July 14, 2024
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July 14, 2024
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Aliyah. There are so many reasons to just do it: the Kotel, kosher Pizza Hut and Shavuot vacation without having to explain it to the boss. Sure, all of us Jews are in the contemplative phase of moving to Israel, yet all still a bit stuck out here in the land of super glue. We indeed pray, three times a day, that Hashem should gather us up and return us to Israel, yet the rut of a local habit takes its toll and its tolls. Briefly, during Shabbat Musaf, we are inspired by the line, “and bring us up to our land with happiness… so that we can get close to you by sacrifice with love…” but meanwhile, the tri-state area beckons. Love of the land, love of Hashem and love of mitzvot exclusive to Israel may push us to pine over aliyah in our hearts, but logic takes over and we are back to square one. Alas, perhaps dry statistics indeed are what we need these days to boost our faith that aliyah is indeed imminent.

Let’s explore aliyah for health reasons. Yes, medical aliyah. It sounds unusual, but indeed there are some very compelling health-based reasons to make aliyah. First, let’s start with life expectancy. Israel’s life expectancy is 80 for men and 84 for women, compared to the U.S., which is 76 and 81, respectively. That’s three to four extra years of golf and grandkids in the hills of Judea—nothing to scoff at. Second, while there are many factors going into the greater longevity in Israel, amongst them genetics, nutrition plays a large role as well. The Mediterranean diet has been hands-down proven to be the healthiest diet on the planet in multiple reproducible studies. In fact, Israel has the least diet-related morbidity in the entire world! Falafel and baba ganoush may indeed be the secret that propels Jews in Israel to the top of the longevity chart, close to Japan and Hong Kong. Third, and not to be morbid, but the probability of dying between the ages of 15-60 in the USA is 14.2% for males and 8.6% for females, whereas, in Israel, that chance falls to 7.5% for males and 4.1% for females. Essentially, this tells us that one has double the chance of surviving past the age of 60 in Israel—despite the military draft and constant terrorist threats that exist to this day.

And if pure survival weren’t enough to convince one to make aliyah, it is important to look at what Israel spends on its citizens in terms of health and her results. Israel spends approximately $2,600 per capita, which is 7.8% of its GDP, whereas the U.S. spends $9,400 per capita or 17.1% of GDP, yet the Israeli health results are astoundingly better. Despite the greater spending on health, the U.S. longevity and health statistics lag, and on top of that governmental spending, private individuals and companies are also flipping a big portion of those health bills.

Perhaps these stats should not be a surprise, given that in a survey of 51 countries in 2014, Israel’s health system was ranked fourth in the world in terms of efficiency. Additionally, in 2015, Israel was rated in Bloomberg as the sixth healthiest country in the world. And while many of us like to think that “socialized medicine” is inferior in terms of wait times, testing and other parameters, the results speak for themselves. Participation in the national health system is mandatory and one can choose one of four kupot cholim, all of which compete with each other under government subsidies. And the price is right. If someone is not working, monthly health insurance is a whopping $50 per month. Someone who works pays 3.1% of one’s monthly salary and 5% of anything earned above a salary of $1,700/month. Of note, the average salary in Israel is $3240/month, so average health insurance payment is $129/month for a working Israeli. And, lest one forget, in most cases, one who makes aliyah and is not yet working is entitled to a free year of health insurance.

Hospitals, in general, are a place one should avoid when possible, yet if one needs to use such facilities in Israel, one should know that Tel Hashomer in Tel Aviv is among the top 10 hospitals in the world, sharing the list with Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Mass General Hospital and the Mayo Clinic. Overall, in Israel, there are 85 hospitals: 44 general medical, 12 dedicated to mental health, 29 specialized hospitals (geriatric and rehabilitation centers), in addition to 278 residential long-term facilities. The average stay in a hospital is approximately 4.3 days compared with a world average of 6.5 days. Additionally, one should know that, oftentimes, if one is in need of an ambulance in Israel, given it follows the Franco-German model of EMS care, the presence of a physician in the ambulance is not uncommon.

And if all of that weren’t enough to convince you that, medically speaking, Israel is the place to be for Jews, one should know that during the current pandemic, Israel was rated in a study by Deep Knowledge Ventures as the safest place in the world, based on 76 parameters around the viral illness. Just recall, Israel essentially shares similar geographic and population size of New Jersey, yet has experienced fewer than 350 COVID-19 deaths. Yet, New Jersey has experienced approximately 13,000 tragic deaths from COVID-19. Surely, border control has something to do with this drastic difference, but borders alone are hard-pressed to explain 43 times fewer total deaths in Israel. A modern miracle? Likely. But just another good, logical reason that the time for aliyah is now.


Rabbi Dr. Yosef Glassman, MD, is CEO of Hadarta.org, which encourages aliyah over the age of 60. Feel free to reach out to him at [email protected].

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