Going Up?


Dear Rabbi, why is moving to Israel called “making aliyah”?



  1. In the Bible, travel for any purpose to the Land of Israel is referred to as “going up” since Israel is considered a holier place than other lands. In today’s speech, “making aliyah” has come to mean moving to Israel with a commitment to become a citizen.

    On the flip side, in Modern Hebrew someone who leaves dwelling in Israel to live elsewhere is called “going down” (yored).

    The story is told of an Israeli in difficult financial straits who thinks he might do better in the US. When he announces his plans to go to Los Angeles, all his Israeli friends ask him, “Are you ‘going down’?” “No! No!” he replies, “I’m just going there to make some money. Then I’ll come back to Israel.”

    In LA he gets a job as an elevator operator. The first day on the job, he rides the elevator up to the tenth floor, opens the door, and a bunch of people cram in. “Going down?” he asks. “No! No!” they reply, “We’re just here to make some money. Then we’ll go back to Israel.”

    It has been the dream of virtually every Jew throughout history to “go up” to Israel at some point in their life. Many have tried and succeeded, while others have tried and not succeeded — sometimes being stopped for some reason on the way. Although nowadays it is much easier to make aliyah than almost any point in history, people should of course do what is best for them as individuals and families.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team