Ask the aliya experts, Vols I to X

Volumes I to IX of Questions and Answers about aliya.

Shira Wolfe is Coordinator of Merkaz Meida for Young Adults. The Center is sponsored by the World Zionist Organization's Hagshama Department, Merkaz HaMagshimim Hadassa and The Jewish Agency, in cooperation with the AACI and UJIA. Send us your questions for Shira.
  • For full Cafe Oleh resource listings on Aliya and Absorption click here! Vol IX: Q: I was born in the US, my mother is an American citizen and my father is a dual national (US and Israel). Does that make me an Israeli citizen? A: It makes you a citizen. You would still need to fill out paperwork to be given official status, to be issued a passport etc, but you would be eligible for most of the benefits a regular immigrant receives, if you were to make aliya. Q: I was born to a converted, Reform Jewish mother. I currently live in Switzerland. What must I do to proceed towards fulfilling my dream aliya? A: Speak to your shaliach to see if the conversion will be recognized. If so, you can then proceed to open an aliya file with the same shaliach. Your shaliach can be contacted in Geneva at Agence Juive, 2 Rue Vallin, CP 5720, 1211 Geneve 11, Suisse, tel: (022) 908 0500, fax: (022) 908 050, e-mail: Q: I am making aliya from NYC in just a few days. My brother will be doing so within two years along with my mother. My brother and I are somewhat worried about the health and welfare of our (non-Jewish) father as he ages. We are his only relatives. We are worried about him as he is getting older and his health is failing. We would like to have him close by where we can take care of him if the need arises. Our parents divorced more than 20 years ago. Given that he is no longer the spouse of a Jew (but is the parent of Jewish children) would he be eligible for aliya? A: There are instances where allowances are made. These are case-by-case decisions made by the Ministry of Interior. I recommend you contact your shaliach, and together write a letter explaining the circumstances, in petitioning for citizenship for your father. Your shaliach is located at Israel Aliya Center, 633 3rd Avenue, 21st floor, New York, NY 10017-6706, tel: (212) 339-6063/6068/6072 fax: (212) 832-2597 fax: (212) 318-6145, e-mail: Q: We recently had a child in the States and are considering making aliya in several years. If we begin investing in her behalf with an Education IRA, can those funds be used towards the costs of education in Israel? A: Unless your IRA has restrictions regarding where the education can take place, there should be no reason that you could not. Because such issues are detailed and complicated, a CPA, or the bank where you will open the account, should be consulted. Q: I am 59 years old and will retire in a few years with a good pension and other assets. Where can I find infromation about aliya for someone who doesn't need employment but wishes to live on a fixed income. Are there any special tax exemptions in Israel for people like me? A: There are some tax exemptions for retirees. The details of aliya can be obtained from the Israel Aliya Center, tel: (215) 735-7606, fax: (215) 318-6134, e-mail: * * * Vol VIII: Q: I have been recently widowed, I have no money and am partly disabled. My heritage come from my mothers' side of family. My brother had his bar mitzva. I never had the opportunity to do much .I received papers to fill out from my shaliach. to verify who I was and I am having trouble knowing where to go from here to verify my Jewishness, as I do not belong to any congregation. A: I would start by trying to contact the shul/rabbi that did your brother's bar mitzva. In addition, speak to family members on your mother's side to see if any of them have knowledge of a connection to any Jewish institution, or records of birth/marriage that may indicate Jewish standing in your family, or of your mother herself. See how far back in the family tree you can go. Perhaps someone on your mom's side was religious and a ketuba (marriage license) can be found. Note from Cafe Oleh: If none of the above is possible, send us more details of ypour family history and we will try to put you in touch with someone who might be able to help. Q: I made aliya again in 2001, the first time was in 1975. I then left Israel again. When I came back this year for summer I was told "Welcome, but you are not getting out without an Israeli passport." That was ok with me. So I went to Misrad Hapnim, there I was told I could not get a passport, only travel documets. Only residents of Israel can have passports. Is there some type of paradox here? A: It may seem so, but the situation is that passports are not issued on the spot. Citizens receive a passport only after a year of residing in Israel, and are issued travel documents for the interim, and then months later, a passport. Because you are not a resident, the travel documents will have to suffice, until you obtain a passport from the Israeli embassy back home. Q: Help! I made aliya in 1995 when I was working in Israel, changing my status from "tourist" to "Right of Return". I did Shlav Bet in the army in 1997. I got married in 2000 in Jerusalem, and we had a baby there later that year. My wife is American and never changed her status from "student" while we were living there. We