Might want to immigrate to Israel? How freaking cool! Even just thinking about it is brave and I think you’re awesome. To help you make the decision as well as give you some hard truths about the experience, here are a few tips I have!
Here are 8 things I tell anyone who mentions they might want to make aliyah:
- Come for a test year.
Not only does it help you decide that yes this is the right decision but it also gives you the opportunity to build a support system. From personal experience, I feel doing a test year makes the transition so much easier! You can look for an apartment in person, begin the job hunt, make friends, and find your groove before taking the plunge.
- Move to a community that fits your needs.
Every city and heck every neighborhood in Israel has very different characteristics. If you’re looking for a young neighborhood that is Shabbat friendly but also has a spectrum of Jewish communities you might pick Rehavia, Jerusalem. If you want to go out and have options of things to do on Shabbat you might live in the center of Tel Aviv. If you love nature and want to live in a city that has a very diverse makeup you would love Haifa. If you need somewhere budget friendly with lots of young adults and a university, try Be’er Sheva. Looking for somewhere small to settle down and do Ulpan (Hebrew immersion)? A Kibbutz Ulpan may be right for you.
- Have a plan but be open to change!
So, you thought you were going to work for a few months and then do Ulpan but now you’re realizing you can’t find a job you really like? So, do ulpan now and come back to the job hunt in a few months! You wanted to start your masters off the bat but you’re stressed and that feels overwhelming? Push it off a semester or even a year. The government gives you a living stipend for the first six months which offers you the ability to be a bit more flexible, take advantage of that.
- Call your grandparents.
While calling your parents is important, I would argue calling your grandparents is even more important. They are probably less likely to call you but miss you more than you know. My move was the hardest for them and I know that they wish they got to see me much more than they do. Thus, (and because my grandpa is my best friend) I talk to my grandparents at least twice a week. For me, I go to the gym most nights around 6pm which is 11 am for my family and the perfect time to call. I created a routine where I circle through who I call between my parents, grandparents, and some close friends.
- Realize it is okay to feel alone.
At certain points during your aliyah process you will likely get sad and homesick, the most important thing is to remember that we’ve all been there. It is an inevitable part of moving to a new place. For me, it helped to remind myself that even if I was in America, all of my college friends have spread out around the world and I would have had to start over in New York. Either way I would have needed to make new friends, in a new city, and I would probably be feeling just as alone if I had stayed in the U.S.
- Remember you are an immigrant.
It is okay to feel different or feel that your Hebrew is subpar. It is normal to get or feel lost. It is totally sababa to not know how to use public transportation. These things will come in time and you will get a handle on them. It just takes a little hard work and chutzpah. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Be real about the tradeoffs.
There are no Trader Joes or Targets in Israel. Your apartment will not be completely renovated with a pool and gym. But, you will have a beautiful connection with your local vegetable man who asks you how your studies are going and tells you about his children. You will probably have a grumpy neighbor next door that will yell at you for having your music too loud and then bring you a lovely basket of fresh baked goods on Rosh Hashanah. You won’t have to ask your boss for the charm off, because that is just part of life here. If you’re crying on a bus someone will stop to ask you if you are okay, because that is just what family does, and Israel is a family. You will make compromises left and right and your life will be all the better for it.
- Know that if you move back, you are not a failure.
I think there is unfortunately a huge pressure to stay once you make Aliyah and a negative stigma towards making “yerida.” Personally, I feel that is total shit. Whether you make Aliyah and stay for a year or call Israel home for the rest of your life, it was a brave thing you did. To leave you family and everything you know to create a new life in a strange country takes chutzpah. If after some time you decide that what you need is to go back, you have to do what is right for you. Anyone that says anything mean to you about putting your needs first can come talk to me- I’ll set them straight.
Making aliyah is a beautiful scary thing as anyone who immigrates will tell you. You’ll feel a wave of emotion in the first years before finally settling down and starting to feel that you are truly at home in Israel. It will be hard. It will be fun. It will be really freaking meaningful. I wrote up my whole Aliyah story, it is here if you’re interested in learning more!
I also made a list of things you must order from Amazon before making aliyah!
And if you’re going through a rough patch or if you just need a listening ear, my DM’s are always open for you- slide on into them: @theisraelbites.