The Great Ingathering
by David Parsons
The Jews are a remarkable people. Consider, for instance, that they are the only people who have been violently uprooted from their homeland not once but twice, only to return to that land each time to re-establish their national sovereignty. You could search far and wide and still not find other people who have managed to do this even once, and yet the Jews have done it twice!
Now what makes the Jews all the more remarkable is that they have given us a book that tells us all this was going to happen even before it started to take place. The Bible declares beforehand that there would be two scatterings and two returns of the Jewish people – the first from Babylon and the second from the ends of the earth.
And indeed, this has been the testimony of history. The ancient Israelites were first exiled to Babylon and began to return home some two generations later. Then the Romans forced a second Jewish dispersion out into all nations, where they wandered for nearly 2,000 years before their second return to Eretz Israel in modern times. Over the past 120 years or so, more than 3.5 million Jews have immigrated to the land of Israel from all over the world – from the north, south, east, and west, in literal fulfillment of God’s promises like that in Isaiah 43:5-6.
“Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.”
So the Bible is a truly amazing book that tells the story of a truly remarkable people. It is not a collection of fables and fairy tales. Rather, the Bible is the proven Word of God! And the modern-day return of Israel is proof of its reliability, as well as of God’s faithfulness to His promises and His sovereignty over the affairs of men.
Now when we look at some of the prophetic passages in Scripture about the great Ingathering of the Jewish people in the last days, we see that it is being fulfilled with great accuracy and detail.
For instance, Jews have come home from more than 100 nations speaking dozens of languages, but in Zephaniah 3:9 we have the promise of God to restore to them their ancient Hebrew tongue. This revival of a dead language by a once-dispersed nation is unique in human history.
The very next verse in Zephaniah specifically mentions Jews coming home from Ethiopia, while Isaiah 49:12 foretells of Jews coming back from “the land of Sinim”, or China. Incredibly, no Jews lived in either country when these words were written 2700 years ago, yet both are happening in our day.
In Jeremiah 31:8-9, it says that among the returnees would be “the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together”. Interestingly, during the emergency airlift of nearly 15,000 Ethiopian Jews over one weekend in May 1991, there were five mothers who gave birth while abroad on the planes on their way to Israel.
The Bible also tells us exactly how the Jews would return in the last days. Isaiah says they would come home first by sea and then by air…
“Who are these who fly like a cloud, and like doves to their roosts? Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me; And the ships of Tarshish will come first, to bring your sons from afar…” (Isaiah 60:8-9).
The age of ships
In context, Isaiah chapter 60 speaks of the great Ingathering of Israel at the end of days and the central role it plays in ushering in the Messianic kingdom. We see this clearly in verse 4, which states: “Lift up your eyes all around, and see: They all gather together, they come to you; Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.”
Then Isaiah 60:9 says the “ships of Tarshish will come first” (some translations say they are “in the lead”).
The phrase “ships of Tarshish” is a reference to the ancient Phoenicians, who were considered a great seafaring people. They built ships that could ply not only the entire length of the Mediterranean Sea but also beyond. Their expertly crafted boats would stop at the port of Tarshish in southern Spain when venturing past the Straits of Gibraltar into the mighty Atlantic Ocean. So, it simply means large sea-worthy vessels.
And indeed, as the great Jewish Ingathering has taken place over the past 120 years, for the first 60 years or so the majority came home by ship. In the beginning, many came through the old port of Jaffa, the same small harbor from antiquity where Jonah set sail while running from the Lord. Most were being driven out by pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe and sailed to Israel via the Black Sea. Later, the British developed a larger port in Haifa and more Jews continued to stream home from all parts of the earth.
But to appease the local Arabs, Britain eventually imposed a strict quota on the number of Jews that could enter Mandate Palestine each year and later enforced it with a naval blockade just as many Jews were trying to escape the rising Nazi threat in Europe.