moved back to the States in April 2001. We now have two little girls and really, really want to move back to Israel. Can we apply for a Nefesh b'Nefesh grant? What are we eligible for? What about Israeli aliya rights? Have those all expired for me? Does it matter that my wife never made aliya? Can she now "make aliya" and I can piggy-back with her? A: NBN will accept you. You need to apply on-line or call them at the numbers listed on the website. They will inform you about all your rights, which, to my knowledge, are still intact for your wife, but some have expired for you (for example, free ulpan, aquisition tax breaks). In some cases, joint rights such as rental subsidy/mortgage breaks, can be calculated based on your wife's status (ie, you may get a partial subsidy, and sal klita). * * * Vol VII: Q: We are parents of 12 children, we keep Shabbat and kosher and love Hashem. Our ancestors were Levy, who abandoned His Great Name. Now, we want to turn back, home, but we can not accept some rabbinical dogmas our beliefs are karaite beliefs. Is there any possibility for us to make aliya? A: When you refer to your ancestors, do you mean grandparents or before? Are any of your grandparents Jewish? If so, you are entitled to make aliya according to the Law of Return, even if your practices are karaite (or non-observant for that matter). Q: I have a question. I just found out from my aunt that my great great grandmother was from Poland. There is a great chance that she was Jewish from what my aunt was saying. That would be my mother's great grandmother on, my mother's side of the family. If she is Jewish, does that make me Jewish? If so, can I make aliya to Israel? A: Yes, that would make you Jewish, and enable you to make aliya. If you are interested in doing so, contact your nearest aliya shaliach (look under US). Note from Cafe Oleh: You will have to investigate the matter properly and be able to prove that she was Jewish and your relationship to her. Q: I am in the US military and considering my options for making aliya. I have been in the service for three years and am obligated for one more. Should I finish my commitment and they make aliya? Could I transfer as an officer into the IDF? Or would it be wise to retire with 20 years (and a sizeable retirement pension) in the army and then make aliya? A: While I don't want to dissuade you from pursuing a profitable pension, 20 years is a long time. Perhaps you should ask yourself why you are contemplating aliya. Is it to build a life in Israel? Is it to raise your future family here? If so, much can happen between now and 20 years that may side-track aliya. If you were to make aliya, your service in the American army would be counted, both in the calculation of how long you need to serve and in your status (rank). Would leaving the US army before you finish the additional year required, affect you adversely? This is something you should check with the US army. * * * Vol VI: Q: Here's a tough one. I am a 30-year-old MD from Canada. My wife will be studying in Israel for the next four years and I want to spend as much time as possible with her there. We are putting off aliya until I am 32 and won't have to do two years of army. Unfortunately, I was told, and have read, that if I spend more than four months in Israel at any time, then the army considers it as if I made aliya at that time. My question is... how long do I have to be out of Israel between the four-month visits in order for them not to accumulate? I have asked my aliya department and numerous other officials and have not been able to get any answers. Without an answer to this question I'm reluctant to spend any time in Israel for fear that the clock might start ticking... this would obviously not be good for me or my marriage! A: Aliya rights begin to tick once you've been in Israel for a total of 18 months out of the three years preceding aliya. In other words, if you make aliya when you turn 32, after having been in Israel a cumulative time period of 18 months starting now (that you are 30) it will be considered that you "made aliya"now. As for the army, you can only stay four months in a year (total, not only consecutive) in order for the stay to be considered only a "visit." As soon as you stay for more than four months over the course of the year, that initial entry will be considered your "aliya date." Keeping this in mind, I would like to add that I spoke to our army contact in the Jewish Agency. He said that although "on the books" a doctor can be called to serve until the age of 32, this rarely happens once they are past 30, especially if they are married (and even more so if they have a child). While this is no guarantee that you won't be conscripted, it is worthwhile to know that this is the case. Also, I'm not certain how much information you have received, so here are two points to ponder:
  • According to the aliya literature that the army itself puts out, a doctor's conscription is based upon his/her receipt of an Israeli medical license from the Ministry of Health. If you do not plan to work as a doctor here, you will be considered a regular oleh. A 30-year-old oleh who is not a doctor, is, by law, required to register with the army for reserve duty (three to six weeks a year), but in practice, rarely called up for duty.
