The Introduction lays out the main purposes, themes, and arguments of the manuscript and places them in a historiographical and theoretical framework. It discusses the tension between exile and homeland, the significance of the Land of Israel, and the importance of the theme of return to the land in Zionist consciousness, and provides a historical overview of Jewish immigration to Palestine/Israel from the late nineteenth century to the early years of Israeli statehood.
This background helps to clarify the degree to which emigration was antithetical to the Zionist spirit, and was therefore seen as a threat to the national project and condemned as an act of treason. The Introduction demonstrates the various ideological, political, and logistical challenges that emigration posed to the Israeli state and society, to Jewish diaspora communities, and to relief agencies in countries of destination. It engages studies of migration and nationalism to clarify the problematic role of emigration as a phenomenon and emigrants as individuals in the Israeli nation-building process.
The Introduction also discusses the statistical and demographic aspect of the story, presenting information on yearly rates of emigration, destination countries of emigrants, and emigrants’ personal backgrounds.