This week on Café Oleh we ask our bloggers to weigh in on navigating the logistics of the aliya process itself.
Each week you''ll hear from our resident aliya and Judaism bloggers about their experiences, their hardships, and the gratifications of moving to Israel.
Nefesh B''Nefesh vs. Jewish Agency: How do you choose with which organization to make aliya? Or do you simply get on the plane!?
Nefesh B''Nefesh. Many of my friends had great success with them.
Frankly, Nefesh B''Nefesh gave more assistance and more money. Plus, when you apply through Nefesh B''Nefesh they do it alongside the Jewish Agency. So if you apply for aliya, I''d go with Nefesh.
What kind of basic preparations need to be made to begin the journey?
Mental preparations first. For some people, this isn''t necessary because they''ve been making the mental and emotional preparations for years... And all their friends and family have simply been waiting for the announcement. For others (like me!), step one is preparing yourself to prepare to tell your family.
Give up all preconceived notions; aliya is nothing like what any of us imagine. However, it is also the case that the end result is much, much better than anything we can dream of.
Get all your documents in order, including that Rabbi letter. That along with the birth certificate are probably the most important documents to prove your Jewish identity.
What was the most difficult part of the preparations/making aliya?
Having to accept that preparations will not and cannot be perfect.
For me, the most difficult preparations involved telling our family and close friends that we were moving halfway across the world, where the cost of a visit was upwards of thousands of dollars. Second to that was going through all the stuff I had been hoarding all those years and finally deciding to give some of it up since I couldn''t justify paying to ship it to Israel or store it in the States.
I made aliya from the States and it was a big of a logistical nightmare to get them to get me a flight to get back in time. I was only around for 3 weeks: I''d recommend people take at least a month in order to make sure you get a flight!
Were there any surprises along the way? (i.e. any tasks/preparations you were unprepared for?)
It''s more difficult, in midlife, to acquire Hebrew than I had expected.
For us, a big challenge was resolving my husband''s status. Since he lived in Israel as a child and his parents were Israeli, his status was up in the air. The bureaucracy holes became really clear to us at the beginning when the various participating government agencies could not agree on his status, and then once they agreed on his status, would not agree on what benefits he would receive.
Don''t expect Israelis to work during holidays. As a workaholic American, this was a major source of culture shock for me. Although it makes navigating the bureaucracy challenging, it makes living here that much better; people really take time off!
If you could offer one piece of advice about preparing for aliya what would it be?
I think it depends on your age and who you are making aliya with. If you are married with young kids -- read my blog. If you are single, I would suggest living here for a year first. I often think that my aliya process would have been a lot easier and more seamless if I came here as a young single. That said, if I made the decision to make aliyah as a young single, before I knew as much about myself as I think I do now, I might not have stayed. Who knows? Maybe each of us lands here at just the perfect time for each of us.
Think about whether or not you like Israelis and Israeli culture beyond your own ideology. Many leave because they may believe in living here, but don''t actually like it. Figure this out for yourself before deciding to make aliya.