Different Approaches To Aliyah
For anyone considering aliyah, there is a wealth of resource out there. Tachlis, a website run by Eli Birbaum at the WZO, is definitely one of the best. It's an English language message board whose members are both vatikim (veterans) and olim (new immigrants) as well as potential olim who pose the usual questions--should I bring my American washer/drier or buy them in Israel; will my record player work there; how much is the cost of living; does national health insurance cover my medication; etc. The wonder of this message board is that it has many vatikim who are more than willing to answer the same questions over and over and over again from each new wave of immigrants.....the vatikim are willing to help, because they remember their own experiences. You also get a slew of one-time only questions that remind you this is a community message board, albeit the community is the entire country: anyone driving to Hadassah Hospital this morning because I need a ride; anyone want to buy tickets to the Moshav Band concert?
There are also the AACI and NBN sites; the WZO and State of Israel web pages. Most ministries have their own web pages and were very helpful to us long-distance (yes, you can bring your two cats and your dog and we'll fax you the forms for your vet to fill out; NO, you CANNOT bring your guns). Tehilla will show you job opps and places to live if you want a religious community. There's Flathunting if you want a place to live; Lagur if you want a place to live with pictures and links to realtors and other real estate web pages; Janglo if you're looking for second-hand goods, services or have something to sell....
My point is, there is a lot of information on the web and most of it is accessible by email and/or telephone.
We got turned down for aliyah 15 years ago. "Turned down" is something of an overstatement but that's how it felt....our shliach told us he couldn't stop us, but recommended we wait until we (1) finished the Boy's operations and (2) retired inasmuch as Bituach Leumi didn't cover pre-existing conditions at that time (no longer true) and the Husband was too old to go into his field in Israel and I didn't speak Hebrew. Our shliach, a pleasant religious fellow who was clearly pained to tell us the bad news, said, "Look, right now you're a recipe for failure--custody issues, job issues, medical issues--give it a few years. Israel will still be there."
He was right.
We used the intervening years to "lurk" on Tachlis and post the ocassional question; we researched every community (except Jerusalem, of course, so naturally we ended up here); we looked into comparative costs of buying Israeli versus importing American......we spent a LOT of time trying to get ready to make a successful aliyah. After all, we had the time, so we figured we ought to devote it to getting updated information and doing it right.
Even with this prep, we made mistakes. It's inevitable. We've been fortunate to have friends like Deena Edelman and Shari Kleinerman from Lamdeni to help us with our special ed search and placement; with Yonaton in tutoring the Boy; with Tilda and Yossi to help us navigate Israeli society.
But the mistakes weren't fatal....because we came prepared, and because we are fortunate in our friends, we've made it through an entire year without messing up too badly.
This is one way to make aliyah. While I don't recommend waiting 15 years, I do think the general principle behind our wait is a good one: COME PREPARED.
We know someone who just arrived in Israel. I ache for this person, who does NOT speak Hebrew, who has never even visited Israel before, who is full of passion for an imaginary place where we all love each other and study Torah all day and the very rocks are imbued with holy energy; who does not have a job waiting and who may not get licensed to work in the field of choice; who HAS NO MONEY except a bit of savings and a small stipend. The decision to make aliyah was made THIS year and the very unrealistic expectations and the lack of any support system (financial, emotional, etc.) makes me wonder HOW this person is going to survive the next six months.
How did the person in question get past the Sochnut? He didn't. He by passed the whole Agency issue and came in on a tourist visa and plans to make "internal aliyah," a procedure usually reserved for students, researchers, teachers or other professionals who have been working/studying here and have decided to stay.
Yossi drove me to the airport to pick up the new arrival, and we took him to the apartment we found for him. On the drive back to Jerusalem, we pondered aloud about the many improbabilities of this being a successful aliyah...and then Yossi pointed out that nonetheless, helping him in the limited way we did is still a mitzvah.
"Maybe that's why we're on the road tonight, in the middle of nowhere," I muttered. "We maybe have a small part to play in HaShem's game plan for this guy. A very small part, but..."
Then it hit me. His will be a successful aliyah because he knows he is supposed to be in Israel, working and studying Torah. End of discussion. Washer/driers, communities, schools, the models of cars, the brands of coffee -- it's all nonsense. Knowing this, he put his trust in G-d and got on the plane.
I'm not so worried about him anymore. After all, his faith is greater than mine.
*Art by Judy Racz who has other wonderful renditions of the aleph-bet online with commentary.