MyHeritage shares new data on Jewish immigration to Israel during the 20th century

Thanks to a new database, people can trace their family's migration to Israel dating back to 1919.

 Jewish immigrants from Iraq at Lod Airport near Tel Aviv, 1951. (photo credit: ISRAELI GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE)
Jewish immigrants from Iraq at Lod Airport near Tel Aviv, 1951.

Records of more than 1.7 million Jews who emigrated to Israel as long ago as 1919, have been made readily available for public access for the first time.

The information was made public through the use of Israel-based genealogy company MyHeritage, and is seen as the Israeli equivalent of the Ellis Island immigrant database in the United States.

Founded in 2003 to help trace family lineage, MyHeritage has since grown to become a leader in tracing familial roots back through generations.

Now, this Israel-based company has created a resource previously unavailable to those hoping to trace their family's path to Israel in the previous century. The company provides the world's largest database of Jewish family trees and is the only one worldwide to support the Hebrew language.

These newly released immigration records were originally published solely in Hebrew, but thanks to a new Global Name Translation Technology created and trademarked by MyHeritage, the collection can be searched for and seen in English and many other languages.

Now, anyone with ancestry in Israel, even if they were registered at the time as having entered "illegally" (as Jewish immigration to Palestine was considered illegal), can access an extensive collection of resources to connect them to their family lines. The records in this collection will include names of immigrants and their relatives who joined them, the relatives who may have been expecting them in Israel, their destination city, the name of their arrival ship/means of transportation, and the names of parents.

Aliyah, Jewish immigration to Israel (credit: Wikimedia Commons)Aliyah, Jewish immigration to Israel (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The collection also includes extensive imagery to support these records. 

What records are not covered in this database?

This collection will only provide reference to Jews arriving in Israel via flight or ship, though does not entirely rule out Jews who came overland from Arab states like Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, according to the National Library of Israel.

These Jewish immigrants arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine in the late 1940s via smuggling missions, frequently led by the Mossad. 

However, the records do not stretch back further than 1919, and so do not include information about Jewish migration to then Ottoman-controlled Palestine through the first waves of Aliyah between 1882 to 1918. 

Although people of many different religious identities have migrated to Israel over the years, the data focuses primarily on Jewish migration. The records allow a closer look at the waves of migration which occurred throughout the 20th century, and in particular during the 1930s and 40s, when Jews were forced to enter British-mandate Palestine through "illegal" methods due to quotas being put in place to limit Jewish immigration to the region. These quotas and limits prevented many Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis and other fascist regimes from entering the country legally.

Jews immigrated to Israel from across the globe, primarily from Europe and the Middle East during the 20th century, coming en masse from Poland, the then-Soviet Union, Romania, Austria, Germany, Greece, Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania amongst others. Jews from Yemen, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran also immigrated in the thousands, although some were not awarded legal immigration status upon their arrival.

The newly published database does not include lists of illegal immigrants, though several lists of children who arrived as part of the youth immigration during this time period are included.

The information has been made available to the company's database through more than a year of chronological scanning through the Israel State Archives with lists of immigrants.