Monday, January 4, 2016

Post-Aliyah Survival

I'm writing this post to all of you out there who just made aliyah, are thinking of making aliyah, or will soon be making aliyah.

We've been here a little over 5 years (this time around), and I cannot lie. It's hard. It's not ALWAYS hard. But overall, there are so many adjustments to make when you pick up and move from a Western country to Israel, so I won't lie and say that it's easy.

But it's important to remember why you're here. Each of us has our own reasons for picking up and making this move, so it's important to keep that in mind, especially on the hard days.

Remembering why you came will help you get through the hard times. 

Here are a few other things I think can help:

Find support. I cannot stress enough just how important it is to have someone to talk to when things aren't going your way. Someone who will understand you, won't judge you, and hopefully, maybe, will help you see your way back to feeling better. If you don't have support, some days it will seem like it's just too much for you to handle! (This can be a supportive friend, family member, or a therapist. It all depends on what works for you.)

Have an emergency fund. I know it's not easy to save money, but try to scrimp and save and set some aside. Because one day you're going to need that emergency fund. Maybe your landlord lied to you and your new place is not livable and you need to move - you'll need a way to pay for it. Or maybe your roof in your new house is leaky - and you'll need to find a way to fix it. (Trust me, I speak from experience. My roof has sprung a leak. Again.)

Live smaller than you are used to. It isn't easy, but if your emergency funds are low, this is the only way to build it up. Live small, and save any extra shekels. Are you used to ordering pizza on a regular basis? Maybe that's the 50 shekels a week you can set aside. Make a simple supper at home (nothing wrong with eating sandwiches for supper sometimes!) instead of ordering pizza, and use that money to build up your emergency fund! Or maybe you don't even order pizza ever. There is probably something you can cut back on. I have rarely met a new "oleh" in this country who doesn't spend extra somewhere.

Learn Hebrew. I know, it's hard. It really is. But when you don't understand the language it's easy to feel lost. So if you are eligible for a subsidized Ulpan, I recommend you MAKE IT HAPPEN. Too many olim I've spoken to don't bother to do ulpan, or drop out after a short time. It's not worth it! Speaking Hebrew will help you survive for the decades ahead.

Check your credit card statements. I have heard the (rare) story of horrendous mistakes. You can log in to your account (where exactly depends who issued your card) and keep track. If there is a mistake, make sure you track down the source (did your barber charge you 5000 shekels instead of 50, like the story I heard recently?) and get it fixed. You can also call the credit card company for help with that. 

Check your bills. Does your water bill list the correct number of people in your household? Did you know that if you have a larger family than what they think, you are missing out on your rate reduction? Get it straightened out, right away. Most water companies won't do much about retroactive reductions, but at least you'll have a lower bill from now on.

Find Discounts. Keep track of things like income tax refund programs, and arnona discounts you may be eligible for. Apply early - too many people push it off and miss out.

Give yourself a break. Making aliyah is stressful. If you don't relax and de-stress, it's going to wear you out. Pick an hour a week when you have down-time. This doesn't actually have to cost you anything. It can be as simple as turning off your phone and going for a walk to a nearby scenic overlook. Or sit and talk with a friend (in person or on the phone), or watch a movie or TV show with your spouse or significant other, or anything else that may relax you. As long as you see this as "my break-time", it can go a long way in recharging your batteries and helping you de-stress.

I'd love to hear all of your survival tactics, too. Please leave yours in the comments section below!

Let's also remember that sometimes a smile and a helping hand to someone who's new here and having a tough time can REALLY go a long way!

Aliyah may be stressful, but I know you can do it. I'm rooting for you!


  1. Is food taxed in Israel? I am still trying to figure out all my expenses and where I live now a lot of it is, so I am used to cooking for myself and living frugally here in the US. Just wondering.

    1. Almost everything is taxed here. But the price you'll see on the item already has tax included, so you don't need to calculate how much more it will become at checkout. (An item marked 4.90 will ring up 4.90 and no further taxes will be added to it, as that 4.90 already includes all taxes) Hope that helps!

  2. Good post, Ester. Hashem should bless you with continued success, and much more nachat ruah from you lovely family!

    1. Thank you Mordechai! Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

  3. oh it hard on so many levels - but i wouldnt change it for the world. At middle age we made freinds easily, but they are not friends with a shared history - so i miss that. But we're all in the same boat (the middle agers). Young people have the parents of their childrens friends so they can more easily make a community of friends. Language is harder for us. We even went into a manufacturing business without Hebrw - we're managing tho. Shul is different - the women dont go so much Sat morning like in Chul, and of course there is no English drasha - miss that. When you are midage - you want to be near your kids or near other anglos in a similar situation. Most of our new friends are retired - we are still working (in our business) so dont do the travelling & vacations that our new friends so. Also most of our new friends own their apt., we're still renting. We may have had a better financial situation in Chu"l, but this is home, we love being near all of our kids, the weather, the politics, the new and so interesting people we meet, the lack of boredom here. Most of all we love the feeling of being comfortable in our Jewish homeland.

  4. Todah Rabah for your positive post. I am hoping to make Aliyah summer 2017. I am doing many of your suggestionsnow; learning Hebrew (e-teacher) paring down (donating furniture, books, clothes) and trying to build up an emergency fund for when my Sal Klita runs out after 6 months.....I am more than willing to live simply but I am very worried about finding work and being able to make it financially.

    1. Sonia, I hope you haven't given up. The key is - take a job, any job, at first. As time goes on, you'll be able to move on up or on to the next job. Your first job in Israel is unlikely to be your dream job, but hopefully you will get there!

  5. I am recently widowed and hoping to have enough benefits coming in from the states to support myself and my special needs adult son . I have friends and a married son in Israel , looking for them to help with a lot of siyata dishmaya ! Hoping to move by 2017-18 . Still have adult children dependent on me here in the states.


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