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About Making Aliyah NOW!

There are, when it comes down to the bottom line, two reasons why Jews move to Israel.

The first is because they have to – they live in a land where there is great danger. And so in the past, they came – from Yemen and Iraq, Russian, Libya, Syria and Ethiopia. And today, Jews from these lands can be found in all facets of Israeli life – from garbage collectors and storekeepers to Knesset members and doctors. In reality, there is nothing really to go back to, nothing to compare against. Here in Israel, they are safer and have more and if they miss the ability to converse in the native language of the people, they work harder to improve their Hebrew. They have brought all that they once had and know that no matter hard it is here, it was always harder there.

The second is because they want to – they live in a land where Jews are relatively okay and it is likely the greatest threat they face there is spiritual rather than physical. Jews from these places think about money, about how many rooms they had, the kind of job they’ll get here. Many come to Israel with an image of the house they left behind and are less than thrilled to suddenly find themselves living in an apartment with upstairs (and downstairs) neighbors. There, maybe they had a pool and a big yard. We had a river running a bit beyond our property line. Many come with a career that they compare to work here. What they were paid $60-$70 per hour there rates at about one-third the amount here…perhaps even less. They might have left behind family, certainly they left behind friends and live here with the knowledge that on a monetary level, however hard it is here, it is likely easier there.

Most Jews came from America because they wanted to…I came because I felt I had to. We lived comfortably there on one income and whatever I brought it was helpful but not really necessary. We lived on a huge piece or property – probably three times what we have now, had nicer cars…and I never felt home, never felt safe.

When I tell people how I was offered a job within the first few days of my arrival – in a field for which I had no training, how I turned that job not only into a career but a business and now own a bigger house than what I had there, people say our aliyah was lucky. I prefer to say it was blessed and equally as important, how hard we worked to make it what it was. What they aren’t taking into consideration were the setbacks – living in a community that we found  non-supportive, both my in-laws falling ill and dying within 18 months of our aliyah, incidents where we were cheated because we didn’t know better. Two car accidents – both brought on by careless drivers that rammed into our vehicles – one that we’d had only 2 months. We didn’t have an easy aliyah because I’m not sure there is such a thing, but we have had a very successful one.

From Israel, it is painfully obvious that the time the British Jews could come because they wanted to is shifting slowly to a time when they will have to come. As with Jews in France, more and more are realizing they aren’t safe, or worse, their children aren’t. In a recent article in the Independent,  the following results of a survey were published:

  • Twenty-eight percent said they experienced “personal abuse on social media or other communication channels.”
  • Twenty-six percent of those studying in higher education were “either fairly worried or very worried about being subjected to a physical attack, property damage,verbal abuse or theft as a result of their religion.”
  • Sixty-six percent “believed they were targeted a result of their faith.”

A recent Newsweek article detailed a drastic increase in antisemitic attacks in both the UK and the US, with a surprising decline in France.

So do Jews HAVE TO make aliyah from the UK, France, Germany and the US? The answer is probably somewhere between “no” and “not yet.”

What it comes down to is obviously a personal choice and so I’ll offer my opinion. If you are young and not yet married – come to Israel because it will be easier to find someone who has also chosen to live here and perhaps even someone who can help smooth your integration; you won’t live your life here with the thought that he or she came here because of you and therefore you carry the responsibility not only of your own happiness, but of their’s as well.

If you are newly married or have young children, come soon. It is so much easier for a child born in Israel or one who comes here young and easily grasps the language and the culture here. Come before you are faced with the horrendous choice of leaving older children behind, or of having children who carry an idolized version of what life was there – all the good and none of the bad – and so choose to return to “home” as soon as they turn 18. It’s easy for you, they will think, to move to Israel when you don’t have to do the army, while expecting them to fight to learn the language, offer three years of their lives to do army service. Come before they reach that age. My oldest was 7 when we came. She is now married to a man who has never left Israeli soil and is committed to never leaving it in the future. She is the mother of two beautiful sons and with her husband believes they too should never leave Israel.

If you have teenage children, it will be harder, but it is still possible. The trick is that they must want to come as you do. Bring them to Israel on a visit so that they can see what it is like here; show them the fun and beauty of this land. Go slowly and gently with their future and pray because I have friends here who brought teenagers that integrated beautifully and are dedicated to this land. Their children went to the army proudly and voluntarily and Hebrew has become their “second” mother tongue. And I have friends whose children have returned to distant shores and they carry with them the heartache of having children and possibly grandchildren very far away.

If your children are grown and married, come soon to Israel. Your home may be the anchor that pulls them all here. If not your own children, perhaps their children will come on aliyah in the future and then, amazingly enough, with you here and with their children here, they may come as well. Become the anchor that ties your family to Israel and pray.

