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…
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.
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?
But there lies in Israel a group of people that everyone actually does need.
How do we take that responsibility as seriously as possible?
See you in my next post.
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