I have heard from many people since posting on TOI, Becoming an Israeli American (October 26) asking Why my husband and I made our decision to become Israeli citizens and How was the process? It seems there are more like us contemplating Aliyah (becoming a citizen), who knew? I’m now planning to write a series on making Aliyah. Since some of the process can be frustrating (amusing/hilarious), I wasn’t sure in lieu of the war it was appropriate. I realized it might prove helpful.
Buying a home and or becoming a citizen, especially across the globe is never an easy or rash decision. We had many discussions; money (headaches), time for travel, jet lag, time difference, time away from both sides, work challenges, language barrier, retirement planning versus spending. If you are married usually one wants it more than the other…In the end it was the right decision for both of us.
First identify the Why.
If your experience is anything like what we encountered you will get push back from your circle (voicing fear), mostly talk of taxes and bureaucratic headaches. Everyone will ask why? Your friends may feel you are abandoning them, your kids may get nervous about how often you will be there or fear you will move permanently. If you don’t have a solid reason in your gut that it is the right thing to do, you most likely will not go through with it. You need to focus on…“Just Do It.”
Here are the top questions/statements we got… Do you need to commit to being there full time? I was always told it was all or nothing. You need to be in Israel full time or don’t even consider it. What about your family still living in the US, the grand children, aging parents? When is the right time (age) to make Aliyah? I’m so overwhelmed I don’t know where to start. Is it too late?
We wanted to begin our magical Zionist life adventure and experience it for as long as possible. We bought our home in our early fifties, and made Aliyah as a gift to ourselves when we turned sixty five. We have owned a garden apartment in Jerusalem for twelve years, which we “survived” buying and renovating. We have wonderful companies taking care of our home and garden while away. We have US and Israeli bank accounts, cell numbers, credit card, we know our way around most of Jerusalem and with the help of Waze get most anywhere inside of Israel. We can read and speak (always improving) Hebrew. We have a wonderful group of devoted friends, Israeli and American born in Israel.
How Do You Start?
We were told the first step in the process of making Aliyah was to sign up with Nefesh B’Nefesh. So grateful we did! It was created years ago by someone making Aliyah, navigating the process alone. Yikes, unimaginable. Even with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh to help it was still challenging….There are forms, So Many Forms, Apostille, (State and Federal). I shudder when I hear the word Apostille, interviews pre and post Aliyah, proof of Jewishness, Aliyah visa, criminal background check…coordinating all since some of the documents expire after six months. You really need to want this.
Once you become a citizen you need to jump through more hoops to get all your paperwork and documents, TZ (Teudat Zehut) identity number, health plan, drivers license, official passport. There are many shenanigans (hair pulling episodes), try to laugh through each step. Tip…Israelis generally are extremely helpful when you do not lose your temper… rather simply smile. Funny how that works.
We learned that your Teudat Zehut is key!
Owning a garden apartment is magic but has challenges. We found out we did not have full rights to our property without a TZ number. There was a tree causing damage to a pipe, (it almost ruined our home). We had to hire a lawyer to represent us to get a permit to remove the tree. To get a peek into what pulls our hearts back each time we are away, click on the video to see our home.
There are many instances when it’s simply easier as a citizen when you are in Israel. You can’t get a bus pass or apply for a parking app for street parking without a TZ number. Before becoming citizens I “borrowed a friends number” (shenanigans), so I could get the parking app. That app is crucial if you plan to drive in Israel and park on the street. When we got the TZ number and our official cards we finally felt like we belonged.
The reaction we got from our Israeli friends was overwhelming. They celebrated the fact that we took the giant leap. We now stand beside them. We feel like we are better advocates having skin in the game. I think back to when my Bubby and Zaide came to the US as teens without speaking English, no money, and had only a few family members for support. Somehow they made it. I kept saying we can do this!
All who have become Israeli, have their unique perspectives. Some have family in Israel, some are ardent Zionists, some are scared and feel safer to be in a land where they are “unconditionally accepted”. It’s been a year now since we became Israeli Americans. I’m still in shock. I’m thrilled we did. Did our life change? Most definitely. Something powerful shifted inside us. Even with owning a home we always felt like we were playing at being Israeli. Now we have two passports, can vote , have a voice in the future of Israel.
I tire of hearing “how” Israelis should act. If you are unwilling/unable to own a piece of the rock, be a part of our magnificent story by becoming a citizen, please let the Israeli citizens decide what is best. There are enemies planning to destroy us, we need to protect our home, our citizens and homeland! I have a friend in Israel that likes to remind me, “When someone says they want to kill you, you should believe them.” Everything else is just static…
I hear there is a wave of Aliyah. That is always good for Israel. With the next Israeli election we will be sure to participate. Voting as an Israeli will be out of body and thrilling, diving deeper into the fabric of life. Israeli politics are insane but the politics in the US are no better, our world is a mess. Our only hope for a free world and better future for our kids and grandchildren rests in the fate of Israel, the US and civilized societies worldwide. We need strong advocates.
Please reach out if you are considering Aliyah. I’d be happy to help with inside tips. How Do I keep thing in perspective (not during war of course)?… I say to myself, Israel is one giant Seinfeld episode, it keeps me laughing. NBN/Nefesh B’Nefesh.