Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a crowd of Ethiopian immigrants at a memorial service in 1998. More than 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have immigrated to Israel since the 1980s.
Photograph by Amos ben Gershom, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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  • On July 5, 1950, the Knesset passed the “Law of Return.” The Knesset is the Israeli parliament, or legislature. The Law of Return allows all Jews the right to live in Israel and gain citizenship.
    The Law of Return is a critical part of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. "Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an oleh,” the law states. An oleh is a Jew who has immigrated to Israel. After the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands of Jews emigrated from Europe and the former Soviet Union. In the decades that followed, thousands more migrated from the Americas (mostly the U.S. and Argentina), Africa (mostly Ethiopia and South Africa) and Asia. 
    Eventually, the Law of Return was expanded to include not only Jews, but non-Jews with Jewish ancestry, converts to Judaism, and those married to Jews. More than 3 million people have immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    ancestry Noun

    family (genealogical) or historical background.

    citizen Noun

    member of a country, state, or town who shares responsibilities for the area and benefits from being a member.

    convert Verb

    to change or to be changed.

    critical Adjective

    very important.

    emigrate Verb

    to move from one's native land to another.

    expand Verb

    to grow or get larger.

    Holocaust Noun

    (1933-1945) attempted genocide of the Jews of Europe, led by Nazi Germany. Also called the Shoah and the Final Solution.

    identity Noun

    how a person defines themselves, or how others define them.

    immigrate Verb

    to move to a new place.

    Judaism Noun

    religion based on the holy book of the Torah and the teaching surrounding it.

    Knesset Noun

    Israeli parliament (single house).

    law of return Noun

    Israeli law allowing Jews from all over the world to emigrate to Israel and establish citizenship.

    legislature Noun

    group of people, usually elected, who make and change laws.

    migrate Verb

    to move from one place or activity to another.

    parliament Noun

    legislature, usually a democratic government's decision-making body.

    Soviet Union Noun

    (1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

    state Noun

    political unit in a nation, such as the United States, Mexico, or Australia.