On Election Day, we hosted some friends from the “Old Country” for a classic Israeli barbecue (i.e. the kebabs were plentiful but there wasn’t a single hamburger bun in sight). The weary travelers were at the tail end of a week-long pilot trip (a largely successful fact finding mission that will hopefully set the stage for a smooth and uneventful absorption process this coming summer) and their heads were absolutely spinning. They were exhausted and we only had a few hours to spend together before they had to jet (literally), so we got right down to business.
While the rest of the country was swept up in the excitement of the early exit poll results, we feasted on Freedom Fries, downed Democracy Dogs, and dissected Aliyah from every angle. (We also binged on Bureaucracy Burgers.)
We covered the usual ground initially – housing costs, job market, schooling options, lift size, furniture and appliances to purchase before the move – but took a very interesting detour when we began discussing living in an “Anglo Bubble” and raising bilingual kids.
At a lavish restaurant meal with some relatives a few days earlier (it seems that “Pilot Trip” is Latin for “You pick up the tab”), our friends were told that their absorption would be a dismal failure if they decided to settle in an Anglo neighborhood. The logic followed that their children would be utterly confused by the “culture clash” and would experience great difficulty acclimating and developing normally. And, if their children were to defy the odds and persevere, they would identify as Israelis and would be unable to relate to or communicate with their American parents.
Our friends, who had already set their sights on an Anglo haven in Efrat, seemed genuinely concerned by the possibility that this analysis was even partially based in reality.
Upon hearing this, I asked if these relatives had settled in an all-Israeli neighborhood themselves and if they struggled for years to make it work. Though I was pretty confident that both questions would be answered in the affirmative, I smiled when my suspicions were confirmed.
It was at this point that I shared the following insight with them.
Over the last four and a half years, I have observed that olim (myself included) constantly redefine success in the Aliyah process (a continuum of challenges that only really ends with a much more substantial move “Upstairs”) by what they themselves are doing and have accomplished. In fact, even those who whine and complain throughout the process will more than likely try to convince others later on that the steps they took are crucial to making Aliyah “the right way.”
The reason, of course, is that the daily battles we wage as olim (everything from a conversation with a cell phone company to surviving parent-teacher conferences to finding a job) are hard fought and seldom won. In order to calm and reassure ourselves, we strongly encourage others to follow our lead as though we have unlocked the secrets of the universe.
But the notion that there can be one perfect way to approach any element of the Aliyah experience is truly ludicrous. There are simply too many variables that factor into how the absorption process unfolds – including the ages of those immigrating, level of their proficiency in Hebrew, liquidity of their funds, job market demand for their chosen professions, strength of their support system, stability of the housing market, availability of educational and medical resources in their part of the country, and the composition and agenda of the sitting government (to name just a few) – for there to be a one-size-fits-all solution for the hurdles encountered.
Indeed, Aliyah experiences are like snowflakes – they appear similar, even identical, from a distance, but under the microscope it becomes clear that they are intricate and entirely unique. No two absorptions will ever be the same. (Children are also like snowflakes, but that’s for another post.)
It is for this reason that I encouraged our pilot tripping pals to focus on only one Aliyah experience – their own. I clarified that asking for advice from those who have “been there” is, of course, key to success in any process, but that the advice received from fellow olim should be run through an industrial-grade sifter.
And now, dear reader, I encourage you to do the same.
If you are “putting in your hishtadlut,” making every effort to acclimate to your new life thousands of miles away from everything you once knew so well, then you are headed in the right direction.
If you are making informed decisions and are left feeling generally satisfied by their outcomes, then you are no doubt on the correct path.
And if you wake up every morning ready to face the inevitable gauntlet of uniquely Israeli challenges that await you throughout your day (rather than cowering in fear or curling up into the fetal position and wishing it all away), then you have made it on your own terms.
The Aliyah trail that you blaze with your blood, sweat and tears is “the right way”…for you. And don’t let any outspoken, advice-slinging oleh tell you differently.
Not even me.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: If you like this post, you should check out Aliyah is a Cult (Classic).