And for those who choose not to move to Israel, make your arguments as you will – the money is certainly better there, the cars fancier, the houses bigger. We here in Israel cannot fight those arguments. But here are a few you can’t use:

Safety: No – it is not safer there than here. Crime rates are higher where you are. Israel is a land with a relatively low crime rate, a place where it is safe to walk at night, even for a woman, even alone. An interesting comment can be found in a Telegraph article from a year ago in which the Chairman of the  Institute for Economics and Peace, Steve Killelea, said, “Ten of the 11 countries most affected by terrorism also have the highest rates of refugees and internal displacement.” If you live in a country which is opening its borders to refugees, consider this. The country you live in today will be more at risk tomorrow because most of the countries accepting refugees are not able or willing to adequately vet them against the influx of terrorists. Children are free to roam the streets in Israel and are protected not only by police and soldiers, but by every mother and father on the street who will come running to your child’s aid if needed.

Medical care: You will not lack for medical care in this country. You will not have to ignore medical issues because doctors are plentiful and cheap and many of the best doctors in the world can be found in Israel. While there are specific conditions which might require treatment abroad and drugs not covered by our amazing health system, day in and day out, millions of people live long, healthy lives within the Israel medical system, which is comparable all and better than most.

  • Finances: Whether you make do, thrive or experience a lower life style than what you have now depends largely on you. Are you flexible? Are you willing to change careers, do whatever you have to do to survive here? Is money the measure of who you are as a person and the quality of your life? You will not starve here. You will find friends and a community here. You will be able to afford something – it might not be a large house with a pool and a river, spare bedrooms and play rooms and family rooms. Your child’s park may be across the street or down the block but they will be happy. Israel has ranked among the happiest countries in the world. This year and for the last few years, we were #11 – happier than the US (#14, happier than Britain #18).
  • Children: Our children are raised as the most precious of all things here. Israel is a society built around children. Our neighborhoods are filled with parks; the day care system is safe, watched, respected. Our sons and daughters are raised to know that they must give, as well as take. They take pride in this country, serve it with honor and love. At 19, our boys are not on the beaches, drinking and partying; they are carrying guns, testing their bodies, pushing themselves to be stronger, faster, braver. They grow up so tall here, so much focused on the important things in life.
  • Spiritual: I come from a family that is running a solid 50-75% intermarriage rate. The chances of the next generation considering itself Jewish in my family will bring the intermarriage rate even higher. Most have never been to Israel; most are far from the values of our Torah, it is mind-boggling. The mitzvot (commandments) come alive in Israel in a way they cannot possibly be anywhere else in the world. Each holiday has a component connected directly to the land of Israel, and only this land. For every Shabbat here in Israel, life is different. There is a symbolic umbrella that descends over this land that cuts us off for 25 hours. It is a voluntary umbrella, but a strong one. No matter how religious someone is in this here, Israel is a very traditional country.
  • Values: Israel is a society that values life. Our children are required to do voluntary service in high school – four of mine chose to volunteer for Magen David Adom (MADA) – Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross (except that MADA is non-political and truly treats all). One son is a volunteer ambulance driver today, another is a medic who volunteers when he’s home from the army. One daughter volunteered in a day care for children with developmental problems, another volunteered to work in a nursery school and with a single-mother struggling to give each of her children enough attention. In my neighborhood, we have many charity events that raise hundreds of thousands of shekels in donations, we have multiple blood drives each year, we have volunteers who work with children, senior citizens. When tragedy strikes, we rally to help each other – from hundreds of thousands of people praying for three teens who were kidnapped, to bags and bags of donated clothes and supplies for Ethiopian families who were burned out of their homes due to an electrical fire in their building.

At some point, many Jews make aliyah because they have to, because the conditions in their home country have become dangerous and untenable. Then, they come with nothing. Thus they came from Ethiopia, Yemen, the Ukraine. The Jews of Europe and the United States are not yet at that point – and if we Israelis imply that they are, we will receive only their ridicule. Instead, we must say something different. Today, the UK is not the Ukraine; the United States is no Yemen; France is not Ethiopia.

Even if you feel safe as a Jew in Europe today, do your children?  In France. In Britain. In Germany. In October, 2016, there were “32 incidents were recorded, including three assaults, two threats to kill, eight threats of violence, eighteen cases of verbal abuse and one incident of criminal damage.” In February 2017, two Jewish brothers were attacked and one of the brothers had a finger cut off with a hacksaw by assailants who screamed “Dirty Jews, You’re going to die!” In April, 2017, newspapers published reports of a British-born 14-year old living in Berlin who was “beaten, kicked and threatened with a replica gun after he revealed to fellow pupils that he was Jewish.”

Is aliyah easy? No. But then again, few things in life are. But for those of us who found the courage to leave our birth countries behind, what many of us found was a life that is richer, more meaningful, and safer than what we left behind. The only advice I can offer is that it is better to come to Israel when you want to, than when you have to.

About the author

Picture of Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of WritePoint Ltd, a leading technical writing company in Israel. She is also a popular blogger with her work appearing on her own sites, A Soldier's Mother and PaulaSays, as well as IsraellyCool and a number of other Jewish and Israeli sites.
Picture of Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of WritePoint Ltd, a leading technical writing company in Israel. She is also a popular blogger with her work appearing on her own sites, A Soldier's Mother and PaulaSays, as well as IsraellyCool and a number of other Jewish and Israeli sites.
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