Every time I do this, the emails get longer and more detailed. Here’s the latest aliyah tips email I’ve written. If you happen to have questions, feel free to email me. If you happen to have more/better info, feel free to comment with it.
…I’m more than happy to spill out as much info as I’ve got… I’m really happy to help out people looking to make aliyah because I’m a big believer in knowing the reality before you get here so you don’t get the wrong ideas.
But for now: where to start?? There is only so much the shaliach can tell you; not because he’s lying, but because he’s Israeli (most probably) and never made aliyah before.
I chose to live in Jerusalem for the soft landing, exactly as you’re thinking; tons of young, single (and married) Anglos to socialize and quite a few programs to start, like living at the Merkaz Hamagshimim, Ulpan Etzion, going to Pardes, stuff like that. I wanted to live at Ulpan Etzion (it’s a nice atmosphere) but backed out and lived in an apartment and then went to the ulpan for classes. I don’t know if that’s something you’ve considered, but I did it for the socializing, not for the Hebrew. It definitely helps. I also crashed for a month (and met my now-husband) at Merkaz Hamagshimim, and it is one of the cheapest living situations you can probably get, although 250 is what I paid to live in an apartment with two other girls in Katamon (very young, Anglo area in Jerusalem). So I think you should estimate 250 a month for living (plus bills that shouldn’t exceed 100 a month but you can do MUCH better than that), unless you can find another girl to share a room with you… which is pretty rare.
I lived in an absorption center for a summer when I did an internship in Jerusalem; it’s not really for single Anglos who have made aliyah (I lived with two other girls that summer and one of them I knew before hand; there were some MADA volunteers staying there as well but all for summer). It’s all in East Talpiot ( Beit Canada) which is far from everything you’d want to be near and there is only one bus that goes there every half an hour. It’s small and if you’re low-maintence than it’s everything you need. But I wouldn’t suggest it for social life and easy access to jobs or ulpans.
As far as neighborhoods where everyone lives in Jerusalem:
German Colony, which includes Katamon, Emek Refaim, Baka, Rechavia, Talpiot – the ‘Upper West Side’ of Israel.
Nachlaot – Jewish-hippie, laid back, religiously spiritual, baal tshuva.
French Hill – people live here because they go to Hebrew University. I’m pretty sure about that.
The German Colony and Nachlaot are all close. So much about Jerusalem is walkable. You definitely don’t need a car.
For finding apartments, join the yahoo group: Flathunting… If you email email@example.com they will start sending you a daily digest of apartments up for rent and sublet and people specify price, single, kosher, shomer shabbat, etc. It’s great. Don’t book anything till you get here though because you never know who or what you’ll end up with. Start looking a few weeks before you come, and email back and forth to get an idea what people are like. That’s the yahoo group for Jerusalem; for Tel Aviv it’s a different email address but I can’t remember – maybe TAflathunting?. There’s also Homeless, more Israeli-oriented. In general, living with Israelis tends to mean cheaper living; Anglos are anglos… Also, when you get here, for cheap stuff to get you started on furniture, appliances, etc: yahoo group/site called firstname.lastname@example.org; the site is Janglo. That’s for getting stuff in Jerusalem; Taanglo is for Tel Aviv.
I barely knew anyone when I made aliyah… Maybe I could count them on one hand and we weren’t great friends. But once you get into it, meet one or two people, you’ll meet everyone, and then it can get claustrophobic (but what Jewish community isn’t??)
You will have no problem meeting people… The young, modernly religious Anglo scene is hard to miss in Jerusalem. Tel Aviv I know less about, but there is def a vibrant, young, Anglo (not as religious, but there are religious) scene. I can put you in touch with people from Tel Aviv to ask about that…
As far as meeting Israelis, that gets tricky wherever you are unless you’re on a kibbutz or anywhere but Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. You’ll meet them depending on what your job is, what bars you hang out in, etc.
By the way, have you applied to Nefesh b’Nefesh for the financial grant? They’re good for at least a couple thousand dollars. It paid my rent when I started out. Check out their website ; it also has tons of info, like taxes, getting your liscence, etc. They also do social events when you get here. Also AACI is an American/Canadian org to help with olim. Also – luckily enough – my husband is an aliyah counseler for UJIA, which is AACI for Brits and Aussies, but he’s more than happy to answer questions… He made aliyah too and also had Israeli parents that screwed up his sal klita, so he has the details and experience on that.
Looking for a job: Israemploy.
Other stuff I can say:
– Come with a skill… You’ll have a much easier time finding and getting a job. Israeli employers value experience, not education as much.
– Come with the expectation that the first 6 months are about acclimating, living low-cost, and finding your place. There will be ups and downs, and everyone else goes through it.
– I didn’t got to Israel for the year either, and I’m probably better off for it. Less expectations. On that topic, try not to fantasize too much… Once you get here and settle in, you realize the reality of living in Israel. It’s amazing, but it’s not easy.
That’s my intro to making aliyah… There’s tons more I can say, but that should be a start. Let me know if you have any other questions, concerns, whatever. Good luck!