Keith Brooks
International Business Executive Living and Working in Israel

Aliyah, 4 Years Later, Now What?

4 years ago

It was 4 years ago today that my family and I, and our dog, moved to Israel and made Aliyah. We still live in the same city we started in, Rehovot, although we moved apartments last year to be closer to “town” and makolets.

In Chevron at Maarat Hamachpela this year on Sukkot

The good news is everyone is happy and doesn’t miss much from the US aside from family. Ok we miss donuts and 7-11 slurpees, someone just yelled shopping, but I think they mean Amazon Prime (which we hope will be here soon).

We all have our personal items we can’t get here at all, but Israel is not the US, to think they would have everything the US sells is a silly notion and eventually you find local variations that work.

One thing the kids especially love about being in Israel is their freedom. Take a bus, train, go to the mall/beach/concert, stay out till midnight on Friday night or later on Thursday night. For some countries or states in the US, this is unheard of and for others it seems normal.

The bad news? While my wife and kids Hebrew are pretty good at this point, mine and the dog’s are slowly moving forward.  For my dog’s reasons, let’s just say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. My wife says that about me and my Hebrew. Now let me explain why my Hebrew is not quite moving forward for those thinking about making Aliyah.

As Dog is my Copilot

I work for people around the world, literally. My morning has some Asian clients, late morning, early afternoon has Europe and finally later afternoon and evening is US, east coast then west coast.

Did you see any Israeli clients in there? Not at the moment.

I have had a few, and lately have discussed some interim roles, but my time is still spent with clients outside of Israel. While this is a great for my salary, it hurts my Hebrew. Your best chance to expand and improve your Hebrew is to work in country with Israelis. Old, young, whatever your native language, immersion at work is the best way to improve your Hebrew.

If you have nearly no background in Hebrew, then Ulpan is helpful, otherwise it helps improve your Russian or French. For a comedic but all too realistic view of Ulpan, read Benji’s post. Oh and if you don’t have a sense of humor, don’t waste your time coming on Aliyah because if you can’t laugh at yourself or deal with everyone laughing at you, well you have been warned, because you will forever be known as the <insert incorrect Hebrew term that also is a body part) for when you went to the butchers and gave them the best laugh of their week.

Back to my Hebrew, the reason I work for people outside of Israel is because, as a just shy of fifty years old I do not exist to the HR people here who view older people as expensive even though we have knowledge to impart, plus friends at high levels in many places. And then there is the language issue, plus my lack of army role. A lot of cards are stacked against me so I spend my time advising people who want to grow their businesses, or streamline their operations.

So what does one do when faced with an insurmountable task of finding a 30% down payment, not including the cash on hand for all the other taxes, stamps, just to buy an apartment? And no, there is no way around this. To put it in a different light, it will take the average Israeli 12 years(148 monthly salaries) to save the money for a down payment in today’s fiscal terms.

So what do I do? What can you do? You work on different ideas, projects, bide your time looking at what do you want to do for the next 20 years or so because at 50, while it would have been nice to retire, that is not what God’s plan are for me, today.

Tomorrow may be different.

Maybe I will:

  • buy a business,
  • find a partner who shares my vision for a Pinball World in Israel,
  • create a new solution to sell to Salesforce users,
  • find an investor who wants to see Israel be a leader in Pinball manufacturing,
  • have my book ideas picked up and published,
  • see the startups I mentor grow and ask me to help them further,
  • help my kids create the next Mobileye, Apple or Jelly Belly (kosher candy corn maker) company,
  • or maybe become a startup myself, with a little help from Hashem above.

You see, you only make Aliyah once in your life, but you still have to live your life every.single.day afterwards. For some people that is not what they signed up for when they moved to Israel. Living in Israel is not like vacationing in Israel, or spending a year in yeshiva in Israel. Think about this, your electric bill which is for 2 months of usage, shows up on alternate months from your water and real estate taxes (Arnona)bill. Why? Because who would be so rich to afford to pay both in one month?

We moved to Israel during the Protective Edge campaign in Gaza and it didn’t faze us then, and the current situation won’t now either. Granted this part living in the US we did not deal with, but we loved in a hurricane zone called Florida and that was not always fun either.

So you get up each day, think about having a Sam I Am at Crave, smell the amazing cheese danish from Shibolet Hasharon, listen to the jets flying overhead and love they are there flown by friends kids and protecting us, track down some root beer, help people get on the ladder of business and know that your place in all of this is here, in Israel, where everyone is your family through the good times and the bad.

You also make breakfast, lunch, feed and walk the dog, get some work done, go to the bank, talk to your accountant(taxes and more taxes), look for new clients, have dinner together as a family and party with friends whenever you can on Thursday nights.

Oh and we won Eurovision! Which most Americans have no clue about, you will either love it or hate it, picture The Gong show but with a real winner. Next year it will be in Israel as each year the winner’s home country gets to host it.

What else can I tell you? I know it sounds hard at times but it is also an excessively optimistic country that wants you to do well because every one that makes it, like Netta Barzilai on Eurovision, gives inspiration to everyone else that this little country can produce so many great people and things.

About the Author
Keith Brooks made Aliyah in 2014 with his wife, 3 kids, and their dog. Keith writes about his Aliyah, Israel and Jewish life in general. Keith advises B2B companies on how to approach their potential clients regarding pricing, marketing and sales pitches. Keith is a MassChallenge Israel mentor and an IBM Champion.
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