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The Aliyah Diaries III: I Must Be Out of My Mind

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Previous installments: Parts I, II

“Am I in the right place?”

That was the first thought that popped into my head when I saw the throng of strangers at the Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah Mega-Event for young professionals at Crowne Plaza in NYC last night. They were all extremely religious-looking. The men all wore kippot and modern orthodox or orthodox garb, while nearly all of the women wore below-the-knee skirts and many covered their hair. As a very secular Jew, I felt totally out of place, like I had gone to some Chabad Lubavitch convention instead of an Aliyah fair. I would have wondered if I were in the right place if it weren’t for the many giant Nefesh B’Nefesh signs everywhere. I wondered why it was nearly entirely visibly orthodox Jews who were making Aliyah. Maybe their religion keeps them in touch with their identity as an indigenous people to the land of Israel? I know that, since I’ve been studying Torah and getting more into Judaism lately, that I too am realizing how the land and the people are so inextricably linked to Jewish religion and culture. So it makes sense but the demographics of this crowd didn’t even come close to reflecting local Jewish demographics. The employees of NBN, also olim, showed a similar pattern.

As a young professional, I was asked to come at 3:30pm to register and attend one of the many talks, and visit the booths. The people were really friendly there and I quickly rectified my one remaining issue: that my proof of living outside Israel is still not approved, even though I sent all my university transcripts and my lease to my Aliyah liaison, who said he received it and will process it.

Actually, my Entry/Exit form and Health Form are also still pending despite me having sent them a month ago.

I was asked to go speak to one of the guys at the fair to ask him about this issue. He told me that because I never lived in Israel in my entire life, I don’t even need to provide this proof.

Wow. So all this work for nothing. I wonder what else I wasted my time on?

Am I out of my mind for moving somewhere across the world where I have no family, few friends, and don’t even speak the language that well? Am I setting myself up for disaster? Am I nuts?

Those thoughts raced through my head as I perused the fair a bit.

There were good and bad things that came out of this fair. I’m glad I went. I felt their job placement service was very strong. They gave great advice about the job world and nearly everyone i asked about jobs offered to help me get one if I sent them an email with my CV. They scrutinized my CV and considered the Israeli market. There was no ambiguity in this respect and I think this is their strongest point.

I have two criticisms though. First of all, nobody there was able to agree on the Army. The IDF’s website itself is convoluted and doesn’t actually provide definitive information on eligibility. I strongly suggest they introduce a webpage that allows you to submit all your info (age, gender, profession, college education, etc.) and have it spit back out your eligibility to be drafted or volunteer to serve. Because even the reps from the IDF didn’t seem to agree on the requirements. I’m 25, and I’ve heard anything from “You’re gonna be drafted if you’re below 26 when you move” to “You can volunteer but you won’t be drafted” to “They won’t even let you serve if you wanted to!”

The confusion continued. The American-Style Israeli medical schools don’t let you apply if you made aliyah and therefore carry an Israeli passport, according to one of the counselors. I went to another counselor complaining about that and she said, “Where did you hear that? Of course you can apply if you did your undergrad in the US or Canada!”

I guess even Nefesh B’Nefesh is not mmune from the age-old curse: Put two Jews in a room and you get three opinions.

Another thing that bothered me was that they had a gigantic fair with booths of important Israeli services and companies. They told the young professionals that the fair would be open from 3:30pm, when we are asked to register, until 7pm. I therefore decided to go to two talks and look at the fair later. One of my friends was even there and I wanted to say hi! But when I finished my second talk at around 5:15, the booths were already closing, and most were already gone. I felt like I’d missed out on many golden networking opportunities.

I asked what the deal was, because it was supposed to be until 7pm. They said they’re closing down, they’re sorry, they knew this was going to happen that’s why they invited the single young professionals to come at this time slot, because we needed these services the least. I had seen the list, I was a bit skeptical. How are the contacts of all the major universities, health insurance companies, and businesses, not needed by just our age group? It seemed odd.

What I really liked is that the group was very down to earth and friendly. The staff were so incredibly sweet and they all truly wanted to help. Overall, I think Nefesh B’Nefesh is a great organization full of wonderful people and I know I will feel very indebted to them one I make it to Israel. However, Nefesh B’Nefesh is, after all, Israeli. So organization might not be a strong point.

Now I just have to call them tomorrow to request my interview!

About the author

Picture of Lex

Lex

Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.
Picture of Lex

Lex

Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.
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