Friends of ours back in the states back in the states have started a Chug Aliya--an Aliya Club. This is a group of people planning on or thinking about moving to Israel who get together to discuss issues related to the process of making the move. They often invite people from Aliya organizations or the Jewish Agency to speak on specific topics such as health care, mortgages, education etc. as related to Israel. Occasionally, they have someone who actually made the move speak about their first-hand experiences.
I have not been asked to speak, but figured I should prepare something just in case an e-ticket suddenly appears in my inbox.
Here's what I would say: (Of course, I'm leaving some stuff out; if I tell everything here, there would be no motivation to have me tell my story in person, would there now?)
I would tell the crowd (I assume a crowd would be gathered to hear my pearls of wisdom, no?) that the younger they and their children are the easier it will be for the klita (absorption/integration into Israeli society). I would tell them that even if they are not ready to make the move now, but are hoping to do it some day in the future, they should be talking about it all the time at home to make the children aware of what they are thinking. But I would also add that we made Aliya with older kids (ages 11-14) and that though there were some really tough times, all are doing well now.
I would tell them to think carefully about the kind of community they want to live in and to think about their children and where they would fit in. I would remind them that in Israel most schools are "public schools" and their expectations of the services their children receive and the length of the school day are very different from what they may be used to in the states. Not necessarily better, or worse, but different.
I would tell them that health care in this country is very, very good, even excellent but culturally very different than what they are used to in the states. I would even have one or two funny stories to tell them to point this out.
I would tell them to of course prepare financially for the move. Many people who make Aliyah these days choose to commute back and forth. It works well for many families, but I also know of some families who chose to go back to the states because it was just to difficult. I would advise them to speak to the people doing it. For those who plan on working in Israel, I would tell them that it can be very, very tough finding work here and they have to expect to be unemployed for a significant period of time (Nefesh B'Nefesh said 6-9 months when me made Aliya, but it may be longer in today's economic climate). I would point out that salaries are much, much lower here and that yes, tuition and health insurance cost a fraction of what they cost in the states, but that still doesn't make it easy financially.
I would tell them to bone up on their Hebrew to the extent that they can, but in the end the way they will really learn the language is if and when they become immersed in it through their work and/or communities. I would tell them that language struggles are difficult at every level and can sometimes make you feel, well, like old Tante Minnie when she got off the boat at Ellis Island.
I would tell them that sending a lift costs a ton of money and that they can probably buy everything here for the same or less money without the hassle and to consider just sending the sentimental stuff.
I would tell them that everyone will say that making Aliyah is hard, but you can't imagine how hard it is until you are in the thick of it. I would tell them there will be days they will ask themselves, "WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING, LEAVING A PERFECTLY NICE PLACE FOR THIS?"
I will tell them to search deep into themselves for the reasons they want to make this move.
Because in the end, Israel will not solve the problems you are having in the states. No matter how much planning and preparation you do you are taking a leap of faith. And you will need that faith and a core belief in what you are doing to sustain you through those hard times.
I would end by saying this:
I believe I belong here and I have no regrets.
(Then I would open it up for questions. What would you ask? Or if you're already here, what would you add to this presentation?)
8 Years and Counting
9 months ago