Children at a Youth Aliyah Village, 1957
This photograph was taken in a Youth Aliyah Village in 1957. In the photograph are three young boys posing for the camera. Their diverse origins are apparent: the boy in the centre is blonde with an European appearance, while the two boys on either side of him have a darker complexion and a more Middle Eastern appearance.
Recha Freier founded Youth Aliyah in 1932, just as the Nazi party was rising to power. The purpose of the organisation was to rescue German youth from Nazi persecution by sending them to Israel to work in pioneer training programmes.
Henrietta Szold was appointed the head of Youth Aliyah in Israel, even though she was initially opposed to the programme, believing that there were not sufficient funds for other more crucial issues facing Israel. However, once funds were collected and arrangements made and with the worsening of the situation in Germany, Henrietta and others who had previously doubted the organisation, rallied for the cause, now understanding its dire need.
The first group of twelve young immigrants arrived in Israel in 1932 and were absorbed in the Ben Shemen Youth Village. In the following thirteen years, Youth Aliyah saved 30,000 Jewish children from Nazi Europe, later expanding to include immigrants from twenty countries. Between 1948 and 1952, Israel absorbed over 27,000 youth immigrants, 76% of whom came from Arab countries. This could explain the different physical appearances of the children in the photograph. In 1958, Youth Aliyah received the Israel Prize in recognition of its outstanding contribution to Jewish immigration.
Henrietta Szold oversaw the programme and even developed personal connections with some of the immigrants. As a result, she became known as the "Mother of Israel," earning respect from worldwide Jewry.
Jewish Studies and History teachers could use this source when discussing Aliyah (immigration to Israel), the origins of immigrants, and their integration difficulties. It could also be used when teaching about the Holocaust, specifically the Tehran children. This photograph could also be used in discussions about the melting pot theory and racism.
When and where do you think this photograph was taken?
Who are the boys in the photograph? Describe their physical appearance. How can you explain the differences between them?
What was Youth Aliyah?
Some people, including Henrietta Szold, initially opposed the Youth Aliyah programme in the 1930s, because they felt that Israel had other more important needs.
What were these needs?
With the deterioration of the situation for Jews in Germany and Europe in general, support for Youth Aliyah rose.
Why do you think this was the case?
How do you think the young immigrants felt leaving their countries and coming to a new country alone?
How do you think their parents felt?
Write an imaginary letter that a girl or boy from Youth Aliya might have written to their parents.
Youth Aliyah started as an organization for Jews from Europe but evolved into something much bigger.
At what other times in history do you think Youth Aliyah was instrumental in bringing youth to Israel? (Students could be given a blank map to fill in.)
Why does Youth Aliyah still exist today?