Why I’m leaving Israel

No matter if we scrimped and saved, moved to the suburbs, locked ourselves in a one bedroom with only rice and beans, we would not be able to save enough money to afford a family home by the age of 40.

September 1, 2013 22:06
3 minute read.
Tourists cool off at Tel Aviv beach

Tourists cool off at Tel Aviv beach. (photo credit: Niv Elis)

If you asked me four years ago why I decided to make aliya, I would have said that I wanted adventure. The suburbs of Toronto didn’t offer the same zest. If you asked my mom, it was to find a husband, as she had done in the ’70s and my grandmother in the ’30s. Whichever the reason, I am happy to say I was successful at both. I stood atop Mount Hermon, I floated in the Dead Sea and I wed on the shores of the Mediterranean.

By all indicators, I have had a successful aliya. I have created a happy and healthy Jewish home within Israel’s borders. Despite this, I am sad to say that I will be packing the two pieces of luggage with which I arrived and moving back to Canada this winter with my husband.

Israel offers olim immediate access to a country that holds diverse terrains, religious affiliations, culinary delicacies and cultural attractions that amount to a unique experience you can’t find anywhere else on the globe. I have examined my Tel Aviv life in a long-time effort to decide if I should stay or go. However, no matter how I dice it, the State of Israel does not offer me a secure future.

It would seem that Israel’s strong economy has something to offer an eager native English speaker. The Internet is overflowing with job postings for content writers, social media experts, SEO editors and web managers. For someone looking to support a lifestyle of beaches, bars, restaurants and tzimmerim (holiday cottages), Israel offers a wage that can support it and an urban playground that caters to it.

On top of that, the Israeli job market enables English speakers to reap a piece of the hi-tech pie so often lauded by international media and Israelis themselves. The multi-million dollar exit strategies of many an Israeli start-up create the impression that Israel is the new frontier for a Zionist-inclined Anglo. There is no doubt that English is regularly heard throughout the streets and office buildings of the stock exchange, Airport City and Ramat Hachayal.

And yet, once an Anglo has gotten their foot in the door by reason of their mother tongue, where is there to go? English may run the content and marketing departments, but business and negotiations are conducted in Hebrew. There’s a glass ceiling that Americans, Canadians and Brits will inevitably hit. I work half in Hebrew and half in English, but there are few upper rungs for me to climb. My employers hired me for my English, not my ambition.

So what’s an Anglo to do once they’ve hit their English plateau? The options are either to jump on the entrepreneurial bandwagon, find the same job at a slightly higher wage or go home. Israel can offer an abundance of jobs, but few careers.

Aside from the career options, the disparity between the cost of living and the monthly salary is vast. Whatever language you speak, everyone can agree that Israel is an expensive place to live.

And 400,000 people said so in the summer of 2011 when Tel Aviv’s streets filled with peaceful protestors looking to tip the scales in their favor. Not much happened, except for a recent increase in taxes.

For my husband and I, up until now it was livable. We had enough money to pay the rent, stock the fridge and sit with our friends a couple of nights a week over drinks.

But now as we think about our future and try to match our dreams to our paychecks, we realize it cannot be done.

No matter if we scrimped and saved, moved to the suburbs, locked ourselves in a one bedroom with only rice and beans, we would not be able to save enough money to afford a family home by the age of 40.

The only young couples I know in Israel who own houses are those who received assistance from their families.

And it’s nice if you can get it, but I moved to Israel to be independent. I only see financial dependence in my future if I stay here.

If I want the security of a home, I have no option but to uproot my life again and move back to Canada. It may not have the same zest for life as Tel Aviv. It may be colder, quieter and less lively, but it will adequately support my next adventure: a family life.

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