First, aliyah is the immigration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel for full citizenship. In recent times this aliyah has taken on 4 waves. According to Encyclopedia Britannica the first two waves of immigration occurred in 1882 – 1914, the next three in 1919 – 39 and the sixth aliyah (1945 – 48) brought many Holocaust survivors. This ‘return’ to Israel is also found in Scripture. The children of Israel ‘went up’ from Egypt (Gen 50:14 and Num 32:11). Then exiles were allowed to return from their capitivity by order of King Cyrus of Persia (Ezra 1:3).
Second, aliyah is the ‘going up’ or ‘return’ for festivals and is known as aliyah le-regel. Another definition for this type of aliyah is pilgrimage. It is used for the purpose of going for a specific time with no intention of remaining there.
Third, aliyah is the honor of being called up to the reading desk in the synagogue to read from the Torah. This type is known as aliyah la-Torah.
Fourth, aliyah is the miraculous assumption into heaven. Examples of this type of aliyah are Enoch (Gen 5:23-24) and Elijah (II Kings 2:11). Mainstream Judaism is reluctant to place the end of life ascent into heaven with this meaning.
Finally, aliyah is a return to God. This return cannot be accomplished by our ‘doing’ anything in and of ourselves. This aliyah can only be accomplished by God Himself. Every return of the Jewish people back to the land of Israel began and ended with a deliverance performed by God Himself (Deut 30:4; Jer 46:27). Every return demonstrated God’s love for His people when they did not deserve it. Aliyah is a desire placed in the hearts of the Jewish people by God Himself for them to return to their God (Jer 22:27). God’s promises to His people is at the very heart of the true meaning of Aliyah. Each aliyah involves dependency upon the LORD God for the promises given(Jer 30:3), decision that must take place in an individuals heart(Jer 24:7), dedication to obey the commandments of God (Deut 30:8,10) and a declaration (Ps 22:27) of faith in the Messiah of Isarel. To return to the land of Israel is only part of the equation. God is calling the Jewish people back to their land of promise and back to their God. When the Jewish people seek their God with a whole heart of aliyah He will be found (Jer 29:11).