Sunday marks 230 years since the first Chassidic Aliyah (immigration to Israel), when three leading rabbis and their students arrived in Israel on Elul 5, 5537 (1777).
The group of settlers was led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk and Rabbi Yisrael of Polotsk. The men, though leaders of Chassidism in Russia, rallied 300 of their students to make the perilous journey to the Land of Israel.
All were disciples of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch. They were also joined by Chabad founder Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, but he was instructed by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk to remain in Moholiev, on the Dneistre River, as they passed though the city, in order to remain behind to serve as the leader of the Chassidic community in White Russia and Lithuania.
The group faced many perils on the way to the Holy Land. One of the boats they used sank, and with it 30 Jewish passengers died. They eventually reached the Land of Israel on the fifth of Elul.
They established a Jewish community in Tzfat, but were harassed and attacked by the Ottoman Turks and Arabs, and were forced to resettle in Tiberias (T'veria).
Rabbi Schneur Zalman retained close contact with the settlers and arranged for much-needed funds to be sent to them. They faced extreme difficulties as the students lacked trade skills and knowledge of the basics of state-building, but Rabbi Menachem Mendel refused to give up.
(From INN Arutz 7 )
Actually, the first Aliyah was much earlier, though this one may have been larger. Reb Nachman Horedenker and others went to EY during the life of the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Nachman returned but made aliyah in 1764 (according to some 1761)with Reb Menachem Mendel of Premishlan and many other talmidei Baal Sem Tov.
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