Membership, Community, Diversity

What do the terms “diaspora” and “aliyah” mean?

Diaspora is Greek for scattering or dispersion. It refers to the growth of Jewish communities, at first throughout the Middle East, and eventually throughout the Mediterranean and the world at large. Some diaspora communities were the indirect result of the persecution and exile of Jews, not only from the eastern Mediterranean, but from numerous sites throughout the greater Mediterranean basin. In other words, Jews have experienced dispersion after dispersion. Aliyah means “going up” in Hebrew. Originally associated with travel to Jerusalem, which is a high point in the regional topography, the term eventually came to signify chiefly the modern-day return of Jews to Israel. It is thus the opposite of diaspora. But much of the impetus for aliyah continues to come from the very kind of intolerance and persecution that gave rise to many diaspora communities in the first place. In other words, global migration patterns in the history of Judaism have been cyclical.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App