Letting go.

Into my seventh year of aliyah – living in Israel – I finally, finally, finally have been able to start what every oleh needs to do the second they get here. I’ve started letting go.

Letting go of my pride. Letting go of my mistakes. Letting go of my fear.

Maybe it’s my bilingual kid. Maybe it’s being a mother. Maybe it’s been 7 years.

But, yes. This is the way to do it.

The time has come to return to Israel.

They’re talking to you, Israelis.

The Israeli government has been enticing Israeli ex-pats back for a  while now. But it seems they’ve added emotionally heart-tugging videos to their Jewish guilt arsenal.

The Returning Home Project – not just for born-diaspora Jews anymore. The campaign seems aimed at getting friends and family still in Israel to help the ex-pats come on home.

And, by the way,  if you’ve been gone long enough, there are certain benefits you can actually earn by ‘making aliyah’ again. Check out the site for details.

What could have been.

Being back ‘home’ is always a pleasure. After almost seven years, the bad has faded away, and the good nostalgia remains. The hometown is glorified, the old friends still taste fresh in a few quick bites.

It allows the pangs for what could have been to creep to the top. What could have been if I stuck around; what I could have been for my oldest friend in her times of need, what grandparents my parents could have been for my kids.

The flip side comes through at the last minute: What could have been if I had stayed with that guy, what could have been if I had gone for that publishing job in the city. The what could have beens that probably would have lead to the obvious conclusion for an alternative universe: what could have been if I had moved to Israel?

Kindergarten report.

Ultimately, I blame myself for my nearly two-year-old turning more and more Israeli every day. Isn’t that what I always wanted, immigrant-self?

Doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely terrifying. On a daily basis.

Here’s the latest report from gan:

1. Speaking Hebrew: His chatter is getting better and better every day there. He’s counting to ten (!). The ganenet shows obvious pride when he calls me Ima at the end of the day (“but he understands English right? Ok, that’s good…”).

2. Fighting back: Yesterday the ganenet says to me, “Great news! We are so proud of him… He finally started fighting back when the bigger kids pick on him! He gets so into it… pulling hair, yelling back… Really standing up for himself.” Pride! Only in an Israeli gan… Can’t have a friar son, right?

3. American fashion: Ok, not so Israeli. More like immigrant-chic. But he gets cheers from the teachers for always coming to gan taking fashion seriously. Dressed to impress while the other kids wear pajamas.

“He always looks good…”

“Yeah, we get sent clothes by our parents from chul.”

“Very American. But good for him!”

We’ll see how that changes in a couple years; then #2 will come in handy, won’t it?

As a side note, I’m extremely pleased we put him in a ‘proper’ gan as opposed to a mishpachton. It was the right decision for our kid. He’s the youngest (and smallest) but he’s benefited so much from the year so far. Following the other kids, learning how to talk, getting better at playing with others and independently.

But more than the kid skills, it’s the picking up Hebrew and just local behavior (for better or worse). There’s going to be a lot I can’t teach him, so socializing on a daily basis is giving him the goods. With no siblings (yet) we felt it would be really important for our son-of-immigrants first-born.

Get a job in Israel when you make aliyah… and more.

Wrote up some mostly career-oriented advice for someone who is considering moving to Israel in the next couple years. With that much time to mull it over and prepare, there are lots of things you can do to make it a smooth(er) transition with the right kinds of expectations set.

So here’s what I got; feel free to add more in the comments!

