Before I moved to Israel in 2012, I asked many people for their opinions. Many repeated the old expression that if you want to make a small fortune in Israel, go with a big fortune.
Ultimately, asking around did not make that much difference. I knew I had to make the move.
I came here knowing that I would receive around NIS 17,000 to get started along with significant tax and education benefits, car discounts and council tax exemptions. As a lone soldier, I would be treated to a variety of financial and social benefits.
The problem comes when people like me suddenly wake up and realize that these incredible benefits quickly expire and we are forced to stand on our own two feet, as we should do of course.
However, the ministries responsible for immigration and absorption fail to understand the crucial point that sustenance counts for far more than any generous benefits. If it is expected that such benefits will serve as incentives to encourage immigration to Israel, it should come as no surprise when many people feel compelled to leave Israel once they are greeted by the shock that the warnings they heard prior to moving to Israel were in many cases very real and very saddening.
The core of the problem is the minimum wage which is frankly appalling and can barely sustain a half decent standard of living. Last time I checked, the minimum wage was between NIS 23-28. Even receiving slightly above this, which many people do, does not enable us to pay for much beyond utility bills, food and rent.
The shame is that the work ethic exists. Good and hardworking people are prepared to hold down two or three jobs in order to make ends meet and raise a family.
But owning a house? Forget it. Unless you are in the fortunate position of doing what audacious bankers sometimes presumptuously suggest to your face — “ask your parents to help you,” — you have practically no chance. Realistically, you will be lucky if you can save for a holiday once in a while.
There are exceptions. Israel prides itself on its technological innovation. Many people believe that if you want to make it in high-tech or if you have an idea, Israel is the place to be. Indeed, there is money to be made in this field and I believe we can all be proud of Israel for this.
The problem is however, that the world remains diverse. Not everyone is into technology. Yet they too need to eat. They also need to provide for their children. Yet they are consistently allowed to fall between the cracks of Israel’s economic shortcomings over which initial benefits can only temporarily plaster.
Overall, I am satisfied with my move to Israel and I would always encourage people to move here. Sure, the language requires hard work and a waiter seems totally incapable of understanding that if he/she would only smile instead of throwing the bill on the table, I might just visit that coffee shop again and give a better tip next time. Sure, they miss the bigger picture sometimes, but I walk through the streets daily feeling privileged to be here in this beautiful country.
I do understand that not all decisions in life should be about money. Like all countries, Israel is economically imperfect and no doubt faces problems magnified tenfold by the military circumstances. I understand that things take time and that life is not easy for any immigrant in a new country.
However, the Israeli government has to understand that there are thousands of immigrants and Israelis each year, some of whom are in love with this country, who feel that they can no longer hold on. When their friends around them console them by telling them their salaries will improve, they know the reality that a culture of meaningful salary increases here is seriously lacking.
To their credit, Israelis and Olim are prepared stay or move here despite the terror attacks and repeated wars. But when it comes to the economic aspect, the Israeli government cannot ignore this longstanding reality. It must do more to convince people that if you move Israel, you will not only be protected here, but you will actually be able to live here.