Israel Module - Israel Lesson 4: Returning to the Land

Time Allotment:

50 minutes


Copies of Israel Israel worksheets_4A: “Returning to the Land: Introductory Activity” (one per student)
Copies of Israel worksheets_4B: “Returning to the Land: Hok ha-Shvut” (one per student)
Classroom board
Computers with Internet access

Related photographs by Zion Ozeri, for example:

Early Immigration to Israel


Prior to students’ arrival, photocopy and staple worksheets and gather research materials for investigating Jewish refugee populations in Israel. Depending on your classroom resources, you may wish to secure your school’s media center or technology lab so that students have as much access to the Internet and other research resources as possible.

Big Idea:

As we learned in a previous lesson, Israel is considered the homeland for Jews all over the world. But how does Israeli law define and protect the rights of one who is an oleh (a Jew who comes to Israel to live)? Which Jewish populations have sought refuge in Eretz Yisrael in the last century, and how does their presence in Israel reflect the bracha of Kibbutz Galuyot that is recited three times a day in the Amidah prayer?

Learning Objectives:

In this lesson, students will:

  • connect a photograph of refugees with a Jewish text as an introduction to the central Zionist concept of Kibbutz Galuyot (קיבוץ גלויות), the in-gathering of exiles;
  • define and understand “refuge” and “refugee” in the context of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
  • dissect and analyze Hok ha-Shvut (חוק השבות), The Law of Return, to deepen their understanding of Kibbutz Galuyot.
  • research the journeys of Jewish populations that have sought Israel as a refuge in the 20th century; develop and publish newspaper articles with related photographs that reflect deep comprehension of all concepts explored in class.

Warm-Up/Introduction Activity (8 minutes):

  1. As students enter class, distribute the worksheet “Returning to the Land: Introductory Activity” and divide students into pairs. Ask students to discuss the photograph (“Operation Exodus, 1992”) and the related text (Kibbutz Galuyot) with their partners, responding to the worksheet questions to guide them. After five minutes, ask students to share their worksheet responses, and encourage related discussion.
  2. Then, revisit the “home versus homeland” concept from the previous lesson. How is this idea interwoven with Kibbutz Galuyot? Point out that the return of Jews to Israel from the “four corners of the earth” is the goal of the Zionist movement. Introduce Hok ha-Shvut, The Law of Return. 


Text Activity (15 minutes):

  1. Explain that Hok ha-Shvut (חוק השבות) – The Law of Return – grants every Jew in the world the right to settle in Israel. The Knesset first passed the law on July 5, 1950. It was amended in 1954 and in 1970.
  2. Distribute “Returning to the Land: Hok ha-Shvut.” Read through the law section by section as a class, focusing on the following discussion questions as a guide (allow time for further student questions or additional discussion):

1950 Law of Return
– Right of Aliyah: When was the State of Israel founded? Why do you think this law was enacted shortly thereafter? In what way is becoming an oleh a “right”? Why is this right central to the idea of Israel as a Jewish State?
– Oleh’s Visa: For what reasons would an oleh’s visa be denied?
– Oleh’s Certificate: What type of person does this section describe? How does it relate to the previous section?
– Residents and Persons Born in This Country: Who is considered an oleh according to this part of the law?
– Implementation and Regulations: What do you think the Minister of Immigration does? Why would someone in this position be in charge of this matter?

 1954 Amendment
– Amendment of Section 2(b): How does this amendment change the original law? Who has been added as a person ineligible to be an oleh?
– Amendment of Sections 2 and 5: What do you think the Minister of the Interior does? Why do you think this change may have been made?

 1970 Amendment
– Addition of Sections 4A and 4B: Who is granted oleh status in this section? Who is not? How does this expand your understanding of who is an oleh? How is the question of “who is a Jew?” specified, and why is this important here? How do you feel about this?
– Amendment of Section 5: Why would the Knesset be involved in this matter?
– Amendment of the Population Registry Law: How does this section further clarify who is or is not a Jew? Why is this important here?


