Location, Location, Location!

Location could be the key to a successful Aliyah for some people.

I’m a Writer by profession and Researcher by nature so I may have gone a bit overboard during our pre-Aliyah investigations, but I believe all that work paid off in helping us pin down the perfect place for our family to settle in Israel.

How does one go about researching communities in Israel while living in another country (especially if you don’t have family or friends living there)? I’m sure there are multiple options in answer to that question, but for now I’ll share with you my method – draw as much information from the Internet as possible and NETWORK with the people in your target communities.

The Nefesh B’Nefesh Community Database is a great place to begin. In addition to containing general, employment, education, transportation, olim services, cultural and housing information, if you scroll down the community stats column you will often find names, e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers of community representatives who are waiting to answer your questions and put you in touch with people who can help you. Community web site address and chat list information are also included, if known. Through those links lies a wealth of information and photos.

The majority of community chat lists (I started with http://groups.yahoo.com and found multiple lists for all communities I was interested in) will allow you to join if you tell them you want to do so because you are considering making Aliyah to their community and would like to use the list to obtain the information necessary to make that decision. Once on a list you can search their archives for answers to your questions, submit your questions to the list, or just sit back and monitor the conversations that that are of interest to you that take place between residents.

For example:
I changed my mind regarding my number one choice of community (that had been based on previous Internet research) because the residents had serious complaints on their chat list about electrical and Internet service outages, problems with Egged transportation to/from their town and mail delivery issues perceived to stem from political problems. The people were very helpful, warm and welcoming during our pilot trip, but because my income is dependent on Internet access and electricity for my computer, I scratched that place off my list.

We decided to settle in Ma’ale Adumim because it offered:

  1. Quick access to the Holy City of Jerusalem
  2. The perfect climate for asthma sufferers
  3. A strong, warm and friendly Anglo base of new and seasoned olim
  4. Housing prices that seemed a bit more within our budget than Jerusalem
  5. A great support package from Misrad HaKlita including additional financial incentives, our own personal Aliyah Counselor who helped us through all the “first steps”, extended day school, and extra ulpan hours

We landed, were greeted by an incredibly wonderful landlady and spent our first year enjoying life with our new friends and “family”. It was a dream come true. Almost…

During the time between our pilot trip and Aliyah flight, the Hi-Tech market suffered and many people in our professions were unemployed within a few months of our arrival. For an entire year my husband looked for work in the Jerusalem area, while I managed to pick up a few overseas freelance gigs that didn’t pay enough to keep us afloat.

As our Aliyah Anniversary approached I began to panic (my husband tends to be oblivious to our financial status so he wasn’t terribly concerned). A recruiter informed him that in order to secure work we must move to the center of the country – and the man suggested Ra’anana because of its large Anglo population and support services.

I resisted because I had heard rumors about the high cost of living in Ra’anana – and the humid weather. And so we wasted time (ours and that of kind people we met through chat lists) visiting places like Ariel, Rechovot, Petach Tikva, etc. No place “fit”, I didn’t want to leave Ma’ale Adumim. But as time went on – and our bank account neared the zero mark – I finally gave in and agreed that we’d settle in Ra’anana.

Finding an affordable apartment in Ra’anana proved to be a major challenge as we travelled back and forth by bus (3+ hours round-trip). After a couple weeks of viewing places with a very patient real estate agent named Ruth, we settled on the first apartment she had shown us – a 3 bedroom on the 4th floor of a building on a street that runs parallel to the main drag.

The next challenge was and coming up with the money to pay a moving company! Fortunately we managed to obtain a gemach loan through a connection of NBN’s and I tried to put on a cheerful face as we moved. It was a huge “leap of faith” because my husband still didn’t have a job offer, but the recruiter promised that he would soon after he had a coveted Ra’anana address. And the man was correct; the job offer came a few weeks after we moved in.

So the story should have a happy ending right? Not exactly… I enrolled in ulpan, Yisrael started school, Michael was working, we had all the shopping conveniences anyone could want, there were a variety of shuls to choose from and plenty of English speakers around but I was miserable. The air bothered me – I have asthma and the humidity was so bad that I had difficulty breathing outside of my air conditioned apartment. This, along with our financial situation, severely limited our social activities.

And then there was the robbery… the worst part of which was learning from others in the center of town that this is a common thing that many of them had experienced more than once! The fact that this violation of our privacy and possessions happened while we were happily enjoying Shabbat with friends in Ma’ale Adumim caused us to reflect on the choices we had made…

– Had our decision to move to the center of the country for work been a good one?

– Had our impression that we were taking a leap of faith in doing so actually proven to be a lack of faith that God would provide parnassah (livelihood) in the Jersualem area?

– Had we, perhaps, taken for granted the gift of Ma’ale Adumim?

Heavy questions, the kind that can’t be answered for certain in this life.

That was a turning point for us as it caused us to reassess our priorities with respect to housing, lifestyle, quality of education, etc. Overall, Yisrael and I were not happy in Ra’anana (Michael is more flexible in his expectations), not because it isn’t a good place for new olim to settle, but because it wasn’t the right “fit” for us. However, while living there, we both had managed to acquire employment – and thank God, mine provides flexibility in schedule and ability to work from home full-time.

In May we decided to move back to Ma’ale Adumim, despite the fact that it means a 2 to 3 hour round-trip commute for Michael every day (BTW, I think he’s a great guy for making this sacrifice for us). We then embarked on the stressful task of finding an apartment in our price range in the neighborhood where we wanted to be – and fortunately found one a few weeks before our lease expired.

The lesson I have learned throughout this challenging year has been that when we don’t put complete trust in God, and instead try to force things to happen the way we think they should, we set ourselves up for much stress and heartache.

I am truly thankful to be back home in Ma’ale Adumim. THANK YOU to all the wonderful people who have welcomed us back!

Shabbat Shalom!
Tehillah

P.S. I am now a Volunteer Pre-Aliyah Counselor for Ma’ale Adumim, so if you are in the research phase of choosing an Aliyah community, I will be happy to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to write

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