  • On the flip side, have you considered the benefits of serving in the army as a doctor? You will receive a salary, and be inducted into Israeli society in a very direct, meaningful way. Your marriage status may make you elgible to return home on a regular basis. Q: If one were to make aliya at around the age of, say, 25, how would the situation with serving in the military work? Would the oleh be granted some kind of grace period to get acquainted with the country and get all their business settled? Would this change if the oleh were religous or not? A: At age 25 an oleh is only required to serve three months and be available for miluim (reserve duty of about three to six weeks a year). You are required to register with the army within six months of making aliya, and are usually called in at about a year from your aliya date, so you have that time in which to find housing, do an ulpan, get acclimated etc. For men, one's religious affiliation does not affect whether or not they have to serve, although it can affect what unit you serve in, as there are units specially designed for religious/ haredi men, that you may prefer to join. Q: I currently live in Hartford, CT, USA. However, I have volunteered for miluim (reserve duty) in August. I understand there is the possibility for discount or free ElAl tickets. A:If you will already be coming as an oleh, you can arrange for a free ticket through your shaliach ( call the New York office 212-339-6066). If you are not coming as an oleh, but rather as a tourist you can contact the organization through which you are volunteering (Sar-el, Marva, or Mahal2000) or, the IDF directly: * * * Vol V: Q: I made aliya a few years ago, but left Israel for a number of years, are my mortgage-rights points calculated as the number of years as an oleh, or the number of years I was physically resident in Israel as an oleh? A: According to the existing laws and regulations in Hebrew, the number of years you were physically present in the country will prevail in the decision-making. Q: I have several times contemplated making aliya as a toshav hozer (I'm an ex-Israeli and have been living in New Jersey, USA for 17 years), but every time I have backed away because of the question of employability. Today I'm 58 years old and I have worked as a software engineer for the past 20 years (I am currently employed.). My software tools are not "super modern" (main tool: COBOL), but I make a nice living here in the States. I checked the demand in Israel for people with my set of skills. I found that there isn't a huge demand, but you can find jobs offered in the Israeli market for my qualifications. But in all the ads I saw what is made clear is that if you are over 35, "do not call us!" After that long preamble, here is my question: Is there a real chance for me to find a job in Israel with my qualifications and experience, at my age? I also have an MBA from the Hebrew University, any chance that this will get me a managerial job in the government workforce or one of its agencies? I'm willing to relocate to any part of the country). A: The most knowledgeable person, when it comes to questions of computer jobs for olim, is Jacob Richman. In addition to providing the exceptional service of putting out regular postings of computer positions, he is also an all-around knowledgeable person on many aspects of living in Israel. Visit his site, and through it, you can contact him with your question, as well as see what positions were last posted (over 220!). Regarding governmental managerial positions, I would contact the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and take a look at Civil Service Website Also check out the aliya employment site. Q: I made aliya in 1987, but left Israel in 1988. I am now returning. Where can I go to find out whether I am still entitled to "frozen" rights from back in 1988? And where can I go to determine if I might (instead? also?) be considered as a toshav hozer? A: Because several laws have changed in the area of oleh rights since the 1980s, the aliya shaliach nearest to you is the best person to speak to. You will be considered a toshav hozer if you left after the age of 17. In the case of rental subsidies, mortagages, acquisition tax breaks, those do not get frozen. However, someone who made aliya in the 1980s may be under different considerations and so you should check with your shaliach. Q: If Israel welcomes Jewish youth on aliya and pays their expenses to be able to do so, why not extend this to the Jewish senior citizens who have never been to Israel? A: Israel welcomes seniors on aliya, with free flights, national insurance "pensions," and the same absorption services and rights that await younger olim. Are you perhaps referring to pre-aliya programs? * * * Vol IV: Q: My wife is pregnant and we will be making aliya before the baby is born. Is the amount of sal klita fixed at the date of aliya or would we get more once the baby is born? A: You would get more for the baby, once its born, but you must formally alert the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption with reference to the increase in your family size. Q: I am not interested in receiving new immigrant payments from Nefesh B'Nefesh or Israel. I want to make aliya, become a voting citizen of Israel. What is the shortest amount of time I would have to stay in Israel in order to become a citizen? A: You can become a citizen within a matter of weeks, either by starting the process via your local shaliah, or by coming to Israel as a tourist and changing your status here. Q: Arnona payments, parking passes and the like are nice perks, but let's get to the real issue of why Western aliya has not worked: A job please. I called and asked Nefesh B'Nefesh once and the answer I got was make to aliya first and then look for a job. Come on,Ii am not rich, but I make a good living here in Connecticut and I would return to Israel if I could only find a good