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From the US to Israel: Making Aliyah in 2024 (A Complete Guide)

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Aliyah is much more than just a physical relocation. It’s a spiritual and emotional return to the ancestral homeland. Through Aliyah, Jews from all over the world contribute to the blossoming Israeli society, enriching its diverse culture and traditions.

However, few countries have given as many new citizens to Israel as the U.S.

In the past decade, over 30,000 U.S. citizens found a new home in Israel. Now, you might think that wartime has severely affected these numbers. But the truth is that these challenging conditions have caused a spike in immigration, as many Jews see Israel as the only truly safe place for them to be.

If you’re one of the U.S. citizens considering (or planning) Aliyah in 2024, this guide will help make the process as smooth as possible. It contains all the information specific to the Jewish population across the U.S., allowing you to embark on this life-changing journey with confidence. 

Understanding Aliyah

Understanding Aliyah

Before diving into the specifics of making Aliyah from the U.S., let’s cover all the bases. This means starting by defining Aliyah and everything it entails.

Aliyah, a Hebrew word meaning “ascent” or “going up,” holds a profound significance in Jewish culture and history. It refers to the act of Jews returning to the Land of Israel, fulfilling a spiritual and national calling. Legally speaking, Aliyah refers to the process of moving to the state of Israel and obtaining Israeli citizenship and residency as a result.

Of course, this move is only possible for some people. But more on that in the next section. For now, let’s list some of the most important benefits Olim Chadashim or “New Immigrants” might receive by making Aliyah from the U.S.:

  • A financial grant provided by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration to help you adjust to your life in Israel (Sal Klita)
  • Free health insurance for up to six months
  • Reduced municipal property taxes (Arnona)
  • Free or discounted Hebrew Ulpan course
  • Subsidized university tuitions 

Eligibility and Preliminary Steps

Eligibility and Preliminary States

As mentioned, not everyone can make Aliyah from the U.S. This process is established by the Israeli Law of Return, which states that all Jews are Israeli citizens, no matter where they’re born. This law defines a Jew as a person born to a Jewish mother or someone who has converted to Judaism (and isn’t a member of another religion). 

However, Jews defined this way aren’t the only ones who can make Aliyah from the U.S. So can the following groups of people:

  • Non-Jewish family members of a Jew (spouse, children, and grandchildren)
  • Non-Jews with Jewish ancestry (under certain circumstances)

If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible for Aliyah, the best course of action is to contact Nefesh B’Nefesh. Nefesh B’Nefesh is a non-profit organization that facilitates Aliyah from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. As such, it will be able to give you all the necessary information about this process. 

Regional Considerations for Aliyah

Regional Considerations For Aliyah

Nefesh B’Nefesh offers a wealth of knowledge and numerous events that you can access online, no matter where in the U.S. you live. However, there are also some region-specific resources that can help you on your Aliyah journey.

New York and the Tri-State Area

New York and Tri-State Area

New York houses an official government location for The Jewish Agency for Israel, where you can meet an agency’s representative (called Shaliach) and get all the necessary information for the Aliyah process.

The office is located at 633 Third Ave, New York, NY 10017, and you can reach it via phone at 212-339-6000 or email at [email protected].

In addition, you can attend NBN on Tour, an open house-style event where you can find out all the ins and outs of the Aliyah process. The last of these events was in January 2024 in Teaneck, New Jersey, but keep checking the schedule to see when the next one is coming up.

California

California

In California, you can find The Jewish Agency in Los Angeles at 6505 Wilshire Blvd. The contact number for the office is 323-658-7302, and the email is [email protected]

This office is responsible for the following states besides California:

  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Hawaii
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Alaska
  • Wyoming
  • Montana

Florida

Florida

With a Jewish population of over 670,000, Florida ranks among the top U.S. states. So, it’s no wonder it’s included in one of only four states that have a local branch of The Jewish Agency. You can find this organization in Davie at the following address:

Jewish Federation of Broward County

C/O Jewish Agency for Israel

5890 S Pine Island Rd, Davie, FL 33328

The contact number is 305-438-4203, and the email is [email protected].

Florida also hosts an impressive number of Jewish organizations that can help you network within the community and potentially find valuable help for your Aliyah process. 

Midwest

Midwest

As the largest city in the Midwest, Chicago also houses a branch of The Jewish Agency. All the necessary information for this location is as follows:

10 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 875, Chicago, IL, 60606

312-474-5767

[email protected]

This office is also responsible for all the remaining Midwestern states besides Illinois. 

The city of Chicago generally has pretty strong ties to The Jewish Agency. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the city houses a large number of agencies that can help you with all things Aliyah, such as the American Zionist Movement.

Southern States

Southern States

Jews have been a part of the Southern U.S. since the earliest days of its settlement. Today, states like Georgia and Texas boast a thriving Jewish community and a variety of cultural and religious institutions. Unfortunately, The Jewish Agency has no office in any of these states. However, residents of the U.S. South can easily seek assistance in the existing four chapters based on which is responsible for their state. 

