Aliyah realism.

Just met with an old friend who is visiting/studying for the summer. She considers aliyah from time to time. It’s been a while since I’ve sat down for a conversation with a friend from ‘home’. Especially one who considers making aliyah.

I listened to myself and realized how realistic I sounded. I don’t mean to discourage. I guess what I’m looking for is for people to see real life here. I know what it’s like, living in faraway America, or wherever, hearing stories and getting dreamy about falafel.

The only non-Israeli-born person who ever came somewhat close to speaking to me that way about living in Israel was a guy I dated at the end of college who was sort of half-Israeli and considering aliyah himself. He dared to preach financial difficulty… He dared to paint a picture that wasn’t coated in soft plush. I didn’t ignore him; in fact, I heeded his words. He was the only one who seemed realistic about the whole thing and that sat well with me.

Is that wrong? Is my being realistic to potential olim wrong? Even before I got here, and forced myself to do away with any expectations – was that wrong?

I think I’m doing pretty well for myself, all things considered. I’m halfway through a hebrew degree. I have a job that works out on many angles. I’m married (that’s a good thing, right?).

You know what; if I had stayed in New York, I feel like I might not have been so well-off. And I don’t think it’s necessarily living in Israel that got me so lucky. Maybe it was the absence of expectations and the open-mindedness in general.

Maybe my three aliyah rules are meant to work for anyone, anywhere.







5 responses to “Aliyah realism.”

  1. amechad Avatar

    I don’t know, as long as you are also realistic against the ‘doom and gloom’ scenarios (it IS possible to make a living here, it makes sense to me. You just have to be open minded, in the right field, and willing to work in a real job [i.e. not study all day for the rest of your life, although graduate degrees are good]. (And OK, that living will be less than it was in the US, most likely, unless you become a high tech millionaire)

    I think your approach is absolutely right but I think that comes from doing it and living here and living in the real world and “Medinat Yisrael” and not “Eretz Yisrael” (a state of mind, not a physical location). That’s why I really wish the only people telling those in the Diaspora about Israel were people who actually lived in Israel, but some people either want the doom and gloom or the falafel and ‘everything is Jewish’ Jewish identity fairytale.

    But ya know what, I can look out my window at work and think how lucky I am to live in Jerusalem and in Israel … and then, with two feet on the ground, get back to work.

  2. eliesheva Avatar

    “But ya know what, I can look out my window at work and think how lucky I am to live in Jerusalem and in Israel … and then, with two feet on the ground, get back to work.”

    I think that’s the key, right there.

  3. amechad Avatar


    I think this story also expresses it quite well:

    What I know now, four years later, is that these two dreams are practically incompatible; one cannot live in Israel and maintain the same sense of awe and idealism of those who pray for redemption from abroad. Living here, it is exceedingly difficult to ignore the culture of aggression and masculinity; the monopoly of orthodoxy on all things religious; gross socio-economic deficiencies and gaps; the corruption of all things political; death and taxes; a dearth of intellectualism; and the unbearable hamsin [dry heat waves]. It’s not that it’s entirely impossible maintain a sense of pure wonder and awe whilst living in Israel; it’s just that to do so comes at the expense of social and cultural integration. And that is a price I’ve never been willing to pay –especially given my limited Israeli salary.
    Because when all is said and done, I still believe that by participating in Israeli culture and society, I am personally building the Jewish future. Living here is not just about kosher consumerism (both in the culinary and—thanks to the new Tav Hevrati [Social Seal, which certifies that restaurants abide by fair labor practices]—social justice sense) and it’s not just about better weather and scenery (though, truth be told, in the final reckoning, both factors carried substantial weight). I’m still here because despite it all—the sharp elbows, the close encounters, the physical and political heat—life here is good. It is real; it is full of purpose. We might not have the whole “running a modern political state” thing down yet, and we certainly have a long way to go. But we’re young; we’ve got energy, and we’ve got time. We’re informal enough that everyone here has the power and the hutzpah to affect channels of change; we’re naïve enough to believe that some pillars of socialism still can and should be realized, and we’re small enough to realize that our individual fates are interconnected and that we are all dependent upon one another. So there’s plenty of room to be personally involved and to make a real difference. Especially because, since everyone in Israel is too busy talking to be able to listen, when you want to get something done here, elbow use is perfectly legit.

  4. […] comment got me thinking. Not for too long, not too hard, but I what I was thinking was: I have a very nice […]

  5. […] to build my adult life a little differently. A healthy dose of idealism is a good thing. A healthy dose of realism is a very good […]

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