job. Why are there no resourses for proactive job finding before aliya? I love Israel and I would prefer to live there if I could find a job first. A: While I agree with NBN that finding a job is easier once you're in Israel, there are a few ways you can start while abroad. Begin investigating the job market in Israel in your specific field. You can do this by speaking to whomever you know in Israel, to see if they know people in your field. Looking at English-language websites that post job openings ( there are a many on the Jewish Agency's employment section ) and by looking into the option of working for an American company that may have branches here. Occasionally, aliya offices/shlihim also post job listings. ( For the aliya office near you, click here.). Familiarize yourself with your field in Israel by reading the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption's publications on your specific profession. * * * Danny Oberman is Executive VP of Israel Operations, Nefesh B'Nefesh, created in 2002, to increase the numbers of olim and ensure successful absorption. NBN works in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Send us your questions. Please include your first and last names, your city and country
  • For full Cafe Oleh resource listings on Aliya and Absorption click here! Vol III: Q: A couple years before I was born my dad made aliya. Then he got married in Israel, and my mom (not an Israeli citizen) went to the States where I was born. Six months later, my parents returned to Israel, where my sister was born and when I was about two and a half, my family returned to the States. My mom never became an Israeli citizen. At the beginning of the school year before this one, I started learning in an Israeli College. This year, when applying for my student visa I was told that I am an Israeli citizen and that I cannot leave the country without an Israeli passport. I am currently 22 and will be turning 23 on New Year's. Also, looking at my tourist visa stamped on my entry October 12, I see a number handwritten above it. This number checks out to be a number vaild as a mispar zehut. Next to this number is written ayin/aleph - probably stands for ezrach oleh. I'm pretty sure that the Misrad Hapnim wrote that in there. I spoke to Nefesh B'Nefesh about what I can do about this, and they told me that I have the status of either an ezrach oleh or a katin hozer. In either case, they require me to travel to and from Israel on an Israeli passport. This does not mean I have made aliya yet, however that's what they want me to do. However the fine print is that I have to get the passport before I get to Israel. However, since I am here already, they will force me to make aliya now. Supposedely they won't let me leave the country without this. Now even if I get through, when I come back I could be jailed for avoiding army... If I don't get through, I could be held and miss my non-refundable flight, and maybe jailed... who knows. If I'm an ezrach oleh then I am eligible for some sort of sal klita, however, since I've been in Israel too long, it's most likely that I've already lost that. However I've heard that being in college doesn't count towards this limit on how long you can be in the country... Likewise, considering I will now be forced to make aliya, this will either be counted as from when I got here (when I was 20) or from now - I'm 22. This changes things in army service - from what I heard from two years to six months. Also I heard that they might defer army till I finish school... but maybe not. Someone told me that they knew someone who was let out of the country with a fight... but when he came back they took him straight to army basic training. If you have any information you think might help me, whether it's about amount of army I have to do, deferment of army till after school, college counting/not counting towards being in the country for aliya benefits/army service... and likeliness of me getting away with not having to deal with this at least till I come back to the country or longer, I would appreciate you letting me know. A: Complex issue, and unfortunately the result is not as you'd like. Since your father is Israeli, and you were born in the US, you are indeed an Israeli citizen. By law you must enter and leave Israel on an Israeli passport. This law always existed, but only started being enforced a couple of years ago. Since you are here, Misrad Hapnim will issue you an Israeli passport together with a Teudat Zehut. It is possible that your "rights" started ticking the minute the Teudat Zehut number was created. I recommend that you visit the Ministry of Absorption, who can clarify what the situation is, with your aliya rights. As to army service, they will usually have a grace period of a year (or two if you are a student) before enlisting you. For those reading this outside Israel, and you have an Israeli parent, it is worthwhile getting the Israeli passport at the Consulate and not entering Israel on your foreign passport and getting "caught" in the above situation. Provided you are only visiting Israel for less than four months or stay in Israel on a recognized study program for less than 12 months, and you do not go to Misrad Hapnim for a Teudat Zehut, no rights are jeopardized. * * * Shira Wolfe is Coordinator of Merkaz Meida for Young Adults, Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah, Jerusalem Send us your questions. Please include your first and last names, your city and country