  • Career: see if you can start tailoring your career towards jobs that you’ll be more likely to get here. If hi tech is your area, that’s already a great start. Becoming open minded about shifts in your title/area is key. Things won’t be exactly the same, and if you can embrace shifts, you’ll be more likely to find a job you’re comfortable with here.
  • Another thing is see if you can get an opportunity to work for an international company with a branch in Israel, or that will let you work in Israel, telecommuting. It doesn’t come natural for everyone, but if you can handle working from home/doing American hours, lots more opportunities may be open to you. Flexibility is important.
  • Networking – absolutely. Both in the States (referring to point above) and in Israel. I’d start dialogue with people here now – on Twitter, like you did with me, reading up on blogs (seems like everyone is doing it), connect with people on LinkedIn and if you’re planning a pilot trip, see if you can join some tech/work-related events while here. In Israel, it’s mostly who you know.
  • Live in a place conducive to getting good jobs. Basically, that’s the center for the most part if you’re not an engineer. Jerusalem is ok, Beit Shemesh and Modiin are in the middle, and Tel Aviv of course is the closest to the most opportunity. But lots of people commute between those areas. I live in Tzur Hadassah and commute to Jerusalem. Lots of people commute from BS and Modiin to either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Or work from home!
  • Start skimming the job lists and boards to get an idea of what’s out here. There are a few I can think of off the top of my head: IsraemployJobShukJobMobJobs in Israel.
  • On top of that, start thinking about regular life outside of work. Where you’d live and what’s that like (Flathunting) and other boards where people post all kinds of stuff (JangloTaanglo, there are others for different cities).
  • If there are kids in the picture, that’s a big one too, and means you have to look really deep into the places you’d live… I recommend getting in touch with other Anglos in different towns/cities through the Jewish Agency, UJIA, Nefesh b’ Nefesh or AACI.
  • Be wary of people who speak too (or only) positively, though… I think it’s important to get a fully realistic picture so you come prepared. Hey, I’m a realist.
  • Mind your expectations: Going with the above, I think it’s important to keep the fantasy alive while managing your expectations of life here. It’s not all a dream and it’s going to be work. If you’re ready to work for it and take on the challenges, you’re ready to live the immigrant life in Israel.

Post your own thoughts in the comments…

Paging JFK.

Maybe this isn’t very nice because once upon a time, I was just starting out, making aliyah, making ends meet, figuring it all out.

But at the same time, I don’t think I was ever a brat.

I’m just tired of hearing about/from people who are debating whether to make aliyah, but the angle they come from is what can the country to do for me? over what is my strategy for making this a successful aliyah?

It’s crucial, at least for most people, to be cautious and weigh the options – in my opinion, realistic, flexible, open-minded aliyah is more likely to succeed. And of course, a flair for brutal honesty, a sense of humor, and a decent set of employable skills help. I don’t think the strategy for aliyah in itself is to see how much the country would pay you, what the government would give you, how Israel will make you not regret moving here.

It comes down to: don’t come to live in Israel if you’re coming with the idea that you’re owed. I don’t think you will enjoy your experience here. Like anywhere else in the world, you have to make it work in Israel – job, health, housing, opportunity.

The only thing guaranteed when you’re handed your teudat zehut is a plastic sleeve.

(And that will rip in time).

Update: I enjoyed this post by One Tired Ema which emulates a similar line of thinking.

On living outside Israel.

It happens every time I visit the States: I spend about 35% of the time thinking about the reasons I could and couldn’t live there. By now, the couldn’ts far outweigh the coulds.

So it stands to reason that I’m going through the same process here in Melbourne. It’s different, of course, because it’s not my hometown, not my home country, and I’m very much a visitor. But there are so many striking similarities that I can’t ignore. And the conclusion remains the same.

It’s not even about the country itself, although my issue with the direction the United States is headed is definitely important here. It’s more about the state of Jewish community in diaspora.

I know now, more clearly than I ever knew, that the core reason I left New York was because I didn’t fit with the modern orthodox Jewish community there. It took a long time to get inside it, and when I did, I realized it wasn’t at all what made me feel comfortable with myself, my religious observance or my surroundings.

I thought the rest of the world would be different; I thought New York was unique for having the biggest, most intricate Jewish ghetto out there. But the more I travel and meet people from all over, the more I come to realize a Jewish ghetto is a Jewish ghetto for a reason. The characteristics that make it successful are carried through anywhere – New York, Montreal, Toronto, London, Manchester, Melbourne, Sydney. Sure, they all have their own uniqueness – an accent, a way of dress, an infusion of local cooking – but at the end of the day, Western Jews gathered in one place, trying to make it work in diaspora, all tastes the same to me.

Israel isn’t an obvious answer. Religious practice isn’t easy or perfect there. In fact, I try to avoid the same brand of modern orthodox/dati leumi that turns me off so much in chul. But I guess I prefer to be surrounded by Israel’s religious conflict and confusion over the over the top self assuredness of a New York Jewish community. In Israel, it’s a work in progress that constantly questions itself, and if for a moment it forgets – someone is there to remind the rest of us.

Oddly, I sense balance when I’m in Israel, internally. In New York, the scales always had to be tipped for me.

So, if I want a Jewish life for myself and my children… I don’t think I could leave Israel at this point. I wouldn’t know where to go.