Yom HaAliyah (Aliyah Day) Reminds Us to Love the Jewish People and Stand With Israel

Russian Jewish immigrants aboard the Restoration look toward Haifa, Israel, while making aliyah in the mid-1990s. Their journey was aided by Operation Jabotinsky, a ministry of Word of Life Church in Sweden. The author's parents worked with this ministry and took this photo.

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on April 18, 2024

When Jews who have been living elsewhere in the world immigrate to Israel from the nations where they were scattered in the Diaspora, they say they are making aliyah, which literally means “go up” or “ascend.”

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem explains the term:

While originally it referred to ascending to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish Feasts, today it has come to mean the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel.

Aliyah, simply stated, is the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth —  it is the immigration of Jews back to their ancestral homeland. Aliyah “is rooted in the Jewish people’s fervent hope to rebuild its national life in the country from which it was exiled nearly 2,000 years ago.”

The tenth day of the month of Nissan (beginning at sunset April 17 and lasting until sundown today) is the Israeli national holiday Yom HaAliyah, or Aliyah Day, honoring Jewish immigration to Israel.

The date of the holiday traces its roots back to the day the ancient Israelites, led by Joshua, crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. This happened on the tenth of Nissan (Joshua 4:19), and was the first mass immigration of the Jewish people to the land God promised them.

Jews have been scattered from their homeland (and come back to it) multiple times, including the ten tribes of Israel who were carried into captivity by the Assyrians in 701 B.C., the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. (which destroyed the southern kingdom of Judah), and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., followed by Jews being banned from Jerusalem in 135 A.D.

We should prepare for persecution now by learning not to be afraid to align ourselves with the plans, purposes, and chosen people of God.

The fact that the modern-day nation of Israel was established in 1948 through miraculous circumstances after the Jews spent two thousand years in exile demonstrates that the promises God made to always bring His people back to their land (laid out in Deuteronomy 30:1-5, 1 Kings 8:34, Jeremiah 30:3, and Isaiah 66:8) are still in play. Aliyah Day points to God’s sovereignty over history and the fact that He has an ultimate plan that involves Jews being in the land of Israel.

For Christians, this understanding can help us to stand alongside Israel in her current plight, even if it may cost us.

Why My Name is Aliya

As you might have surmised from my byline, the word aliyah is special to me. My parents named me Aliya because they believed God had told them to do so; they also knew they were called to help Russian Jews immigrate to Israel — in other words, make aliyah.

My dad had a vision of this when he was sitting in church as a young man. He says it was almost like a giant screen appeared in front of him: He saw Jews coming out of Russia and immigrating to Israel. He didn’t know at the time there was an ongoing Zionist movement of Jews returning to their promised land, but he began to realize it was something God was doing on the earth.

He briefly went to Russia on a short-term, language-learning visa. Shortly afterward, he was invited to work with the pastor of a small church in Sweden whom he’d met in Bible school; once there, he met and married my mom.

A large Swedish church called Word of Life had a ministry that helped Russian Jews immigrate to Israel. When I was three months old, my parents left Sweden to work for its initiative helping Russian Jews immigrate to Israel. When I was between the ages of 2 and 4, we primarily lived in Samara, Russia, where my father led the local operation. I understood, even at that tender age, that we lived there because my parents were obeying the call of God — and that’s what life is about.

For the first several months of her life, Aliya Kuykendall was the only child aboard the Restoration. Her parents lived on board to help keep it in “ship shape.” In the image at the top of this article, the Restoration is bringing Russian Jews to Israel, helping them make aliyah. (Image courtesy of the Kuykendall family.)

Many people don’t understand why the Jewish people established the modern-day nation of Israel after 2,000 years. The Zionist movement was initially secular, but something Bible-literate Christians had predicted long before it happened.

I know why it happened: God did it.

God’s Promises Regarding the Land of Israel Will Be Fulfilled

The God who has made promises to the Jewish people concerning the land of Israel which are yet to be fulfilled made a move in 1948. He still has more moves to make, and those are predicted in the Scriptures. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of Israel. His Son, Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew), lived as a Jewish man who was crucified and resurrected. Jesus will save the people of Israel (as well as Gentile believers from every other nation) from great oppression, establish the eternal kingdom of Israel, and one day reign over the world from David’s throne in Jerusalem.

A displaced people have retained their identity for millennia: No other people group has done this. The United Nations established modern-day Israel in 1948 after the Holocaust, but Israelis were forced to defend it the very next day, when five Arab nations attacked. (The word “miracles” often comes up in discussion of Israel’s military victories, such as on these pages about the Six-Day War and Yom Kippur War.)

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If you understand the Scriptures, these miraculous happenings make sense. The church has not replaced ethnic Israel; while ethnic Israel must have faith in her Messiah to be saved, Jews are still special to God. The Abrahamic Covenant was an unconditional promise from God to bless Abraham and his descendants forever, make them a blessing to all the nations, and give them the land of Israel. The Old Testament prophets reiterated the promise that Abraham’s descendants would live there in peace from their enemies; peace is something they’ve never had so far. While Palestinians chant that they will exterminate Jews “from the river to the sea,” the Scriptures demonstrate that God gave all that area — and beyond it as well — to the Jewish people millennia ago, and those borders will be reestablished at the time God decides.

Sadly, many Christians don’t acknowledge that ethnic Israel is still significant to God and still has unique promises to look forward to. We think the story is suddenly totally about us — Gentile believers who’ve been grafted in. We’ve been blessed through them by the Messiah, but the Jews are still the center of the story of God’s dealings with the world. If you realize this, the world and the Bible make a lot more sense.

Who Will Stand by Their Side?

The significance of this fact will come to a head as the Jewish people and the nation of Israel continue to face hatred and the denial of their identity and rights. When Jesus’s brothers and sisters suffer, who will stand by their side? Who will give them a cup of cold water to drink? Who will feed them and clothe them, knowing that Jesus said those who do so feed and clothe Him?

Jews are facing hatred now, and according to the Scriptures, there is sadly more to come. We should prepare for persecution now by learning not to be afraid to align ourselves with the plans, purposes, and chosen people of God.

Historically, Gentile believers and others who have manipulated Christian teachings have been among the Jewish people’s greatest persecutors, as seen through the Middle Ages, the Crusades, the Spanish inquisition, Hitler’s Third Reich and many other similar events. This persecution directly contradicts the heart and Word of God. Instead, we should be ready to face persecution with them, like those who were thrown into concentration camps for hiding Jews during World War II.

Don’t fear Islamic terrorists or other people. Fear God. Fear the Jewish King of the world who is coming back to make all things right.


Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on X @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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