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Making Friends When Making Aliyah

Aliyah, like many changes in life, is a chance to reinvent oneself, and tap into new experiences. However, the thought of making new friends can come with a variety of emotions. Some are outgoing and make connections easily, the type often called a chevremon in Hebrew. Others prefer quiet times with a few people, and develop friendships over time. Whichever description or combination of the two fits your personality, getting to know others is an important part of any move. The following are some ideas to expand social circles in a new place and make it more like home.

Develop Your Interests

Shared interests are one of the best ways to build strong and enduring friendships. You may be interested in writing, running, baking, or crafts, no matter the topic, it’s a great way to find a group of like-minded people. By engaging in something you enjoy you’ll be more relaxed with less pressure to make conversation. But if you decide to reach out, you’ll have what to talk about. If you have some Hebrew, joining an Israeli group is a great way to work on your language skills while connecting with others in the community.

Connecting through Technology

If you haven’t found the right group to join, or in the case of a pandemic, there are lots of options online to connect to others on any topic that comes to mind. WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, or Instagram, take your pick and find a local group catering to that interest. Reaching out to others in the group could form connections that lead to real-life friends and acquaintances. Local groups will also help get answers to questions you have like what stores stock the things you need, or how to get around to local resources or events. When it’s time to pick a service provider to keep you connected, be sure to check out TCS Telecom, the one-stop shop for all of your phone and internet needs.

Build on Who You know

It will come as no surprise to hear Israelis like making friends and meeting people. Before newcomers even arrive, getting in touch with friends and relatives for advice and suggestions on who to contact in Israel is a great way to develop a network. This works just as well for work, school, or neighborhood contacts. Have a friend from camp who moved to Israel? Even if you haven’t spoken in decades it’s always a good time to reach out as a new oleh. Whether you connect to Israelis or other olim, everyone is happy to help, and you never know when an old or new acquaintance can become a close friend.

Connecting to Others on Your Own

Many make aliyah on their own. This can be one of the most challenging ways to build a new life, but there are many opportunities that come with the decision to take this brave step. Joining a communal living environment can be a great way to network and meet others in a similar situation. There are ulpans that offer housing, dorms at university, or roommates when it’s time to get a place of your own. And of course, there is the freedom to choose your own schedule, and the flexibility to build on connections and friendships as they develop. A great resource for many is the organization Keep Olim, with programs to support olim in a variety of areas and issues. Especially helpful for singles is the program, No Oleh Alone For The Holidays, where participants are connected with families for holiday meals. Enjoy the holidays, make new connections, and maybe you’ll find a friend or two along the way.

Making Mommy (or Daddy) Friends

Coming to Israel with a family in tow has its own share of challenges and opportunities. Especially with younger children, there are often chances to meet others at the park, or at “Mommy and me” groups. In this setting and many others, consistency can help with making connections. After just a short while of showing up at the same place and time daily or weekly, faces become more familiar and conversation develops. For some, it might be at pick up and drop off at school or an after-school activity, known as a chug in Hebrew. Playdates are another great way to make a new friend and have some conversation while the kids are busy.

Helping Kids Make Friends

Depending on your child, they may help you make friends, or maybe you are the one helping them, but if it is the latter, developing your parent network will be a helpful tool. Find parents with other children in schools where your child goes, or in the same grades as your children, and plan some playdates. Even if they aren’t best buddies, having a familiar face on the playground or the first day of school can help start the ball rolling for other opportunities. Going forward these connections can give you the scoop on popular chuggim, the best camps, and other activities to help your child join in on the fun and make friends.

Connections for Older Olim

We’ve looked at a few different stages of making friends and each comes with its own set of benefits and obstacles to overcome. This is just as true for those who have the opportunity to make aliyah later in life. While there may not be kids in school or on the playground, there is the flexibility to follow your passions and find friends that you can relate to on a deeper level. Be sure to connect to the many groups on Facebook for older olim, check out travel opportunities for like-minded friends, and most importantly find out where to go in your own community to meet others. Synagogues, community centers, and other organizations have lots of programs, many of which have moved to online formats to keep up social ties now and in the future.

Take Baby Steps When Going Out of Your Comfort Zone

While these have been some examples of ways to connect, it can be hard to think of putting yourself out there in a new place. You may be working on the language, finding work, settling kids in school, or any number of tasks that take your energy away from socializing and finding new friends. But similar to other tips in our recent post, How to Succeed as an Anglo in Israel, it’s important to do it all at your speed, and with frequent breaks. Try limiting challenges to one or two times a week and take time off when needed. Making aliyah is a process, and just like everything else, building social networks has its own time frame that often can’t be rushed.

Just two more tips when making friends. One is to keep expectations light when you’re out and about. If friendships develop that’s great, but even if you or your child just have a nice afternoon, you never know where it can take you.  And finally, even in Israel, where everyone feels like family, new friends don’t know you’re there unless you tell them. Head out today and be open to the possibilities. How are you making friends in your new home? What are some tips you have for new olim to make connections?

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