Bloomberg.com’s website lists Israel at number 19 as a recommended place to retire. “The widespread use of English, abundant kosher food, and a warm climate, make Israel a natural draw for affluent Jews from the West.” According to Wikipedia, 84 percent of Israelis speak English, but for only less than 6 percent it’s their first language.
Many parents have children who have made aliyah over the years and now they are reaching a point in their lives that they are considering retiring and joining them. So where to live?
In the past, the Jewish Agency used to deal with aliyah. Today, Nefesh B’nefesh has streamlined the procedure and is currently the one-stop location for all your aliyah questions. They have trained professionals who would give you up-to-date advice on options. This article covers some of the information provided by NBN but others as well.
If a pilot trip or extended stay can be an option, it is highly recommended for everyone, especially retirees so that they have the ability to check out living choices for themselves.
In Israel, the English speakers are all classified as “Anglos.” It doesn’t make a difference to them if you came from England, Australia, the United States, South Africa or Canada. In the minds of Israelis, you are all the same. Therefore, there are many Anglo communities, though there are also areas in which Jews from certain countries might collect. The uniting factor of speaking English is often what connects all these people together.
Living Near Children
If you have children living in Israel, one of the possibilities is to live near them. The question arises if the housing offered near your family is also suitable for your needs.
Most major Israeli cities have large English-speaking communities. In some of these communities are long-time “expats,” but others are newer. Jerusalem, Safed, Netanya, Rannana, Kfar Saba and Petach Tikvah all have large, established English-speaking communities. According to NBN, the most popular destinations for olim from North America are Modain and Beit Shemesh. The city of Ariel, located in Samaria, has about 5 percent English speakers. It is a close-knit community and is attracting English-speaking families due to reasonably priced housing options and proximity to Tel Aviv. Another example is Maaleh Adumim, where its proximity to Jerusalem is appealing for many English speakers. Most English-speaking communities, no matter where you choose, have some type of website or online group to stay connected.
According to Marc Rosenberg, director of NBN’s Pre-Aliyah Department, many olim dream of living in Jerusalem but they find it too expensive, so they move elsewhere. Approximately 30 percent of Anglo olim move to the north and the south of Israel. Popular communities in the north include Karmiel, Nahariya, Ma’alot, Safed and Haifa; in the south, common choices are Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon.
Purchasing an Apartment
Buying an apartment in Israel can be both a long-term investment and savings compared to renting. If the opportunity arises, it can be profitable to purchase an apartment in Israel but only move into the apartment many years later. The apartment purchased can be used as a long-term rental, a vacation home or a place to let your child live since you don’t need it. Apartments can be purchased “on paper,” new or second hand. Apartments “on paper” are part of housing complexes in the process of being built for which the contractor is finding buyers. These apartments often take as long as three years until occupancy. Apartments “on paper” are often cheaper than even new apartments since the contractor is eager to sell units. The character of the complex (religious/secular, religious affiliation, families) are part of the marketing campaign, but you don’t really know who your neighbors will be until you move in.
New apartments are units in finished complexes that were not pre-purchased and are being sold by the contractor. Second-hand apartments are existing apartments in established areas, purchased through private individuals, and are often the most expensive. With a second-hand apartment, you know the community and your neighbors. As with any major purchase, an experienced lawyer should be consulted before buying an apartment in Israel.
Whether living on a yishuv (settlement) is an ideological or family option, there are many yishuvim that have a high percentages of English speakers. The top “Anglo” yishuvim are Efrat, Neve Daniel, Chashmonaim, Yad Binyamin and Alon Shvut. Many smaller settlements have English-speaking residents, some more than others. Be aware that most yishuvim, especially the smaller ones, have some type of “acceptance” committee that reviews your application and interviews the prospective candidate before deciding whether to accept or not. Should you have a child living on the yishuv of choice, this process is often streamlined. This process of appraisal is also good for the potential oleh to see whether the community is a good match for them.
Housing options in yishuvim are often more affordable than in large cities but other factors should be taken into consideration for the retiree, such as social life, transportation availability and medical services. In most yishuvim are available rental houses, mobile homes, apartments or residential units (an apartment in someone’s home), until you decide if yishuv life is for you. This allows a “try ’til you buy.”
Senior Living Centers
Should your preference be living with other senior citizens or retirees, there are many types of senior living centers available in Israel. One option is to work with a retirement consultant. A retirement consultant offers assistance in identifying living solutions for the elderly, whether in a beit avot (old-age home), independent senior living center, diur mugan (assisted living facility) or teshushai nefesh (mentally frail facility). As part of their services, they
provide information on benefits that may be available to clients through Misrad Habriut (Ministry of Health) or Bituach Leumi (National Insurance) for home care (Chok Siud),
work as agents representing their clients in negotiations with each facility,
provide referrals for community-based support,
help clients obtain discounts.
Though families who are making aliyah at a younger age often come and “hope for the best,” people who wish to retire need to be a bit more farsighted. Before retiring to Israel or even contacting a retirement consultant, it is recommended that you assess your financial situation, so that the consultant can work effectively in directing you to an appropriate placement. Keep in mind that facilities vary greatly in terms of their price and the type of services they provide, as well as English-speaking residents.
Children of olim who wish to bring their parents to Israel to retire, but who are unable to make a pilot trip themselves, are encouraged to utilize the services of consultants both to explore options for their parents, and throughout the negotiation process (with a specific living facility).
Life expectancy on a kibbutz is higher than that for the average Israeli. However, if you are considering retiring to a kibbutz, you are out of luck. Yaron Lindman of the United Kibbutz Movement told me that kibbutzim are looking for young families ages 25–35, and retirement options are not available on kibbutzim. Should the parent have a child currently living on the kibbutz, each kibbutz has its own policy whether to accept a parent or not.
Making aliyah can be a scary process, but with proper preparation, and the right professional advice, the landing can be as soft as possible. Good luck and kelitah neeima (may your absorption be pleasant)!
By Judy Yazersky