I 💙 Israel, but…

I love Israel, but… Recently a fellow blogger posted a thoughtful ditty on being more helpful to Olim, new immigrants to Israel to help them find jobs. The blogger also stirred the pot over issues of binary companies who exploit the naive Olim needing to get work and get their start. I commented that no one would want to read my rant. The blogger wrote that my input wasn’t a rant and should share. Here is my thoughts, feelings, experiences and a few others thrown in for emphasis.

I made my journey to Israel in January 2010. I’d been loosely in contact with one of the agencies a few months prior. Due to personal emergency issues I made the trip to Israel before finishing my aliyah paperwork. I never knew I would be in for such a nightmare. But I digress and need to get to the post-aliyah experience.

Everyone who knows me knows that I have been a perpetual student and professional of a variety of hats. The meetings with aliyah preparatory groups conveyed that jobs were plentiful and that Israel need our expertise. Fact is the first part was true. The second part, well let’s chuck it off to amazing propaganda, about as good as the Dead Sea kiosks in America selling the products at hundreds of percent above retail prices here.

Work for Olim is not plentiful. Why? Most do not come here speaking Hebrew or at best some from Shabbat or Chagim holiday services. But this is not the Israeli conversational Ivrit. So the government offers Ulpan alef to learn the language basics. Maybe there are many options to class schedule times but in the outskirts of the country options are limited. For Eilat people, the class is at 17:00 and many jobs for new immigrants are still going on at that hour. Most bosses do not want to allow people to be off work for the class and will find ways of complaining. They often will even say, ‘just stop talking in your language. Or read the newspaper.’ Learning a language doesn’t work that way at least not for most.

For those who come with significant education and training in a specific profession, the options for work, much less language learning of technical terms, is virtually impossible and no one wants to help. Their advice is to ‘move to the center of the country’. Ironically the agencies who push for Jews to make aliyah (to immigrate), suggest extremely different ideas of locations to live i.e. near Lebanon boarder, Golan, Negev, a few kibbutzim that highly scrutinize outsiders.

The job world is one of the hardest things to break into for many Olim and language is only part of that issue. Israeli-born nationals are sensitive. Like any country, outsiders are not easily trusted, but on the flip side easily fooled. There’s little to no patience from people with Olim learning conversational Ivrit for work purposes. While the word savlanut is well expressed here no Israeli lives by this word. They expect everything now including assimilation by Olim.

The reality. I have two doctorates, but work in a spa doing massage therapy. Other immigrants who I work with or know fairly well were film director who is a kitchen person at a hotel. Two nurses are doing massage. An electrical engineer picking up odd jobs just for food. And recently to read about the 12,000 French Jews of which many with former high professions are left jobless or doing service work or stocking shelves in their later professional life. Personally I applied three times to kupat cholim. They said they liked my CV and résumé and that I was on the top of their list, merely to be told to go back to Ulpan. Nevertheless the Ulpan teachers don’t have any lexicons for professionals such as medical terminology or engineering. Again the suggestion was to go to the center of the country.

Moving to Israel is expensive. Getting started is as well so if one takes the agency’s recommendations and moves to be a part of the growing outskirts they are facing a tough uphill climb adapting, surviving, much less thriving. The idea that if you don’t click in that area you can eventually move to the center is much more complicated due to finances and frankly the competition for work is that much greater. In fact many center people tired of the competition move to the outskirts. That says something.

Pay is also a pointless argument. Most businesses don’t want to pay a new immigrant still learning the language and nuances of being here. If given the choice they’d rather have refugees or foreign workers that they can work like a horse days without breaks and no extra government expenses normally required for a citizen. Case in point 4,500 Jordanians allowed to work now in Eilat for hotels, service and labor work. They give foreign workers extra classes to learn the language of their jobs so they often sound much more proficient than new olim.

Finally the last ideas from the government are to go back to school but without a good grasp of the language this is a joke. Further there is the offer to olim to get a low interest rate loan for a start up business but again the classes are in business level Ivrit. Nice way for the government to protect it’s cash flow.

Another note about education. As one of my friends who is a former hospital nurse told me that in America you only have to pass a test for your profession, but in Israel she was told to do two years of nursing school here in order to qualify for a position in nursing in Israel on top of her two degrees she already has from her previous country. I can tell you that while there are many good nurses in Israel as well as doctors, there is a need for more and frankly the system of absorbing professionals in Israel is, shall I dare say broken.

Retired or independently wealthy, meaning a basic of 200,000 dollars is the dream Olim experience. Any fusses they just hire lawyers to sort out their messes.

For the average Olim, you have to have a bigger more meaningful reason to live in Israel. Work, language, expenses cannot be your litmus test. You have to have a deeper reason.

Ultimately every Olim who takes the plunge to come here must expect that the transition will be difficult and challenging. If you don’t have that struggle than consider yourself one special person. While Olim are conditioned to believe they are joining their extended family when they come here, just remember in real life we don’t always get along with everyone in the best of circumstances. Someone has to do the cooking, the cleaning, the greeting, the dishes, etc. Gather around people who really feel trustworthy. Don’t assume anything. Be flexible. If anyone had told me that with all my education I would clean hotel rooms for two years in my late forties and doing massage therapy in my fifties as a doctor, I’d have never believed them. I am here because Israel is more than even all of that stuff. I love 💙 Israel, but it has a lot of improving to do for Olim. All the best.

About the Author
Israela Avraham is from the US. She is a private doctor specializing in alternative medicine and supplementing her income as a medical massage therapist in four hotels here having previously come from a six figure income. She has been a masorti/conservative rabbi turned Orthodox to make Aliyah.
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