Aliyah: Getting the Help We Need, Part I

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Aliyah

This post might upset some. But perhaps some people need to be upset. Because I feel everything I’m about to say is long overdue. And as much as there are plenty of individuals who will have fingers pointed at them, there is a communal responsibility that makes what I’m about to say relevant to countless individuals.

The Complexity of Aliyah

Moving to Israel (Aliyah) is not easy. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Yes, I’m sure when you move to Israel from Ethiopia or Russia, whereas you may still have challenges, you are nearly guaranteed an increase in your quality of life.

However, this is not the case for many if not most of us who move to Israel from North America. We have certain standards that we became used to in our previous lives. And yes, we are moving to another country, with its own unique culture. Israel has her own way, and its own situation, and no one should expect to be catered to.

But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a challenge.

Those challenges can be enormous. And they also can be objectively puny. But they are still challenges, and need to be respected. They need to be comforted. And where possible, they should be accommodated. That’s the case even when you believe the individual should be learning to live without whatever comfort they are seeking.

Aliyah and Seeking Help

When I was moving back to Israel, I sought help from every direction I could think of. I was panicking about any number of issues. I didn’t know how to find a job and I needed advice on apartment hunting. And I had countless questions, and I certainly didn’t not want to go into such a daunting experience alone.

There were some organizations who said their main focus was to collect money. I thought it odd that I was explaining my fear of the system and my dread of not being able to find work… and I was hit up for a donation. I found this inappropriate on a number of levels. But at least they were fairly upfront…

There were two organizations whose attitudes to me I found so repellent, I would like to highlight them here: Nefesh B’nefesh and AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel).

Aliyah and Nefesh B’nefesh

Nefesh B’nefesh boasts of making the process of moving to Israel significantly easier. Their propoganda makes it seem like Aliyah is impossible without their assistance. And to some extent, that may be true. But, sadly, I made Aliyah before they came into existence. And even though it is not indicated on their site, there are those who they will not help. Ever.

Any attempt I’ve ever made to connect with Nefesh B’nefesh was met exclusively with an invitation to look at their website. Apparently, unless I’m one of their numbers, I’m dead to them.

Any organization claiming the way they do that they exist for the sake of immigrants (olim), cannot ignore olim. Any olim. I only know what I know, but I’ve also heard from others that as time went by, the organization has become less and less vital to so many. Sure, everyone who is able to will (and should) use their services. Any help is better than no help.

But how do you sleep at night knowing that ultimately your purpose is filling checkboxes to say how high your numbers are? You don’t pay crucial attention to what happens once the immigrant is already here, or the many reasons things don’t work out for so many people. And you’re blatantly ignoring the needs of some who could desperately use a little extra assistance.

Embarrassing.

Aliyah and AACI

Another organization who I turned to for aid and support was AACI (Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel). My primary concerns, like most people, were housing and work. I was told they could most certainly help me, but only if I pay them a membership fee. So I shelled out cash I didn’t have in the desperate hope they would be able to answer my many vital questions.

That’s when the magic began!

As far as housing was concerned, I was given a list of websites. Nothing more, nothing less. Just names and links. Some that even worked! No attempts to help me find the right neighborhood, or how to navigate the system. Just a page with links.

But that was far more impressive than the assistance I was given for finding employment. AACI offered for me to meet with their liaison, who had very limited office hours in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. She would not help through Skype or phone or email. She categorically refused to assist someone unless it was in person… and I was living in Kansas at the time.

So there I was. I shelled out cash I really needed in order to get a list and an impossible consultation. There wasn’t even a mild attempt to do a better job than woefully below par.

But, yet again, another organization was able to include me in their numbers. And endlessly pat themselves on the back for the quality assistance they offer to make new immigrants’ lives easier and better.

“Secret” to Successful Aliyah

Do these organizations do anything good? Do they make anyone’s transitions to Israel easier? I’m sure somewhere hidden behind a whole lot of garbage, they do good things. Personally, I haven’t seen a shred of evidence.

Ultimately, I found an apartment. On my own. And with the assistance of a couple of good friends who were living in Israel. I furiously networked and eventually found a job. I owe everything to hard work, perseverance, and a whole hefty load of good, old-fashioned luck.

Why did I succeed? Not because of some special organization that supposedly helps olim. I succeeded in spite of them. All they offered me was false hopes and a bit more financial difficulty.

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

Would Israel be better off without them? Well, people have successfully transitioned into the country without their help, so they’re not strictly needed. If enough people’s stories are like my own, they might be doing as much harm as good. And if their influence is actually negative, I’m sure the massive amount of charity going their way could be better spent elsewhere.

If you’re going to help people, then help them. If you’re going to steal money and continue to do minimal for the greater good, why are you here?

Anyone Else?

But there lies in Israel a group of people that everyone actually does need.

Each other.

How do we take that responsibility as seriously as possible?

See you in my next post.

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3 comments

Yitz, I found them to be extremely helpful ftom the flight and up to today when I have questions. I really felt embraced and navigated through the aliyah process. We found our own home and work,as well. But, we didn’t feel the need to ask them. After 10 years, I still go to them with my questions.Ehen I had issues with work, Adina Sacks, employment staff directed me to the right people etc. Sorry, it was a bumber for youh.

I have no doubt that they help people. I am just repulsed by the notion that they don’t help people who made aliyah before they existed. YOU can give them a call. Any attempt to communicate with them on my part is rejected. I’m just told to look at their website. I’m very glad they have made the process easier for you and others. But letting everyone else fall by the wayside is unacceptable.

Your post touched me and stirred difficult memories of dealing with all these horrendous organizations (and I could name other ones on top of the ones you mentioned).. that I encountered when I was dealing with my children’s education… It is very painful to realize the brutal israeli reality as we move to our beautiful holy land and try to separate fiction from truth.. , especially if we are such idealists.. . I COMPLETELY understand your frustration and have heard all kinds of stories. I have seen first hand their modus operandi… They always refer you to their website or to someone else who is never available or refers you to their website, and so on… There is no one that I have ever dealt with that knows anything..– who is truly knowledgeable– I guess I can’t blame them lol. It is not easy to know things in Israel. For example, I always thought that I HAD to pay for a specific kupa and paid monthly to Meuhedet for 5 years until I realized that if I pay Bituach Leumi then I am covered insurance wise (basic). Anyway, there are many such things that no one tells you but expects you to just know. But yes, there are people they help in whatever small way. Still they exist only to promote aliya, uphold the propaganda how its easy and absolutely necessary, blah blah blah blah.. and how because of anti-semitism we are supposed to run to Israel, not walk. I guess that hundreds of thousands rockets aimed at Israel are not dangerous.

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