Aliya and dealing with uncertainties

[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

The process of Aliya and moving to Israel is filled with challenges and opportunities. The process can seem like an immense task with a lot of uncertainties, such as where to live?  Employment? Where to put the kids in school? What community to join? etc. Coping with all these changes and adjustments can cause excessive stress and anxiety. However with the correct attitude, approach, some systematic planning and a few considerations, one can learn how to recognize the issues, cope with the difficulties, and successfully transform the challenges into opportunities, and reduce the stress significantly.

In his great book “The Founders Dilema”, Noam Wasserman brings Donald Rumsfeld’s famous quote into practice by categorizing the different types of uncertainties involved in launching a Start Up company. There are certain similarities in making Aliya and building a start up, so this analytical framework could also work to some extent when planning Aliya. Atleast it could lower the stress level, and make the operation seem less immense.

Let’s start with the first uncertainty level: Known-Knowns.  These are scenarios for which outcomes are already known or are ensured. E.g. the language limitation is definitely to be expected, and as an outcome, the family school age children will have a challenging time adjusting to the curriculum. However, preparing the children beforehand and finding an assisting language teacher or a proper Ulpan program before or shortly upon arrival can ease the tension.

Known-Unknowns: Are scenarios for which one can anticipate the occurrence but not the outcome. These scenarios can be addressed by contingency provisions, outlining the various worst case, expected case and best case scenarios. Making Aliya involves a great deal of Known-Unknowns, however by using contingency provisions; one will see opportunities rather than the confusion.

Unknowns-Unknowns: Are whatever complete surprises the future holds in store. As in the Star- Up world, a whole lot of scenarios fall into this category  when making Aliya, such as finding an interesting job, social integration, etc.  The first step in dealing with them is to identify as many as possible, thereby transforming as many of the Unknown-Unknowns into Known-Unknowns, and to work out contingency provisions in order to deal with them.

No matter how thorough one tries to transform the Unknown-Unknowns into Known-Unknowns, there are still going to be surprises. However, that should not keep the new immigrant from experience the Aliya experience as what it really is: A blessing and an opportunity to grow.

About the Author
Jonni Niemann made Aliya from Denmark 7 years ago and is the co-founder of Aliya Incubator. Aliyah Incubator is an Aliya program focused on encouraging Jewish entrepreneurial supertalents from English speaking Countries to make Aliya and to successfully launch a High-Tech Start-Up in Israel.