Against overwhelming odds, Israel has matured into an economic powerhouse boasting a strong currency, a lower unemployment rate than the US and the EU, and a rich and diverse culture. With all that Israel has to offer, Aliyah is increasingly becoming a normative lifestyle choice for recent college graduates and young professionals from western countries. While there are many reasons that Jewish people of all ages and backgrounds decide to pack up their lives and start anew in Israel, two common denominators seem to account for the ever increasing numbers of young professionals – that is, singles aged 18-35 - moving to Israel in recent years: idealism and opportunity.
Since 2002, over 8,000 students and young professionals have made Aliyah from North America and the UK, bringing with them their skills, idealism and determination to contribute to a society that is at the forefront of global technology. According to data from Nefesh B’Nefesh, over 1,300 singles and young professionals between the ages of 18 and 30 made Aliyah in 2011 alone, a 250% increase over the last five years.
Interestingly, this group’s demographics are more diverse than others making Aliyah. While the majority of families making Aliyah fall within the Orthodox spectrum, among singles and young the percentage of Conservative, Reform and non-affiliated Jews are over 65 percent.
Kim Ephrat, a pre-Aliyah Job Counselor at Nefesh B’Nefesh
says that many young people actually come to Israel for professional opportunities. “Of course they are idealistic,” she says. “But unlike other sectors, they have an opportunistic element as well. They finish school and find there aren’t as many opportunities as they would have hoped for. People are coming here because the job market in Israel is strong. Plus, the education and creativity that the Olim bring is highly valued here.”
While everyone’s experiences are different and certainly not everyone finds their dream job right away, there are many positive stories that Olim have shared. Samuel Englender, 25, originally from Michigan, recalls, “Though I had little work experience, I came to Israel full of hope and excitement. I know it sounds too good to be true, but two days after I passed on my resume I received a call from a start-up high-tech company and ten days later I was an account manager.”
When asked about the job opportunities for young people, Ephrat explained, “Naturally it’s important to be realistic about the job search and to approach it with flexibility and creativity, two key elements that help you secure a faster source of income in Israel. ‘Flexibility’ indicates a willingness to take on jobs even if they do not meet your original expectations, and ‘creativity’ means thinking of original ventures to generate an income, such as turning a hobby into a money-making source.”
Of the young professionals who choose to make Aliyah at this stage, most have at least completed their Bachelor’s degrees. Some come right after university; others have been working 5 years. Professionals who come are of a wide range of fields such as marketing, high-tech, medicine, finance, law, education, psychology, non-profit. Some continue to graduate studies in Israel while others wait to make Aliyah until after they’ve completed their studies.
While Hebrew is the biggest challenge for all Olim, the young professionals have an edge when it comes to learning the language. Many resources exist for those willing to work on their Hebrew before making Aliyah. Online Hebrew Ulpan, Rosetta Stone and similar programs, live courses, and self-study are all ways to bring a person’s Hebrew level up and any of these are highly recommended to give the new immigrant that bit of an edge once looking for employment in Israel.
One of the keys to entering the job market in Israel is networking. The Nefesh B’Nefesh
Employment department gives Olim a jump start with this through handpicked contacts and specific direction. Social media is a big help for making contacts. In addition to professional sites such as Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and other more ‘social’ networking programs can be used for professional networking and are a great resource.
Career management firms in the US conducted research and found that the large majority of jobs are landed by personal connections, before a job is advertised or even made public. Of the people surveyed in this study, 60% said that they found their current job by networking. While this survey was done in the US, when approaching the Israeli job market the numbers are probably more persuasive, and especially so in such a small country and a tight economy. Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Israel has learned of the term “protexia” which loosely means “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”.
“Everyone builds up a network of professional contacts, naturally developed up over a long period of time,” explains Ephrat. “When making Aliyah and integrating into this ‘protexia’-oriented society, it is necessary to proactively create a parallel network of professional contacts, by putting a significant deal of time and effort into the process. Helping with network-building is an important role that the Nefesh B’Nefesh
Employment department plays.”
“The advice they give is what anyone who is job hunting knows - network, network, network,” says Ayala Bak, Marketing Director at HypnoCore, Ltd. “What NBN
gave me was a built-in network that I could immediately start to connect with. However the most important thing I received was the belief that I had a great team behind me and that I am not alone!”
The social advantages of life in Israel coupled with the career opportunities make Aliyah an increasingly attractive option for young professionals. While many see their Aliyah as a new adventure, without the pressures of a family to support they can entertain that concept while they sort out their plans of what to do for the rest of their lives.
Laura Ben-David made Aliyah with her family in 2002 from Boca Raton, Florida. Inspired by the Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and hasn't stopped. She is the author of numerous articles and the book, Moving Up: An Aliyah Journal.