Top 5 Headaches When Making Aliyah to Israel
Making aliyah may be the culmination of a lifelong dream or one that has developed over time, but when it’s time to make the move, there are always surprises, challenges, and yes, even a few headaches thrown into the mix, just to keep things interesting. Making aliyah comes with not only a new address, but usually a new language, culture, and more. Let’s see if we can try to preempt some of the headaches involved, and cut down on the aspirin you’ll need to bring along for the ride.
- Making a “Soft Landing”
One of the first headaches many deal with when making aliyah is deciding where to live, or at least where to land. City, or yishuv, north or south, an anglo community or one more diverse, and many, many other factors make up the decision of where to settle down. Areas that have the right jobs, schools, and communities, especially if there are services for new olim, can help make for a “soft landing” and easier adjustment in your new home. Of course, there are as many options as there are locations, so research is the first step in making a good decision. The Nefesh B’Nefesh community guide and the Anglo-List can help layout ideas for various cities around Israel, their make up, and resources in terms of anglo olim. Both have accompanying Facebook groups, which are just two among many, to research and discuss the options with present and future olim. These may not bring you to the final answer, but as a starting point, they can help narrow down choices to ones that fit you or your family’s needs.
- Connecting to the Right Resources
Once you’re settled on where to start your journey it’s time to put some logistics in place and find the local resources you’ll need to tackle the challenges ahead. Is there an aliyah liaison in your community? Are there local Community groups on FB or WhatsApp to network with new neighbors, local residents, and community organizations? When you need help finding where to shop for groceries, what doctor to use, or anything else from plumbers to car rentals, it’s important to know where to get information and references. While you’re tracking down these resources, don’t forget about getting connected on the ground. Setting up mobile phone lines, internet, landlines, and other communication infrastructure are a key element to getting connected to those around you and finding the resources you need once you arrive. When it comes to setting up everything from landlines to cell phones, Telecom is the one-stop shop for all communication needs and best of all, they not only speak your language, they know where you’re coming from. TCS can advise you on the best combination of plans and services and answer every question with native English speaking representatives and an American sense of customer service. At least in this area, so vital to every aspect of everyday life, a “soft landing” is almost assured.
- Branching out into Bureaucracy
With some logistics in place, and your feet finally on the ground in your new home, it is time to leap into the local bureaucratic process of making aliyah. Visits to the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, registering for health services, and other official business to set things in motion are important steps, but must be approached with the right mindset, and it’s not necessarily one new olim are used to. It’s good to limit goals in these first official experiences, perhaps to one or two office visits per week, if possible. The first visits to any office should often be viewed as more of a fact-finding mission, rather than a step to check off the list right away. Those first meetings, no matter how prepared one attempts to be, are often accompanied by some change of information or procedure, requiring more information, documentation, or a return trip at a later date. While this is true during the average aliyah experience, be prepared for even more changes now with the effects of COVID-19 on every office, both in Israel and abroad. As detailed in an article in the Israeli daily, Israel HaYom, delays in processing are being met with creative ways to accomplish aliyah goals. As everyone works to find the right solutions, enter into meetings with an open mind regarding how you can prepare to accomplish the task on your next try, and then go out and treat yourself for completing another step along the winding path that leads to aliyah.
- Work Connections
For those where finding work is part of the process, there are a number of supports to help meet the challenges in this area as well. To start with, making sure a resume is suited to the local market, whether continuing in the same work as before or changing fields, is something that should be planned in advance of the search. If one needs to convert licenses or certifications, these should also be researched in advance and appropriate documents obtained before arrival. Once the search is on, the usual suspects such as Nefesh B'Nefesh, various Facebook groups, and your local network will help get the word out and make connections with potential employers. Since under current conditions working remotely has become necessary for many positions, the creation of the home office, or at least the technological infrastructure for one, has become a necessity, whether continuing your work from abroad or starting new locally. Even if it’s going to be a desk or chair in the corner of the living room or kitchen, the appropriate technology will help things run smoothly in those first days of settling into your new surroundings. As mentioned earlier, TCS can help evaluate your needs and plan for success. Current situations, and perhaps even future standards, require the appropriate infrastructure for not just dependable internet and phone, but the likelihood for several users at one time in one home. These options should be explored and plans put in place for current conditions and future possibilities. Planning ahead helps to avoid headaches when situations change, something we have begun to expect on a weekly and even daily basis.
- Keeping up with Friends and Family
Finally, one last consideration for most olim is keeping up with family, friends, or work contacts in the old country. These supports can be crucial in those first days and weeks when olim sometimes want to remember simpler times when everyone spoke the same language. These areas will also require some adjustments, like almost everything else. Time zones can be tricky, especially closer to the west coast of North America. Email and other messaging can be key to keeping connected unless contacts are free at various times of the day. And when you want to be able to just pick up the phone and call abroad, having an international phone line will make it feel like a local call again even when you're reaching out to someone around the world. Once again TCS can help address this issue, whether for work, or personal use, or both, and make sure you’re set up to keep up with those that are important to you.
These have been just a few of the challenges and considerations that are helpful to take into account ahead of making aliyah in today’s world. Connections are a key element whether planning ahead or moving forward once on the ground locally and will make the difference in the first days, weeks, and months in your new home. Reach out to local resources before arrival, and remember to return to old supports when the landscape is new. Keeping up with old networks and building new ones that will be there for the long haul are important factors for success, even once those first days as a new oleh are a distant memory.