Destination Israel

The Jewish people hold a deep connection to the Land of Israel, where Jewish civilization flourished for millennia. While forced exile and voluntary migration dispersed its people across the globe, the Jewish diaspora thrived wherever it landed. But ties to the ancient land were never cut.

With the emergence of Zionism in the late nineteenth century, multiple waves of Jewish immigrants flocked back to the region, many fleeing rising antisemitism in their home countries. They hoped to fulfill the longstanding promise of a Jewish homeland.

In 1948, the State of Israel was born, and the Jewish diaspora celebrated! Making Aliyah – moving to the Land of Israel – became a possibility for Jews everywhere. Tourism blossomed during the late twentieth century, strengthening the bonds between Israel and new generations.

Through thousands of photographs, letters, home movies, postcards, and scrapbooks held at the Ontario Jewish Archives, we can discover the experiences of Jewish Ontarians in Israel and their participation in Israeli society – from builders and farmers, to tourists and pilgrims.

The records range from the personal to the newsworthy – from a family bar mitzvah trip in the 2000s to the Labour Zionist’s visit to Mandatory Palestine in the 1940s. But across the collection, the love for the country and thrill of being in Israel is palpable.

The records at the Ontario Jewish Archives also reveal the complexities of the region and the community’s response to challenges and crises throughout history. They highlight the personal, spiritual, and emotional commitment of Ontario’s Jewish community to the Land of Israel, and the role this community has played in its creation and preservation.

Film sponsored by Leanne & David Matlow & Family, and Bob Rubinoff

Archivist Notes

Israel is a current that runs through every collection at the Ontario Jewish Archives. It is present in the personal and family collections as well as those of organizations and synagogues. The links between the land of Israel and the diaspora are found in our earliest records and our most recent, signifying an ongoing relationship with both the historic and present-day Israel. Perhaps more so than any other topic referenced in our collections, Israel has evoked the greatest amount of discussion and rhetoric from the community over the last 170 years, dependent on the politics of the era and of the speaker. But, looking at the records one thing is starkly clear; they reveal a deep and complicated connection to Eretz Israel that is grounded in love, autonomy, and faith.

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