While catching up on e-mail and blog posts this week I noticed a couple interesting discussions on an Aliyah-themed LinkedIn group and felt compelled to respond to two of them…
The first question posed was:
Why do so many Jews remain in America instead of making Aliyah to Israel?
Is it the perception that life is better in America?
Is the threat of the Palestinian radicals or perhaps the crazy Iranian president that conjures up fears?
The responses included:
- Change: an aversion to potential cultural differences
- Hebrew: fear of needing to become conversant in a new language
- Laziness/lack of resolve: the amount of paperwork required might be overwhelming
- Economics: fear of not being able to make enough money to support themselves in the manner to which they have become accustomed
Not enough Americans are aware of the type of life they could have in Israel. Many people have the misperception that Israel is a “war zone” (my family was worried about that when we came on our pilot trip 2 years ago).
Israel is what we make it. Fears of cultural differences are unwarranted – there are neighborhoods and cities in Israel that are so full of Americans (even with stores selling American products for those who can’t live without things like Oreos or Unger’s Gefilte Fish) that native born Israelis tease that the communities are American/Anglo – not Israeli (e.g., Ra’anana, parts of Beit Shemesh, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Efrat, Ma’ale Adumim, and many more) .
Something to ponder… if entire shuls, schools and/or neighborhoods in the US organized themselves and moved to Israel together to the same community in Israel (where they could even name and number the streets the same as in their old cities), their entire culture, school and business life wouldn’t change very much – and certainly not for the worse.
I can get by in Ra’anana (and many other places) without having to speak a word of Hebrew. I fumble through it to communicate with some people at the elementary school but even my son’s teacher and vice principal are fluent in English. However, I feel compelled to ask… what language did your ancestors speak when they arrived in America (unless they native Americans rendering this question irrelevant)? Did they learn English? Do you find yourself even slightly annoyed when you get stuck in a phone system where Spanish is being offered – or over the expense the American government incurs to accommodate the needs of people whose native tongue is Spanish?
New olim receive FREE Hebrew lessons during their first 18 months in the country and there are a variety of programs to choose from to meet your schedule and professional specialty. I just checked and if you don’t take ulpan within that time frame you have to pay a whopping 65 shekels ($17.50) per month for as many months as you want/need up until your 10th Aliyah anniversary date. Try finding a program (especially one with a native Israeli accented teacher) comparable to that in the US! And this doesn’t include the free lessons we receive from cashiers, bus drivers, shop, bank, and postal clerks 😀 Israelis are very helpful in teaching us newbies their native tongue.
With respect to the bureaucracy and paperwork, we have been blessed with Nefesh B’Nefesh in our time. Having been through the process on both sides of the ocean, I can honestly say that NBN made what could have been an overwhelming process tolerable. If you stop to think about the tons of paperwork from government forms to healthcare forms, to school/college forms, test forms, business forms, etc. a day or two spent on the Aliyah application and attachments is a piece of cake! Refusing to consider making Aliyah because you don’t want to be bothered with the paperwork is just an excuse for something else you’re not admitting to – in my opinion.
People often comment “how brave” we are for making Aliyah, I think it takes a lot more courage to remain in America in light of the current political and social climate. Considering the facts on the ground made me more than a bit anxious to leave that “old country” behind.
To sum up my answer to the original question: some people are just afraid of change – at any level (moving from one street to another, changing jobs, the first day of work or school, etc.) and I believe that God is giving America lots of unpleasant change to encourage Jews to come home. He has proven to us (personally) that if we will take that step of faith, He will provide for our needs.
Israel is not a third world country, there are plenty of social, cultural, educational and business opportunities here – watch Israel: Defying All Odds over at AISH.com.
The second question that caught my attention was:
What kinds of jobs are available for Olim these days?
With the unemployment rate at 10 to 20% in America, is this a good time to make Aliyah and secure a good job in Israel?
Market in Israel is mixed for new immigrants.
If you are coming you should realize that there are a number of things that are different in the compensation package in Israel:
- Salary is done by the month not annual
- Taxes are taken out for you and in most cases you will not need to deal with Income Tax office at all
- Job salaries are usually lower than in the USA, I came over in the Internet boom and left a $100k (annual) job in NY and ended up taking an 18k NIS (monthly) with car that was worth about $65k (annual) and this was normal
- First jobs in the market will probably be a bit under your real worth (see # 3 above)
- In high tech several items are normal as part of the package that are not in the USA – a cell phone with 300 – 350 NIS/month of usage paid by the company, if you make over 15k (or 18k at some companies) you get a company lease car (includes insurance, gas, maintenance, etc.), holiday gifts for Passover and Rosh Hashana, etc.
If you do come make sure you have someone who can help with the legal Hebrew, as your employment contract and government documents are usually in Hebrew even if you get a translation from the job it is good to double check.
From my own experience and many Olim I have spoken to – a common occurrence is that Olim are inexperienced at negotiating and are also on average too modest to ‘blow their own horn’ at interviews – so they end up settling on lower salary packages.
Rule One – Everything is negotiable.
Rule Two – As an Anglo Ole in Israel – there is very little chance you could act rude enough to offend anyone. Be pushy and demanding.
Rule Three – Demand 150% of what you really want and settle on 100%. The quicker Olim learn that, the better! It can take years to regain what you lose in a 20 minute interview – go prepared and ‘ready to rumble’ 🙂
To add on to Eric and Grant’s excellent points, yes, Israeli salaries are most likely lower than American, however:
- The tax structure is much different than in the US and when I completed my US 1040 this year (you have to report foreign earned income) for the fun of it I checked the tables to see what we would have paid on our income in America vs. what we paid to the State of Israel – we paid about 7% less than we would have paid in the US. Note that new olim receive tax rate reductions for several years (ours was 3.25% for 2009)
- My husband works in IT for an Israeli employer and earns 70% (including car and other benefits) of what he earned in 2007 in the US. However, when we left the US he had been unemployed for a month – and during the previous 60 months (2001-2006) he had been unemployed for a total of 27 months.
There is little job security in the US – especially for the 50+ white male population, and especially in the current economy. He was hired in Israel because the company respected his years of experience – and not because they needed to fill a position. They actually didn’t have an open position at the time, but were thinking about gearing up for future work 6 months down the road. They hired him because they believe in helping new olim. How did he even manage to get an interview? Because someone at NBN knew someone who knew someone who might know of something… People in Israel sincerely care about helping new olim achieve success.
- Olim are not limited to earning income from Israeli employers. Many of us freelance or telecommute working for companies all over the world. Making Aliyah is a perfect time to follow your dream (if you have one) and re-make your career into something more satisfying.
- Cost of living is much less expensive than in the US if you have children in Hebrew Day school, for example in:
2007 my son’s 1st grade tuition at a Cleveland, OH day school was $10,576;
2009 – our first full year in Israel – our total education expense (tuition, books, uniforms, field trips, etc.) was $1,151 for a comparable program.
- Health care is much less expensive here:
Our 2007 US health care costs totaled $10,123
2009 Israeli health care costs were $1674 (based on the 2009 avg. exchange rate).
Note: There were no significant changes in our health needs between those two years and the quality of health care we receive here is superior.
IF you decide to work for an Israeli employer, I am happy to recommend Tzvi Szajnbrum, attorney at the Voleh Organization (http://voleh.org) for your legal translation needs. Tzvi volunteers many hours per month assisting new olim from all over the world (English is one of his many tongues). He also offers olim reduced rates on real estate contracts (rentals and purchases), among his many services.
I’m looking forward to reading your Aliyah success story in the near future!