In response, ships laden with Jews fleeing Hitler’s genocide would dash for shore under cover of darkness, deliberately shipwreck on the rocks and sandbars, and the Jews on board would desperately swim for land. So, the era of Jews returning mostly by ship winds down in this dramatic fashion, just as the nation is about to be reborn.
The Jet Age
Once Israel won its independence in 1948, the nation was free to bring back as many Jews as it could. And for the past 60 years or so of the great Ingathering, the majority of Jews have come home by airplane… just as the prophet Isaiah foresaw when he asked: “Who are these who fly like a cloud, and like doves to their roosts?”
The main port of entry during this time has been Ben-Gurion Airport, and thousands of Jewish olim (newcomers) pass through it every year. In addition, there have been several distinct waves over recent decades when tens of thousands of Jews returned at once. This has included many of the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arabs lands in the early 1950s, the Ethiopian mass airlifts, and the one million Russian-speaking Jews who have arrived since Soviet communism fell in 1989.
There has been the ‘quiet return’ of Jews from sensitive nations like Iran, Yemen, and Cuba. Today, there is also an increase of Jews coming from Europe due to rising anti-Semitism and Muslim agitation. Jewish return from some Western countries is also being spurred on by the occasional global economic downturns and the prospects of better hi-tech jobs in Israel.
Finally, the Jews of the “East” have also started to return, such as the Bnei Menashe from India and the Kaifeng Jews from China.
Members of all these diverse Jewish communities worldwide are landing at Ben-Gurion year-round. Nearly every single day, friends and relatives are waiting in the Arrivals Hall to welcome them back to the land of their forefathers.
So how astounding it is that the Bible says the last days’ return of the Jews would straddle the transition from the great age of travel on the high seas to today’s jet age? No one travels by ship anymore; we just hop on a plane and fly wherever we want in a matter of hours. So, God has been precise even in His timing of the great Ingathering of Israel.
The heart of Aliyah
Israelis have adopted a special term from biblical Hebrew to describe this process of returning to the Land. They call it aliyah, which means “to ascend”. It was used in ancient times in reference to Jewish pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem for the three great biblical feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
Thus, the process of making Aliyah is seen by many Jews as having spiritual meaning as well, beyond just the physical act of returning to their homeland. Many also view it as an act of teshuva (repentance) and return to God. They truly believe He is drawing them back to the land and to Himself.
The great Ingathering of the Jewish people in modern times holds tremendous promise for Israel and the world, as it heralds the soon coming of the Messianic kingdom. It also is irrefutable proof of the veracity of God’s word. It shows God’s faithfulness to His promises, which are being fulfilled with great accuracy and precision. And we see in it His goodness and favor, as described in passages like Isaiah 54:7-8…
“‘For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies, I will gather you. With a little wrath, I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness, I will have mercy on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer.”
Finally, the great Ingathering demonstrates that He is the God of history, and He remains sovereign over the affairs of men. Even when much of the world has resisted the return of the Jews to their homeland, it is still coming to pass just as He said:
“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’” (Jeremiah 31:10)
This means we live in amazing times. It is both exciting and rewarding to be engaged in the great Ingathering of the Jewish people in our day. God invites us to be involved, to help bring the Jews home.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem has been doing just that for four decades now, assisting more than 165,000 Jews in making their way home to Israel.
In recent years, we have been helping to bring Jews to Israel from Europe to escape anti-Semitism and Muslim agitation. We are sponsoring the return of Jews from Ukraine seeking to flee the conflict there, as well as those from Russia hoping to escape its economic woes. We are bringing home the Bnei Menashe from India and the Kaifeng Jews from China, in fulfillment of their deep longing to reunite with their land and people. And we are assisting Jews from North and South America to find their destiny back in their people’s ancestral homeland.
So please join with us as we work to gather the Jews back to their land and to their God! Today, it is as simple as sponsoring an airline seat for a Jew to fly home “like a dove to its nest”.