I am always nostalgic for the first time I spent a significant amount of time in Israel. I was 11. My parents took a year off from their respective careers so we could get an authentic taste for life here. Waiting on line with a bag full of asimonim to call the old country from the local payphone. Taking the bus into town to see American Ninja at the theater. Hiking along treacherous cliffs with no guard rail. Those were the glory days for an American 6th-grader in Israel. I never understood what my parents went through to make life comfortable for me and my younger sister.
Thirty years later and 16 years since my own Aliyah, I now have a deeper appreciation for them and a long list of my own for how to have a successful Aliyah.
This recent and very useful piece inspired me to share some of these tips for making the Aliyah transition easier.
1. Without a doubt, Nefesh b’Nefesh is the indispensable first step on your way to a successful Aliyah. From pre-Aliyah planning, finding a community, landing a job, to everything Aliyah related, NBN is your one-stop-shop for Aliyah and building a life in Israel. Not to mention that all North American and UK Aliyah is now directly facilitated by Nefesh.
2. Another established resource for English speaking Olim is JANGLO. JANGLO bills itself as Israel’s largest online community for English speakers, which undoubtedly is exactly what it is. JANGLO is a clearinghouse of grassroots information on everything from news, cultural events, real estate, classifieds, restaurants, tourist info, advice, and more, all organized and presented in a user friendly format.
3. Many North Americans are hesitant about moving to Israel because they fear the health care system here. Yes, the medical culture in Israel can be different and daunting, especially when you throw language barriers into the mix. That said, here too, there are many resources available to soften your landing and keep you healthy. Probably the most important factor when choosing your Kupat Cholim when you first make Aliyah is geography; meaning, which Kupah is best represented with services and clinics in your city or region. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with The Shira Pransky Project site. Named for Shira Pransky, z”l, this organization’s singular goal is to assist English speaking Olim navigate the health care world in Israel. Needless to say, it’s invaluable.
4. Communication is king, especially when searching for a job, tracking down your teenager or calling loved ones overseas. Despite all the unknowns surrounding the recent acquisition of upstart cellphone company Golan Telecom by rival Cellcom, the former should still be offering some of the most attractive cell phone packages for quite a while.
5. Speaking of attractive packages, the savvy entertainment seeker is quickly moving away from the inefficiencies, disappointments and over-charging of the cable and satellite services towards a more personalized approach. Having access to your familiar shows and channels from the US or UK post- Aliya can have a surprisingly positive effect on easing your Aliyah transition. VPN (virtual private network) products and services such as the affordable and simple MatchboxAir provide unfettered access to your favorite sources of home entertainment from anywhere in the world across all your devices.
6. Despite the comprehensive coverage of the Kupot Cholim, especially if you take some of their recommended, upgraded higher lever plans, it is also a good idea to find yourself supplemental private health insurance. This can cover home healthcare, medications not in the basket of insurance, overseas surgery and treatment, etc… Talk to friends and family who can recommend a private agent to guide you through this important step.
7. Get your will in order. Israel, actually, the whole world, is a dangerous place. The more you prepare for your death, the more you can fully live your life. Yes, it’s an emotionally charged step, but practically all it involves is creating a list of your assets, policies, accounts, etc. and sitting with a lawyer to put it into an official document. In case of tragedy, having a notarized will will streamline the already painful and heartbreaking business of sorting out your loved one’s affairs, ultimately ensuring that their wishes are fully actualized.
So here are just a few tips that may help you along your way. At the end of the day though just know, for better or for worse, making aliya is a bit like a marriage — it’s really worth working on, worth not giving up on and comes with a helluva lot of amazing challenges! Hatzlacha raba!