As a young, fresh out of high school California student, my daughter made aliyah to Israel. She did so because of her passion for Israel and because she wanted to raise children in a Jewish state. Because of her on my many trips to Israel, I have met young olim, all of whom made aliyah out of the same idealistic vision. But that vision has dimmed. The difficulty of everyday life in Israel has some rethinking their decision. For young, dual citizens, especially those not in the tech sector, the cost of housing, food, and the general Israeli bureaucratic difficulties have tarnished the dream of living in a Jewish state. To be able to afford staying in Israel, American parents often have to subsidize their dual citizen children and their Israeli families. Covid obviously made financial hardships greater, but even before covid, hard working, young olim felt the future looked bleak.
Those who cannot get financial support from parents in the United States resort to flying back to their home country to work for a period of time in order to make enough money to support themselves and their families in Israel. American ex-pats are not alone. I know families with dual citizenship from other countries who must regularly spend significant amounts of time away from their Israeli children to return to France or the UK to work. Is this really what the Israeli government wants?
I was recently in Israel and often went grocery shopping. A carton of a dozen eggs was about 12.05 ILS which translates to about $3.73 in the US. The going price for the same amount of eggs in the US is about $1.71. A liter of milk in stores I went into ranged form about 5.00 ILS to 7.00 ILS, equivalent in the US on the low end to about $1.55. The same amount of milk in the US is about $0.86 (or was before the recent inflation spike!). According to InterNationsGO!, a relocation service, the cost of living in Israel is higher than many other OECD countries and wages are often low. Recently, The Times of Israel ran an article (6 October 2021), “Israeli housing prices have nearly doubled in a decade with no sign of slowing.” A podcast on the same date also described this housing crunch.
Clearly home ownership will hardly ever be possible for many of these young olim, and the op-ed by David Horovitz (10 October 2021) which described the even more deplorable rental situation should be a wake-up call to the government. With no sign that the government is ready to take action, the solution many young ex-pats face is to return to their home countries. Some American families are themselves struggling to make ends meet and to support their dual citizen children in Israel. Others who want to join their children in Israel have decided to stay in the United States for their own financial security and to be able to send money to their children.
Administrations have promised to address these issues, but no change ever materializes. I am well aware of forces in Israel that look out for their own protected status at the expense of ordinary citizens. The recent summer dumping of eggs at the idea of changes considered in the new budget is one example. Israel touts its startup nation capitalist economic goals, but at the same time entrenched protectionist structures reminiscent of a more socialist economy still dominate. Making aliyah becomes increasingly problematic, and the current cost of living should be a caution to those who want to immigrate out of their love and devotion to Israel. Only after these eager olim are in Israel does reality hit.