Other Areas

Even if you live in an area with a smaller Jewish population, you can reach out to national organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh for information and support. That’s not to mention all the valuable resources you can find online, which this guide outlines.

Planning Your Move

Planning your move

Planning your move to Israel involves several important steps to ensure a smooth transition. The No. 1 thing to keep in mind is that this process takes time. So, consider planning your move at least six months before the desired Aliyah date to have enough time to make all the necessary arrangements. Ideally, make it eight to 10 months.

Here’s a general checklist to guide your planning process.

  1. Research, research, research. Learning about all the ins and outs of the Aliyah process (as well as life in Israel) will help you make informed decisions later on. Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Aliyahpedia can do wonders for this step, as it features virtually everything you need to know about the process, including valuable information for specific groups, such as retirees.
  2. Connect with U.S. citizens. Getting in touch with people from the U.S. who’ve experienced Aliyah can be a lifesaver. The best way to go about it is through Facebook and expat websites.
  3. Consider a pilot trip. If you have enough time, a pilot trip can help you iron out all the details of your life in Israel. This includes seeing the community, housing, employment, and schooling options firsthand.
  4. Make a practical plan. All the groundwork has been laid. Now, it’s time to jump into action. 

Legal and Financial Considerations

Legal and Financial Constraints

This is where the Aliyah process officially begins. This step-by-step guide will give you an overview of all the legal and financial considerations you must keep in mind pre- and post-making Aliyah.

Step 1 – Apply for Aliyah 

The Jewish Agency oversees the immigration (and integration) of Jews into Israel. However, since you’re from the U.S., Nefesh B’Nefesh will be your main point of contact for Aliyah. You can use the organization’s handy portal to apply for Aliyah in a few relatively simple steps. Shortly after, you’ll be assigned an Aliyah advisor.

Step 2 – Gather the Necessary Documentation

Your Aliyah advisor will guide you through all the necessary documentation required for the process. Heads up – it’s quite a lot. However, as long as you start on time and follow the instructions carefully, you should have no issues completing this step. You can find the complete overview of the necessary documentation for U.S. citizens making Aliyah on Nefesh B’Nefesh’s website.

Step 3 – Do an Interview With The Jewish Agency

Once your application is complete, it will be reviewed by The Jewish Agency. In some cases, you will be invited for an interview with a Shaliach to present original copies of your documents and discuss your general plans for moving to Israel. This interview will take place at one of the four official government locations in the U.S.

Step 4 – Wait for the Approval

At this point, all you can do is wait. Hopefully, you’ll soon receive the so-called “Mazal Tov” letter via email notifying you that your application has been successful. The email in question will also contain your next legal steps.

Step 5 – Obtain Your Aliyah Visa

If this is your first time living in Israel and you don’t have an Israeli passport, you’ll need an Aliyah visa. The exact steps for obtaining this visa will be outlined in your “Mazal Tov” email. Keep in mind that this process can last for over 18 business days, so don’t postpone it.

Step 6 – Arrange Your Aliyah Flight

As a U.S. citizen working with Nefesh B’Nefesh, you’ll receive a free one-way ticket to Israel on the so-called Aliyah flight. These flights leave from five U.S. airports:

  • Boston Logan International Airport
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport
  • Newark Liberty International Airport
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York

The frequency of flights depends on the airport itself, but there should generally be at least one flight per month per airport. See the available flight options before submitting a request to the Nefesh B’Nefesh Flights Department.

Step 7 – Register as a Citizen at the Airport

As soon as you land in Israel, you’ll be taken to the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration airport offices to register as a citizen. Here, you’ll receive the following:

  • Teudat Oleh (Immigration Card)
  • Teudat Zehut (Temporary ID Card) 
  • The first installment of the Sal Klitah (in cash)
  • Confirmation of registration with your chosen Kupat Cholim (health fund) 
  • A form for opening a bank account

Step 8 – Visit the Ministry of Interior

Though your Aliyah process is technically done, some legal requirements still need your attention. This includes scheduling a meeting with the Ministry of Interior to receive your biometric ID card (the temporary one is only valid for three months) and Israeli passport (90 days after making Aliyah).

Step 9 – Take Care of Taxes

As an Olim, you’re entitled to a reduced municipal tax (up to 90%). However, to get this benefit, you must apply for it at your local municipality. Other taxes you should keep in mind as a U.S. citizen are as follows:

  • Capital gains tax: If you sell U.S. corporate stock, you’ll have to pay the first right of tax to Israel on the capital gain.
  • Purchase tax: As an Oleh, you’re entitled to a lower purchase tax bracket when buying a property.
  • Income tax: You might be eligible for a benefit reducing your income tax base.

Cultural and Social Integration

Cultural and Social Intergration

Integrating into a new society is no easy task. It only gets more challenging when the society in question is the Israeli one due to its unique cultural, social, and political norms. Here are some tips to make this process easier.

