Keep our olim in Israel: an urgent call to action

For all those who don’t wish to read through my many paragraphs of ranting and raving, here is the summary (in Internet lingo, this is the ‘tl;dr summary’): Making Aliyah is hard. Finding a job as an oleh chadash is even harder, and is tremendously discouraging. Nefesh B’Nefesh, as the de facto organization helping scores of people making Aliyah from the first world, should be more instrumental in helping out. I am publically offering my services to NBN to help them build out a comprehensive job portal for olim job seekers.

You may have recently seen a number of troubling reports on TV. One was on channel 10 called “HaYordim HaChadashim.” Another was on channel 2 and detailed the plights of new olim (primarily from North America and Europe) who couldn’t make it here and were leaving Israel. In both reports – and in particular the second one – the message was clear: life is too expensive and finding a job too difficult to justify living in Israel.

You may or may not agree with those reports, and I am certainly not in a position to say authoritatively if they are representative of a trend in Israel or not. What I do know is all anecdotal: I have many friends who worked in fields that are in high demand who are struggling to find jobs here. It’s not a language barrier thing – they know Hebrew, albeit not the way an Israeli might. It’s not lack of experience. It’s not lack of education. It’s a lack of a decent social network – “protekzia.”

Lots of agencies have ways of coping with this problem, but they always boil down to the same thing: use LinkedIn. Use Google. Send out cold e-mails. Look on Matimop. And on and on. And that’s all wonderful advice except that it’s akin to throwing hundreds of darts at a dartboard. While blindfolded. You might eventually hit something but it’s pure chance.

And this trend is so particularly disturbing because, as I mentioned, the contingency of olim from North America and Europe are generally quite highly educated. Many left high paying, high power positions to move here. Many (most? all?) recognize that the salaries here will be lower – much lower! – and are quite fine with that, because it means they get to fulfill their dream of living in Israel. And yet… they are either overqualified or underqualified, don’t know enough Hebrew, are too old, too young or – you get the idea.

The other thing that makes this so troubling is that these olim should have a network. We are not the first round, or second round or eighth round of olim. We are but a drop in a bucket of thousands of olim from New York, LA, London, Paris, Montreal… and we should have a network of people who preceded us to give us a helping hand. Much like the career services office of your alma mater might reach out to you from time to time to get your updated work status, so too should there be some organization that knows the employment status of their alumni.

Enter Nefesh B’Nefesh. NBN knows how to reach you. They called me every month for the first year of my Aliyah. They know how many people have made Aliyah with their help and guidance. They are the entry point. NBN is the university and the olim are the alumni. It is not enough to just worry about “admissions,” there must be a focus on retention – a real, concerted effort to make sure that the olim alumni are able to live their lives.

Doing this won’t be easy, and might require more resources than NBN currently has. So here is my offer to Nefesh B’Nefesh: let me help. Let’s build an “Olim Job Portal,” exclusive to NBN alumni looking for jobs. You recruit employers – start with your database of olim! – job seeking olim will sign up, and begin engaging with those who are willing to help. Note that this won’t be your typical job site. Part of the goal here is networking. If a potential employer doesn’t have a job now? Fine. But are they willing to meet with and talk to olim? Do they know someone who knows someone?

Ultimately we are building a job networking site: where people can make connections because they want to help each other. It is not LinkedIn, because it will be comprised only of olim, and open only to olim. Similarly, the employers will be people who actively wish to help olim. I am willing to do this gratis. I have nearly 10 years of professional programming experience and I want to help my fellow olim.

But there’s a catch. Actually, there are two. The first catch is that only I am willing to do this for free. My offer is contingent upon your employing another developer to work on it with me. This person needs to have been looking for a job. Bonus points if they have kids. Multiply those bonus points by 2 if they’re over the age of 40. Think of it this way: you’re getting two developers for the price of one.

And one more catch: all the code we write? Not the information in your databases or the images or anything else – just the code; all of that will be open-sourced under the GPLv3 and posted on GitHub. Because NBN and software developers give back.

The situation is dire. I have seen a plethora of posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. and I could not remain silent. Let’s continue living the dream together; let’s help keep our fellow olim in their home.

You know where to reach me.

About the Author
Michael Acobas made aliyah in July, 2011, and lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and son.
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