We all have friends, relatives and colleagues who have talked to us about their aliyah experience and how we should consider it as a new path for our lives. Some of the encounters have been very insightful; others have been more condescending. I call these people “Aliya Zealots” (AZ).There have been many articles on why we should make aliyah. This article will address the top 10 reasons on why we should NOT make aliyah at the current time. These include:
1. I have a great job in America
2. Elderly parents
3. Children are not at the age to make a major change
4. I love the American culture
5. My children and grandchildren live in the U.S.
6. High cost of living in Israel
7. I do not speak Hebrew fluently
8. I am afraid of the uncertainty of change
9. My rabbi is not planning to go to Israel, so why should I
10. The government is not to my liking
Let’s explore these reasons:
1. I have a great job in America — America is a blessed country. Many have lucrative and satisfying jobs and are very hesitant to consider aliyah unless they have an equivalent job. There are many job opportunities in Israel. There are currently shortages of doctors, engineers, scientists, lawyers, etc. True, in many cases you will not be getting the same salary, but your costs (tuition, health care) will be much less than in the U.S. In addition, there are many employers that are open to remote employment. Keep in mind, Israel is the fourth strongest economy in the world. The U.S. is rated as 20th.
2. Elderly parents — If you have frail, sick or disabled parents and have no other siblings to help support your parents, you should put off any plans of aliyah. However, compared to the U.S., Israel is a much more elderly friendly country. The average life expectancy in Israel is 83; in the U.S. it is 76.4. The healthcare index in Israel is 72.97 and in the United States it is 69.23. The happiness index in Israel is 7.14; in the U.S. it is 6.89. Some major differences in how Israel treats the elderly include home care provided by Filipinos, thus keeping the elderly out of nursing homes. Elderly over 75 have free public transportation and at 80 they get to go to the front of every line. The younger generation in Israel are taught not only to respect the elderly, but to go out of the way to help them.
3. Children are not at the age to make a major change — Change for anyone is difficult and it is most difficult for children from 7-16. They have already established strong friendships through school and youth groups. Israel recognized this and they have established schools that target Anglo children to make that transition as easy as possible. Vibrant organizations such as NCSY have been established in Israel. The support system for Anglo children is much more robust than it was 10 years ago.
4. I love American culture — Yes, American culture is unique and for better or worse many of the cultural aspects of America have seeped into Israel. True, You will not see the magnitude of Christmas decorations and sales in Israel, but you will find a Chanukah alternative, including Black Friday sales. Both cultures respect individualism, independence, innovation and privacy. One characteristic of American culture that has not crept into Israel is the assimilation into a non-Jewish culture. Forty percent of Modern Orthodox children that go to secular colleges leave the fold and many marry non-Jewish partners. In Israel, the Jewish culture is all encompassing. Even though there is a significant secular population, there is a cultural safety net.. Eighty percent of the Jews in Israel have some sort of Shabbat religious experience, 85% percent celebrate chagim in some fashion, and 90% have a Pesach seder experience.
5. My children and grandchildren are in the U.S. — Being separated from your grandchildren is a downside of aliyah. However, when you look at the reality and calculate how often you visit with your out-of-town grandchildren you will be surprised at the result. In discussions with people who made aliyah, they say while the window of being with the grandchildren is shorter, they actually spend more time with their grandchildren after they made aliyah because when they come to the U.S. or when the grandchildren visit them in Israel, their grandchildren time is more concentrated. This does not include using technology like free video conference which allows constant real time interaction with your grandchildren.
6. High cost of living — Israel does have a high cost of living, especially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Much of this is due to the lack of competition. This is rapidly changing as foreign companies like Carrefour and 7-11 enter the Israeli market. I would not be surprised if we see corporations like Walmart and Costco enter the Israeli market. The cost of education and health care is much lower in Israel than in the U.S. and more than offsets the higher cost of living.
7. I do not speak Hebrew fluently — While Hebrew is the language of the country, most Israelis do speak some amount of English. Of course they are more comfortable with Hebrew, but they will switch to English when they see you are uncomfortable with Hebrew. In addition, as a new oleh you have the opportunity to participate in ulpan, which can be supplemented with programs that Nefesh B’Nefesh and the OU offer. It should be noted that many Anglos move to Anglo neighborhoods where English is the primary language.
8. I am afraid of the uncertainty of change — Change is difficult for everyone. But we have all experienced changes in our lives. When we got married, when we started working, when we bought our home. We accepted those changes because we saw the advantages of those changes in our lives. Hopefully, one sees the advantages of making aliyah
9. My rabbi is not planning to go to Israel — The American rabbinate is not picking up and moving to Israel, mainly because they view their primary job is to motivate Jews to move to Israel and to provide support to those Jews who have no intention of moving to Israel. It is interesting to note that a very large percentage of American Orthodox rabbis move to Israel upon retirement.
10. The government is not to my liking — As in all democracies, governments come and go. Some you will like and some you will not like. More than half of the Knesset is shomer Shabbat. The best way to impact the government is to move to Israel and vote.
Other reasons not to make aliyah — You like two days of Yom Tov (you spent so much time and effort in preparing for Pesach and Sukkot, you want to extend the chag.) You want more time to practice the mitzvot so you can get them right when you do go to Israel. I am moving to Florida where it is much warmer and has lower taxes. I don’t want to be so close to Hashem.
Yes, we can rationalize why we are not considering aliyah. There are many reasons to not consider aliyah, but if you want to, with the appropriate planning and support, many of these reasons fall apart. Making aliyah is a very personal and important decision. Do your research, ask questions, and make sure your decision is being made based on valid reasons. Understand the advantages and disadvantages and making aliyah. Do not fool yourself and remember you pray every day to return to Israel. Listen to what the gedolai hador in Israel say about coming to Israel. Do not be passive but be active in your decision process and in coaxing Moshiach to reveal himself..
So when you meet that aliyah zealot, remember you have a lot of paths of rationalization of why you see your future in the U.S. But make sure you are using the facts in determining your family’s future.
Rabbi Paul Bloom is a retired IBM/Bellcore executive who now lives in Jerusalem with his wife Ettie.