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Law of Return is Passed, 1950

On This Day in Jewish History: July 5, 1950

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This monumental event is one of Jewish history's most critically progressive moments in observing the more than 2000 year dispersement of Jews worldwide.


Creation of the Law of Return was instrumental to Zionism and the growth of the Jewish State in its ancestral homeland. This legislation has saved the lives of countless Jews from ongoing persecution (Ethiopian and Russian-born Jews as leading examples) since Israeli Statehood. Influx of immigration since the British Mandate period, the Evian Conference, and the post-Holocaust era all drew inspiration to passing the Law of Return. For nations around the world, passing key immigration policy is critical to a state's health and wellbeing, and provides directions to human migration for whatever reason deemed fit. In the case of Israel, the Law of Return as immigration policy has been a blessing to millions of lives and continues to be improved through amendments.


The Law of Return took the Zionist principal of globally dispersed Jews wanting or needing to pursue Aliyah through self-determination in the native land and transpose ideology into legislation. Jews worldwide can immigrate and rapidly be granted citizenship status in Israel. After the Holocaust, the need to formulate this immigration policy was dire for the amount of Jews coming into the land of Israel. The Knesset was able to study and catch up with other sovereign nation states' manners of immigration and policy by passing this legislation that provided a legal pathway to Jewish refugees for citizenship. This law was an abolishment of the pre-State period's immigration policies on Jewish migration.


By 1970, there had been a handful of court cases and legal proposals to modify the Law of Return that resulted in its amending. Modification was a result of concerns and observations about regulating "who is a Jew?" and how to proceed with a law that was already proven successful. Prime Minister Golda Meir gave oversight into the amendment to the Law of Return. Basis for amending the law involved altering the interpretation from what the original text defined as "every Jew" and including people born of a Jewish mother, those with a maternal Jewish grandmother, people that had converted to Judaism, or non-Jewish people that were married to Jews meeting the previous criteria. Israel's Law of Return has consistently aided in giving a strong Jewish citizenship majority to the state.


A foreign Jew wishing to move to Israel under the Law of Return is considered an "Oleh." Today, programs like Nefesh B'Nefesh offer Olim a clear pathway for completing the Aliyah process and becoming citizens in Israel. Housing, employment, education assistance, etc. are all coordinated to make adjusting to life in Israel simpler for an Oleh. Even a one way flight to Israel from a person's birth country is offered! Programs like this could not have been made possible if it were not for the Law of Return.

 

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