History: Immigration to Israel

The first information about Jews immigrating to the Holy Land from Central Asia dates to the beginning of the 19th century, but large groups of Bukharan Jews who immigrated to and settled in Israel are known only from the 1880s. In the early 1890s the quarter called Rehovot was established by them in Jerusalem (to this day it is known as the "Bukharan Quarter"), which was considered at the time one of the most magnificent quarters of the New City.

Groups of Bukharan immigrants, some of whom had managed to bring money with them and were among the wealthy of Jerusalem at that time, continued to arrive in Erez Israel until the outbreak of World War I. The number of Bukharan Jews who arrived in this first Bukharan Jewish aliyah has been estimated at approximately 1,500. These immigrants represented about 8 percent of the total community, a proportion which had no equal in any land of Jewish emigration at that time.

The second aliyah of Bukharan Jews began in the 1920s and continued until the early 1930s. The number of members of the community who settled in Erez Israel during these years is not known, but it may be assumed that it was no less than 4,000 souls. The overwhelming majority had to leave Russia secretly, to cross the borders with Iran or Afghanistan with the aid of Muslim guides, and then to receive permits on the basis of certificates issued to them by the British consulate.

Only a minority of these immigrants chose the legal procedure. They would sail by boat from Odessa to Turkey, with the help of documents attesting to their Afghani, Persian or Turkish citizenship (purchased at high prices from the legations of those countries), and in Istanbul they would obtain their immigration permits for Erez Israel.

Henceforth followed the period of almost complete severance of Bukharan Jewry from Erez Israel, and only in 1972, with the beginning of mass immigration from the U.S.S.R., did they renew the tradition of immigration to the Holy Land—this time to the State of Israel. About 8,000 Bukharan Jews arrived from 1972 to the first half of 1975.