The truth about Aliyah

I still can't believe I live here

I would’ve kissed the ground if I had remembered at the time.

After all, that’s what I had seen in my Zionist class in High School, all of the Israel Independence ceremonies. It’s what I had remembered from my meetings with Aliyah advisors in the Jewish Federation Building off of 59th street, next to the famous “if you will it, it is no dream” quote from Theodore Herzl.

The people advertising Aliyah promote the people who leave their own version of normalcy to chase a dream. But then the adrenaline depletes, the dancing stops, and you’re stuck in Ben-Gurion Airport’s Terminal 1, with multiple questions that all start with “How”: How will I navigate this new world? How will I learn the language? How will I integrate?

This isn’t an article about that, but about the nagging doubts that will come with living in this country. It isn’t sunshine and rainbows. Reality will strike and make you question yourself.

Here’s the truth. You’ve just moved -or you plan to move- to a new country. It’s going to be tough. You’ll burn out some appliances with the wrong plugs, and you’ll be swindled out of money at Change places. You’ll never find a Trader Joe’s, but at least we have IKEAs.

Here’s another one; there are two types of people in Israel; those who love you and those who will take advantage of you.

Cherish the ones who care about you, and keep them close. The other ones should be kept at a distance. How to determine which takes time, and you will end up wasting time and money because someone thought you a fool. Don’t fret, and don’t get too complacent.

Here’s my anecdote: I went to a phone store to sign up for a data plan offered by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration (Immigrant Absorption). I thought I was still eligible, but instead, I got swindled into a ridiculous contract, which included some cheap electronics that I didn’t need. The moment I noticed that I had gotten a terrible deal, my stomach twisted itself into knots. How could they do this to me? I just got here, and they screwed me? At that moment, I found my uncaring Israelis, and now I needed to distance myself from them.

I went back the next day to return the electronics and take myself out of the contract. I swallowed the 100₪ to cancel the plan and lived up to my stubborn Jewish ancestors by insisting I get something cheaper. They lowballed me, and I walked out. Thankfully I found another carrier that gives me everything I need (message me for info on the plan I got), but the most important thing I learned is to make life simpler. You don’t need to complicate things for yourself to make yourself seem nice.

Speaking of which, you’ll need to bother people. Note that your Aliyah advisor will pass you off to another person who might call you every so often for the first three months. Then, they’ll stop keeping in touch. If you have any problems, don’t wait for them to get in touch again. You need to step up and do some pushing.

As much as it feels counter-intuitive and annoying, it would help if you‘d get your advisor’s attention. The more you message, the more likely they’ll respond. If not, annoy other people who work in Nefesh B’Nefesh or the Jewish Agency. It can be effortless to sit back and wait for someone to help you. Unfortunately, Israel isn’t like that. You’ll need to learn the hard way, but it’s necessary. Make a stand, grit your teeth, and pinch your fingers together.

Speaking of taking a stand, Hebrew is a complicated language, and you will mess up. There might be times where you’re trying to push your way onto the bus (in the days of old) or get some storekeeper’s attention, and you’ll mispronounce a word or mess up the syntax. Or worse, you’ll have to mime out the name of something you’re looking for while in a home-care store.

The solution: keep Morphix and Google Translate handy for a quick translation or phrase. Go to an ulpan if you can. Don’t worry about getting it right the first time; you can always give the “I’m an oleh chadash” excuse and see if they’re someone nice or uncaring. In other cases, the Israeli will start speaking English to you. Breathe a sigh of relief, and continue the conversation. Don’t take it personally, as some people can speak perfect Hebrew, but they may not look the Israeli part yet.

Finally, you’ll need to hit the ground running and take personal initiative. I will never forget sitting in Terminal 1 at Ben-Gurion Airport on the day I moved. The terminal was under construction, a hodge-podge of wires and scaffolding next to the fully-furnished room, complete with cubicles for meetings, a basket of room-temperature cheese, tuna, and egg sandwiches, and a play area for kids. We all sat together in the room amongst the many rows of chairs in the middle. My new Aliyah friend immediately told me to download the MyVisit app and arrange a meeting with Misrad Hapnim as soon as possible. I would never have known this without him, so I’ll tell you this now.

You can’t afford to go with the flow. There will be many responsibilities along the way, so keep talking with your advisor and bother them. Go to an Ulpan and speak with your teachers about what to do. Join the Facebook groups your aliyah advisor probably told you about (if they haven’t, then they aren’t very good). Also, the more you put yourself out there, the better you’ll be in the long run.

In conclusion, don’t pay extra for an American number if you can use WhatsApp for calls, connect with as many Facebook and WhatsApp groups as you can, reach out to every possible family member, and go into MaxStock with a budget and a plan. Also, for the love of everything Holy, pinch yourself every once in a while to make sure you aren’t dreaming. You’re home, and we’re so glad to have you.

About the Author
I'm a writer, life-long Jew, aliyanik (made aliyah in 2019), and currently working as a freelance content writer.
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