North American olim arrive in Israel on a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight, Aug. 15, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90) (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
aliyah

Making aliyah will likely be the best decision you ever made in your life!
Since the State of Israel’s founding in 1948, more than 3 million Jews have made aliyah including more than 200,000 North American immigrants.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion (in Israel) is “Shlach” (Numbers 13:1-15:41) and it we read about the disastrous episode of the spies. Moses sent 12 spies, leaders of each tribe, to spy out the Land of Israel in preparation for the Jewish people’s imminent entry into the Land… their ALIYAH!

Unfortunately, 10 out of the 12 spies delivered a frightening report about the Land and advised against it, despite G-d’s promise.

The people panicked and rejected the Promised Land. As a result, God punished the Jews with forty years of wandering the desert, and the rest is history.

We will use this week’s article discuss aliyah – immigration to Israel.

Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to Israel. The Hebrew word aliyah means “to go up” referring to the idea that “the land of Israel is higher than all other lands” as well as because immigration to Israel is also “going up” a notch in a more spiritual lifestyle.

The Israeli “Law of Return” says that any Jew can immigrate and become a citizen of Israel at any time, no questions asked. Who is a Jew, however, is a difficult topic that we’ll save for another time.

Since the destruction of Jerusalem and exile 2,000 years ago, immigration to Israel was minimum until Zionism put the idea on the front burner in the late 19th century.

Since the State of Israel’s founding in 1948, more than 3 million Jews have made aliyah including more than 200,000 North American immigrants.

There has always been a steady flow of immigration from North America since 1948. After the Six Day War in 1967 immigration surged for quite a while. For example, between 1967 and 1973, 60,000 North American Jews immigrated to Israel.

The organization Nefesh B’Nefesh, founded in 2002, works to encourage aliyah from North America and the UK by providing financial assistance, employment services and making the bureaucracy much easier. Other communities of Jews who have immigrated to Israel in large numbers in recent years include South African Jews, American Jews, French Jews, and the Bnei Menashe Jews from India who claim to be from the Lost Tribes.

People make aliyah for all kinds of reasons: religious considerations, Zionist considerations, financial considerations, and more. The quality of life is also a motivating factor for Aliya, not to mention the Mediterranean climate with its mild winters.

If you grew up with the cold and snow, Israeli weather will seem like a dream come true! There is also the wonderful local food, beaches, and national parks that are only a short drive away.

Life in Israel isn’t always easy, but it is the most meaningful lifestyle a Jew can live. For all the security problems that Israel still faces, life here is comparatively safe. Health care and education is extremely advanced and accessible.

There are many benefits for new immigrants such as the “Sal Klita” (absorption basket) which includes a financial gift upon arrival.

There is also rent subsidy, tax breaks, help with a mortgage, subsidized day care for children, discounts on higher education, free Hebrew classes (known as “ulpan”) and more.

There is even a free taxi ride upon arrival to your new address in Israel.

If you’re thinking of aliyah make sure you are ready. Aliyah means uprooting your life and starting again from scratch. You’ll be creating a new life, a new job, and a new home, to name a few. You’ll have to find new doctors and dentists, get a new driver’s license and other academic recognition from what you earned in your home country.

I advise people to move into communities that have a high percentage of Anglos, or cities where you have relatives who will make your “landing” easier. Israel is not America, Canada, England, or Australia. It’s Israel and you gotta learn the Israeli way of doing things and learn it fast!

Making aliyah is a major decision. It takes courage, commitment, patience, and a sense of humor. If you’re ready to persevere, go for it. Making aliyah will likely be the best decision you ever made in your life!