  • For full Cafe Oleh resource listings on Aliya and Absorption click here! Vol II: Q: If we choose just to pick up and move to Israel, where do I find immediate programs to help with the process? We prefer to move to a kibbutz, are there specific ones which welcome new people to their community? A: Aliya is a serious step. I would not simply move without > consulting a shaliach for advise, information, and to help get the paperwork started. You can contact the Jewish Agency for assistance, They will also tell you about kibbutzim that absorb new olim. Why not take advantage of all the wonderful assistance Nefesh B'Nefesh provides? Q: My family made aliya when I was younger, but after two years of living in Israel we had to return to the States. I got drafted to the IDF, and worked out the one-year deferrment and 30 days a year plan. I have just used this year to attend yeshiva, and am now returning to the US for college. I have been informed that I really can't return to Israel over the next few years even though I have my 30 days, because then when I make aliya, I'll be redrafted as an 18 year old. Is this true? What are the specifics? A: Can you provide more information? How old were you when you left Israel with your family? How old were you when you came to yeshiva? What is the one-year plan you refer to? Are you planning to come to Israel as a tourist? How old are you now? This will help me answer your question. Q: I was 13 years old when we all returned to the States. I was 18 years old when I started yeshiva. The one year plan to which I'm referring is my deferment from the IDF. The "plan" for which I'm eligible is that I get 120 days in a calendar year to spend in Israel, plus a one-time full one year, which I used this year, (from August to August) to study in Yeshivat Hesder Gush. I am currently in Israel. I plan to make aliya after I finish my schooling back in the States in about six years. Between then and now though, I would like to know when I can visit without resetting my draft age to 18 for whenever I make aliya. I am currently 19. A: Because you are a citizen who left below the age of 15, you can come for a visit in the next calendar year (ie January), and not have to wait until September, as would a regular tourist. * * * Danny Oberman is Executive VP of Israel Operations, Nefesh B'Nefesh, created in 2002, to increase the numbers of olim and ensure successful absorption. NBN works in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Send us your questions. Please include your first and last names, your city and country
  • For full Cafe Oleh resource listings on Aliya and Absorption click here! Vol I: Q: If someone is considering aliya and wants to do a masters degree, is it wiser to do that abroad and then immigrate, or do the connections that can be made here during that time outweigh the benefits of a degree from a well-known American university? A: There are many different factors one needs to consider before deciding whether to go to graduate school in Israel or the US. Factors include the university you are accepted to, the profession you choose to pursue and your emotional readiness to leave your family and friends. The benefits of studying in Israel are many: it costs less (for an oleh under the age of 30, it is free), you receive a good education in the language you plan to work in, and you make Israeli friends who will be your network (and perhaps help you get a job) after you finish your studies. The language factor is especially true for certain career choices. It is desirable to study in Israel if your field is one that is based on language. If one chooses law or social work, for example, one needs strong language skills to be successful. Many graduate students in Israel squeeze part-time jobs into their study schedules. This combination of work and study is particularly valuable for an Oleh. Studying in an Israeli institution while working in a professional environment provides an excellent "landing pad" when you first arrive in Israel. It gives you the opportunity to learn about cultural norms, to strengthen language skills and to gain valuable work experience, all at the onset of your career. The earlier you start working with Israelis and become absorbed by the country, the easier it will be for you to succeed in the work force later on. On the other hand, in certain cases there are advantages to studying in the US. If you are accepted to a prestigious university, you probably should not give it up. In addition, in some fields the education is better in the States and this superior education may help you land a job. If you are thinking of aliya but decide to study in the US, choose a profession that is relevant to the Israeli economy. Seek advice from aliya professionals on career choices and plan accordingly. Q: I live in Jerusalem, I understand I can claim an arnona discount as this is my first year in the country. Where do I go? What do I do? A: An oleh is entitled to a 90% discount on his arnona payments (municipal taxes), for 12 months in the 24 months after his date of aliya. This discount is based on municipal bylaws and different cities will have slightly different rules. Jerusalem lowered the discount last year to 70%, but after reconsideration, reinstated the 90% discount as of April 2005. Jerusalem also only offers the discount on the first 100 square meters of the apartment. (Arnona is calculated based on the size of the home). The discount is available whether you rent or own the home. Answer from Cafe Oleh staff: You need to go to to Safra Square to the arnona office there. It has a large door like that of a dungeon. You will need a lot of patience, and don't take no for an answer, because you are entitled to the discount. Q: I need a parking permit for my car. How do I get this and will it affect my oleh benefits? A: Parking permits are not connected to oleh benefits. Visit the parking permit department of the City of Jerusalem (Bldg 13 Safra Square. Sun., to Thu., 8 a.m. to 1p.m.), with your ID card, rental contract and car registration. You can also call 106, the Municipal hotline, for further details. * * * Cafe Oleh experts have been chosen for their knowledge and reputation. Cafe Oleh does not take responsibility for any advice they offer. Click here to send us your questions for the aliya expert.
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