The Israeli government has launched a new program in an effort to attract expatriates to return to Israel. It is estimated since 1949 more than one million Israeli citizens have left Israel to find better jobs in foreign countries.
I remember how Israelis who emigrated were called “yordim” and many were scorned by family members and close friends. It was considered very unpatriotic in the early years for Israelis to “abandon the moledet”.
Israelis can now be found living permanently in several European countries, the United States and Canada.
I knew of a doctor from Tel Aviv who emigrated with his wife to America in 1955 to be re-united with his daughter, her husband and young grandson who had emigrated two years earlier. They all spoke of their intention to eventually return to Israel. But they never did. He had been a physician in the public schools of Tel Aviv and lived in a comfortable apartment on Rehov Sheinkin.
A year after arriving in America, having completed classes in the English language and having passed the medical examinations for foreign-trained physicians, he was offered a staff position in a major hospital earning a salary that was more than three years of his salary in Israel.
For whatever reasons, Israel has never been able to compete with the higher salaries available elsewhere. I commend those who nevertheless choose to remain in and work in Israel. But I can understand reasons why so many professionals choose to leave.
Several years ago it used to be said that most of the Israelis who came to America became taxi drivers. Today it is the Russians who earn this reputation.
Speaking personally and honestly, two of my three children are living in New York. My son is a doctor in a major medical organization. His annual salary is higher than what a doctor in Ichilov hospital earns in more than three years. One of my daughters holds a very high government position in law as deputy bureau chief of civil litigation. She is a sgan praklita ba machoz. She could never earn in Israel the high salary which she earns in America.
All my children are Hebrew-speaking, all have lived in Israel, all visit frequently, but all return to their positions in America.
I cannot blame them. I understand the facts of life. It is comfortable to live in a 7 room apartment or in an 8 room private villa..
But the one thing that they and most other Israeli emigres truly miss is the chevruta…the friendly society… which, I believe, exists only in Israel. All of my dear friends in Israel are those whom I have known and loved for 62 years. There are no better, no more sincere friends than those in Israel.
Nefesh b’Nefesh does a splendid job in helping American Jews to make Aliyah and to provide them with accommodations and services helping them to ease into Israeli life and society. While they publish the numbers of those who have made Aliyah, they do not publish the numbers of those who could not find work in their professions and who returned to the United States.
Still, Nefesh b’Nefesh has been more successful than the former Aliyah division of the Sochnut.
Now Israel is making every effort to attract these Israelis home. They make promises of locating living places for them, grants them national health care, educates them in the Hebrew language at special ulpanim and offers greatly reduced tuition fees at our universities.
It remains to be seen how many Israelis living abroad will take advantage of the offer. In sentiment, there is no place like home. And you have my solemn word…there are no better friends in all the world than Israeli friends. And I’m talking dugri !