Photo Activity/Research (25 minutes):

  1. Discuss the terms “refuge” and “refugee”:
    – What does “refuge” mean? (A refuge is a place where one is protected from danger.)
    – What is a “refugee,” and why do people and communities seek refuge? (A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave a country. People and communities seek refuge to escape war or for religious or political reasons, such as persecution in their homelands.)
    – How is Israel a refuge for the Jewish people? (Revisit Kibbutz Galuyot and Hok ha-Shvut. Jewish individuals can return to Israel to visit or as an oleh to live in Israel. But Jews and Jewish communities around the world can also return to Israel when they are in distress.)
  2. Explain to students that they will now be learning about some Jewish populations that have sought refuge in Israel in 20th century. Divide students into small groups, and assign each one of the following Jewish populations (more than one group can study the same population):
    – Ethiopia via Sudan via Operation Moses (1984)
    – Ethiopia via Operation Solomon (1991)
    – Former Soviet Union via Operation Exodus (1990s)
    – Exodus from Arab and Muslim countries (1947-1972)
  3. Using available classroom resources, including computers with Internet access and reference materials from the library, each group should investigate and take clear notes on the following (written on the classroom board for easier student access):
    – What life was like for Jews in assigned country at the time of the relocation to Israel
    Who aided the refugee efforts
    Key events and people involved
    Size of the refugee population then and now in Israel
  4. Also distribute photographs by Zion Ozeri that are relevant to the different groups.

    For example:

    Operation Moses:
    Mother and Son, Ramla, Israel, 1986


    Operation Solomon:
    A Sign and a Witness, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel, 1991
    Backpack, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel, 1991
    Operation Solomon, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel, 1991
    From the Four Corners of the Earth, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel, 1991
    Absorption Center, Mevaseret Zion, Israel, 2008


    Operation Exodus:
    Honorable Discharge, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel, 1992
    Operation Exodus, Ben Gurion Airport, Israel, 1992
    Hebrew Class, 1994
    A New Land, Hadera, Israel, 1998


    Arab and Muslim Countries
    Moroccan Rabbi, Beer Sheva, Israel 

    As part of their research, students should study the photographs closely. What is going on in each? What clues do the photographs provide about the experiences of the subjects either during or after their immigration to Israel? You might ask students to do an objective/subjective reading of one of their assigned photographs (see Lesson 1 of the Main Curriculum for more about objective/subjective looking [link]).


  5. If necessary, students can continue research in a future class or at home.


Wrap Up/Review (2 minutes):

The Talmud teaches, “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh ba’zeh (כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה) – All of Israel is bound up together” (Babylonian Talmud, Shevuot 39a). How does this text relate to today’s lesson?



Once research is complete, each pair or small group will write a newspaper article covering the emigration of their assigned Jewish population from their home country to Israel. Each article should include one of Zion Ozeri’s photographs with a one-paragraph caption written by students, as well as at least one additional photograph (with photo credits), and at least one related map, plus a headline and byline with an appropriate date. After future revision, articles should be typed and each “published” on a regular piece of paper with all other required elements, and photocopied in a tabloid-style newspaper for the class (and other classes, if desired). 

For the front page, the class should create a name of their newspaper for a masthead, and individual students or groups can write introductions to the paper, offer brief related text analyses, draw illustrations, and include other relevant information.


Extension Activities:

  • Students can photograph a local Jewish immigrant or refugee and interview him or her about his or her experiences. They can then compile information into a “profile” article to add to the class newspaper.
  • As a class or individually, conduct a study of Israel’s population in terms of ethnic demographics. Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics provides information on their website (Hebrew version at; English version at You may focus on the entire country or one particular city. Students can create a graph or series of charts that illustrate the data and then write a brief analysis of their findings.
  • Have students investigate other historical aliyot to Israel, including aliyah from Eastern Europe before 1948, from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and France in the 1990s.
  • Learn about what was happening in Israeli politics and society when Hok Ha-Shvut was first passed (1950) and amended (1954 and 1970). Students can write a reflection about the Law of Return from the perspective of one of the Israeli leaders responsible for the legislation at that time.