(photo credit: Thinkstock)
Picture yourself retired.
You’re no longer rushing off to your
job, so morning just might find you hiking along the beach, a picnic
lunch in your backpack. You can enjoy yourself, worry-free, knowing your
new home is in a community with terrific public transportation and
access to shopping, theaters, recreation, universities and synagogues of
every stripe. What’s more, you have your health insurance squared away
and your retirement income more than takes care of your expenses. And if
you have questions about your new community, help is but a phone call
or e-mail away. You breathe in the sea air and text a friend back in
your old hometown: “Wish you were here.”
Expecting those “early
bird specials” and alligators lurking in the gutters? Nope. It’s not a
Florida beach you’re strolling along. You’ve just retired to Israel.
a growing number of baby boomers and older folks too, Israel is the
Promised Land for retirement. Whether they’ve got kids (and as often as
not grandkids) already there, or they’re finally living out their own
Israel dream deferred, they’re making plans and making their move.
Buiumsohn is a retirement expert for Nefesh B’Nefesh (www.nbn.org.il
Though based in Israel, she spends large chunks of her time presenting
to groups of English-speaking prospective retirees. These seminars are
popular. Arriving at one in Boston last winter a mere 10 minutes late, a
friend and I were lucky to find seats. And the crowd was serious,
judging by the 30 minutes of questions they lobbed at the end of
“They are serious,” she concurs. “The
children are grown and their careers are winding down, plus they’re
still young enough to enjoy themselves, so now is their chance.”
more, many of today’s seniors are still employed, either full- or
part-time, and they arrange to telecommute after they make aliyah. This
puts them in the enviable position of earning dollars but spending them
in a shekel-based economy.
For every grandparent who joins the
kids in Israel, another racks up the frequent flyer miles coming back to
the States for school vacations, putting in plenty of Skype hours in
between. Others pay to have the kids flown over in the summer, giving
the grandkids the opportunity to live in Israel for weeks or months at a
time and pick up the kind of real-live Hebrew they could never learn in
religious or day school back home.
When Larry Woznica made
aliyah from Toronto he had every intention of retiring—until Nefesh
B’Nefesh offered him a job he couldn’t refuse. “But whether or not you
work, this is an amazing place for people our age,” he says. “There’s so
much to do and the services are terrific.” A bonus for Woznica: He just
became a grandfather for the first time, and the baby lives in Israel.
Buiumsohn says Nefesh B’Nefesh works to make the transition and
integration into Israeli society as painless as possible, including
ongoing support in such areas as selecting a community, finances, health
coverage, housing and even connecting you to opportunities for
volunteering and socializing.
More and more private firms are
springing up to help their clients select and pack those belongings
destined to be useful to them in Israel, while leaving the rest behind.
One such service is the Boston-based Design Coaches
). “Helping people move their belongings to a new
location is part of what we do,” says owner Thelma Newberger-Hirsch.
“The other part is creating a new home that reflects their new lives as
they make aliyah.”
Josie Arbel, Director of Klitah Services and
Programs for the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel
(AACI), reports that her organization is a home-away-from-home for new
olim over the age of 60, advising them on everything from healthcare to
housing to learning Hebrew. “From the time they arrive, they’re already
creating rewarding, active lives. It’s wonderful to be a part of this
In fact, the most frequent comment Buiumsohn hears from
the over-60 olim is “if I had known how good it was going to be I would
have come much earlier.”Deborah
Fineblum Raub is a Sharon, MA-based writer, editor and Jewish LifeStory
coach. She currently does communications for Jewish Women’s Archive and
regularly entertains aliyah thoughts.