Learn Hebrew

Sure, Israel has a relatively high number of English speakers in the country. However, you can’t expect to truly integrate into Israeli society without learning Hebrew.

Get Familiar With the Israeli Culture

Being respectful of the Israeli culture and traditions will help you build more meaningful relationships in the country. For instance, being mindful of restrictions and customs during Sabbath will be much appreciated, especially in more religious neighborhoods. 

Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions

Israeli people appreciate curiosity about their culture. So, if there’s anything you’d like to know, feel free to ask. Depending on who you’re talking to, these questions can pertain to something as simple as haggling in Israel or as complex as understanding the intricacies of Israeli politics.

Don’t Be a Stranger

To successfully assimilate in Israel, immerse yourself in the local community. Get to know your neighbors, participate in local events, and celebrate Israeli holidays. Of course, don’t forget to regularly keep in touch with your loved ones back home to maintain your old support system before building an additional one.

Seek Regional Assistance

Israel has a long list of organizations supporting Olim Chadashim. By getting in touch with those specializing in supporting U.S. citizens, you can tap into a wealth of resources tailored to your needs.

Employment and Career Development

Employment and Career Development

Generally speaking, the job market in Israel is equal parts challenging and inviting for expats. Developing a solid command of Hebrew is arguably the most important factor in increasing your marketability in the Israeli job market. In addition, you should try to establish a network of professional contacts (for instance, through LinkedIn or Nefesh B’Nefesh) and acquire relevant knowledge and experience for the desired job.

As for finding the job itself, Nefesh B’Nefesh can help you in this department as well. The organization maintains a handy Israel Job Board on its website containing numerous job postings broken down by regions and categories. 

If your U.S. job was in any of the highly sought-after sectors, such as technology, you should have no trouble finding a job in Israel. As an added bonus, this sector is significantly more flexible language-wise, often relying entirely on English. Other sectors that might be particularly inviting to Olim from the U.S. include academia, marketing, healthcare, and NGO (non-governmental organizations).

Healthcare and Education

Healthcare and education

As an Oleh, you might be entitled to free health insurance for up to six months as long as you don’t work (or receive any income from) abroad. The Israeli health funds are known as Kupat Cholim, and you can register for them at the airport.

There are four state-mandated health funds to choose from:

  • Maccabi
  • Meuhedet
  • Clalit
  • Leumit

Each of them offers several levels of services, with the basic level covering some essential services, medications, and hospitalizations. 

As far as education goes, finding the right framework for you (or your family members) is crucial. This applies to all levels of education – kindergarten, high school, and university. 

If you’re a parent, choose child and teen education options based on your educational philosophy and religious outlook. Since, in the U.S., your district generally dictates your options, this will undoubtedly be a new experience. So, make sure to research your options well. Of course, you can always consider international schools, which are mostly found in bigger cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Notable examples include:

  • The International Baccalaureate (IB)
  • The Walworth Barbour American International School
  • The Jerusalem American International School

Generally speaking, Israel is extremely welcoming to expat families in the education department. That’s why many schools offer programs to help non-Hebrew-speaking children integrate into the Israeli education system. 

As for higher education, there are a few key differences between the U.S. and Israel to keep in mind. In Israel:

  • You choose a specific field of study from the get-go.
  • The start of the school year changes every year.
  • Electives are often included in the tuition cost.
  • Many academic issues (such as transferring credits and exam deadlines) are negotiable.

Final Preparations and Making the Move

Now that you’ve taken care of all the major life aspects, the only thing that’s left is to make your new home as comfortable as possible. Here’s a handy checklist to help you with this task:

  • Arrange your telecommunication needs with an English-speaking provider like TCS Telecom to avoid any miscommunication in this crucial process.
  • Preserve your appliances by learning about the power supply differences between the U.S. and Israel.
  • Choose furniture and appliances in Israeli stores carefully, as they generally don’t have refund policies. 
  • Be assertive when communicating with service providers to ensure you get the best deals and services.

As for the move itself, there are a few crucial tips to keep in mind before heading to the airport for your Aliyah flight.

  • Make sure to check your baggage allowance for your specific airport.
  • Double-check all the necessary Aliyah documentation.
  • Keep your Aliyah documentation in your hand luggage to make it easily accessible at the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration airport offices.

And, of course, arrive early to allow plenty of time for check-in and security procedures and potentially meet other passengers on your Aliyah flight.

Starting a New Life

Starting a new life

What’s incredible about making Aliyah is that people from all over the U.S. can come together to start a new life in Israel. Your age, profession, and background don’t matter. All that matters is your willingness to return to the Holy Land and embrace a new beginning.

Since every new beginning is hard, you’ll greatly benefit from working with some of the organizations whose goal is to make the Aliyah process easier. You can always seek help from English-speaking project managers in your Israeli municipality to make every step of your Aliyah journey a success. 

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