Keith Brooks
Keith Brooks
International Business Executive Living and Working in Israel

Aliyah, The Pinball Journey of a Lifetime

Pinball Life

Last week was our 7th anniversary of making Aliyah. I have used many metaphors to describe Aliyah to people I know worldwide, but the best one was from my friend Shmueli who said it best.

Aliyah is like playing pinball. Let me explain.

Once upon a time, you had an idea, you wanted to go live in Israel.

Perhaps the idea came from your family, school, shul, or youth group if you are under 35 or so, and if you are over 40, it may have to do with various wars and events over the first 40-50 years of the country’s existence that made you realize what an outcast you feel when you are in France, UK, US, Canada or wherever.

Maybe you got hooked when you spent a year in Yeshiva, maybe it was a girl/boy friend or the food, whatever it was, you got hooked, and the only thing to do was give in to your desires.

Ah, but leaving your home, your country, and going to another one is not quite as easy as swapping a lease car every two years.

This one affects you and your family in many ways and influences your views on:

  • politics (and voting because you know we have like 40 parties)
  • religion (good, bad, different, new, old, none, all)
  • fashion(shirt sleeve length, skirt lengths, piercings, tattoos, sandals with or without socks, for the record, I don’t wear sandals, ever)
  • food (kosher but which hashgacha, pareve is not always pareve if the teuda says meat, which butcher and then you get shmitta and orla)
  • vacations (Eilat for a few days, or is it cheaper to go to Cyprus or Greece for a week?)

What does any of this have to do with pinball, those of you fans of the silver ball are asking yourselves?

You see, pinball games start with a coin. So you need a credit to play, just like that spark of an idea in your head that begins the whole journey.

Once you are committed to making Aliyah, your journey begins. It is the common way for some, just like pinball of old, a long launch up the right side, and then the ball drops into the playfield. But, sometimes, your Aliyah journey can be very different from everyone else’s, just like some new pinball machines that launch the ball about a third of the way up the right side right into the middle of the playfield, quick and fast, and get ready for a wild ride.

Yes, that may be your experience or something completely different. Just like pinball, where every game is different, no game is ever exactly the same. Everyone’s Aliyah experience is unique and individual, even within your own family.

Some will take their time to get around to everything, some will jump right in, some will end up living next door to the Prime Minister or the CEO of a growing company, others will not be so lucky.

Luck does play a part in Aliyah. But, like Pinball, it is not all skill to achieve high scores, great salaries, or living accommodations.

Once you get to Israel (I am skipping the pre-Aliyah things because, well, even a pinball machine has to get built and fixed sometimes before playing), you are then adrift at sea, so to speak with the shuk masses.

You feel yourself being bounced around from place to place to get various documents signed, sealed, and delivered(hint, don’t use the Doar Israel to mail anything important with a deadline), just like how the pinball bounces among the popup bumpers found commonly on the playfield.

By now, you also realize your Tanach Hebrew is not so helpful in modern times. It is like the people speak a different language here. Well, they do. How’s your Russian, French, or Yiddish?  Hopefully, I have not lost you on any pinball terms 🙂

You rack up personal points and goals by going shopping the first time to a supermarket where EVERYTHING is kosher, and you don’t need to check the label. Like how you try to hit all the drop targets and ramps in the pinball game to achieve some personal best high score.

Of course, you also go to the fish or butcher area of the store and then quickly get flustered by the meat numbering system or the names of the fish. Well, you can’t always get the big prize every day, just like missing the 5th left ramp shot you needed for an extra ball.

And like in pinball, you will have days where your emotions go up and down, your frustration with the game, sorry day-to-day life, gets to you, but there are those flippers to help put your ball back into play.

What are the Aliyah flippers in real life? Your friends, your neighbors, your shul, sometimes your kids, sometimes the falafel guy giving you a free ball to taste/eat while you are in line, and he has a fresh bin of them. The little things here give people the boost in confidence, well maybe not as much as a shot of tequila, but you know after you think the world is all wrong, and something good comes your way, many of us say, “only in Israel,” and it is true.

Of course, like pinball, when the ball drains, and you need to start a new ball, we have some events that cause us to stop and regroup. Maybe it is rockets from the South or from the North, maybe it is a strike at the airport, maybe it is the gs price changes, or maybe it is a 3year pandemic that no one could foresee, and we all just have to wing it best we can. Baruch Hashem, liquor stores, and supermarkets deliver.

You take these and learn from them for next time, so you don’t get stuck in your underwear in the bomb shelter. And you pull the plunger back and launch the next ball because that crazy Britsih “stiff upper lip” thing evidently is ingrained here in spades, so you get up and do it all over again the next day.

Addicting it is, but also, like pinball, not for everyone.

Some people tilt the game, which means they caused everything to stop and lose their turn, which can be very frustrating. Maybe they were not open in their journey, or maybe they ran into problems that pushed them the wrong way, and it put them off from staying. They still get to start a new ball and try again, but some people can’t let go of the past to see the future.

When you finally finish your pinball game, if you played well, you get to add your name or initials to the leader board. If not, you try, try again.

Aliyah never finishes, it is just a long journey, and you leave your mark everywhere you go, and every experience you have here helps you eventually find your comfort zone.

Soon you start speaking Heblish and forgetting the English words you wanted to say. You may change jobs entirely or start your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th side gig/project because Startup nation eventually gets into everyone’s head. You start wanting to modify the world around you just like some customers of mine have modified their pinball games.

Oh, right, I have my day job. I also make hot sauce and schug for fun but also fix pinball machines here. Not very lucrative, not many games here, but you find what makes you happy.

You see new games, new journeys, new outcomes for you and your family, who in turn will see new directions as well, not always as you expect or can imagine.

All because you had the idea to make Aliyah and started playing the game.

Welcome to all the new olim! And for those who are thinking about it, it is never too late to do what makes you happy.

(Pinball photo from

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, an HCL Master and an IBM Champion.
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