In Parshat Shlach, we read Calev ben Yefuneh’s answer to the spies who did not want to enter the Land of Israel : “Aloh Naaleh”, “We can surely go up and inherit the land of Israel.” How fitting that the Knesset passed a law this week that Yom Ha’Aliyah (Immigration Day) will be instituted as a national holiday in Israel on the 7th of Cheshvan.
The idea of Yom Ha’Aliyah is not new. In fact, back in 2004 (the year that I made aliyah) there was a discussion in the Knesset of celebrating Yom Ha’Aliyah on the proposed date of the 21st of Tevet, Eliezer ben Yehuda’s birthday since he was the one who revived the Hebrew language. They felt that his birthday would be the best day to celebrate since Modern Hebrew is the tie that connects all of the immigrants to the State of Israel and gives them a common language.
Somewhere along the way the topic was dropped and a few years ago Jay Shultz, an immigrant from England and his group Tel Aviv Internationals began to celebrate Yom Ha’Aliyah on the 10th of Nisan, the date that B’nai Yisrael crossed the Jordan River 3500 years ago when the entire nation made aliyah and entered the land with Yehoshua bin Nun.
MK Miki Zohar brought up the bill in the Knesset and many other Knesset Members joined in support including Michael Oren and Hilik Bar. In April 2016, it was decided that the holiday would take place on the 10th of Nisan. However, the date was rejected this week since the 10th of Nisan falls out a few days before Pesach when the students are on vacation and would not be celebrated properly if the students would not be in school.
The final date that was decided on is the 7th of Cheshvan which corresponds to Parshat Lech Lecha where we read about Avraham and Sarah’s aliyah to the Land of Israel.
Absorption Minister Sofa Lander who immigrated from the Former Soviet Union in 1979 said that the holiday will be celebrated in the Knesset, in the school system and in the larger community. She hopes that Israeli society will gain a new respect for immigrants when they hear the history of their aliya. She also hopes it will be a day that is celebrated in the Diaspora to encourage aliyah.
In contrast to the spies (aside from Yehoshua and Calev) who did not have respect for aliyah and who encouraged the nation not to immigrate, in a rare moment, the Knesset members from the different parties were in agreement when it came to the importance of aliyah and a holiday to promote it.