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The BILU (Hebrew acryonym) were a Proto-Zionist organization for immigration to the land of Israel (Aliya), part of the First Aliya. The name consists of initials of the words in verse in Isaiah II:5, "House of Jacob, come, let us go." (Beyt Yaakov Lechu Ve -Nelcha). This movement grew out of the Chovevei Tziyon  movement in Kharkov Russia following pogroms in that country. The Bilu arrived in Turkey, where tried unsuccessfully to enlist the help of Robert Oliphant, a Christian supporter of Zionism.


The Bilu issued a manifesto in Constantinople calling on Jews to emigrate to the land of Israel, and announced their intent to ask the Sultan for national rights. Nothing came of that project, but they proceeded to Yaffo nonetheless. 

They were backed by Karl Netter when they arrived in the land of Israel. They trained for a brief period at  the Miqveh Yisrael agricultural school, then worked in Rishon Letziyon, and eventually founded settlements in the center of Israel, especially Gedera.

The ideological history of the Bilu was a microcosm of conflicts in Zionism and Judaism, as they were perpetually torn between their own secular enlightenment ideology on the one hand, and the demands of rabbis who wanted to bring Zionists back to the fold of religion on the other. A crucial juncture was the debate over observance of the first sabbatical year (1890) for Jewish agriculture in the holy land. Biblical law dictated that the fields must lie fallow, which would have meant starvation for the subsistence farmers of the Bilu.

The Bilu served as a model for later pioneering immigrants, living communally while working at Miqveh Yisrael and Rishon Letziyon, but they were generally unable to overcome harsh conditions. At their peak, they numbered no more than 60 members. Only one of the BILU settlers lived to see the foundation of the State of Israel

Synonyms and alternate spellings: 

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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