyah, education in the “Old Yishuv” consisted of solely religious studies conducted in the “cheder” (Talmud Torah), yeshivas and the synagogues of each ethnic group. The period of the First Aliyah witnessed a revolution in the fields of culture and education.
Eliezer Ben Yehuda began his battle to make Hebrew the spoken language of the Yishuv. He added words as the need arose and he established Hebrew schools, where Hebrew was the dominant language, in the settlements. French, the language of The Baron’s clerks, was gradually pushed aside. Moreover, secular subjects were added to the schools’ curriculum. Mathematics, English and science became an integral part of the curriculum.
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