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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Are you ever too old to make aliyah?

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I'm no spring chicken.  Are you???

I've always been amused by the fact that we happily admit that someone's "no spring chicken," but at no point in their life does anyone admit to actually being a spring chicken.  We only use it to define what we and others are not.

But if you, like me, are no spring chicken, then aliyah is going to present you with some special challenges.

Last week, I asked readers to share their biggest aliyah questions with me.  I was surprised, amazed, touched - you choose the right word - at how many did.  And at how many different questions there are.  So much for my big idea of offering advice.  It's humbling sometimes how little I know.

A few questions that keep coming up again and again, sometimes in slightly different form, are:

How can I make aliyah at my age?  Will it be too hard?  Can I do it?  Will I be okay?

I'm not going to lie to you.  When you are no spring chicken (like me!), it's tough to up and move to the other side of the globe.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

I was awed last week to hear from so many of you who admit that you’re not as young as you used to be (I'd like to meet someone who is!) but who are still taking those steps - or strides - forward to come and live here in Israel.

Here are some questions I've heard from older olim when they're planning their aliyah process:

  • Will I be able to learn Hebrew?
  • Will I be able to work?
  • Will I be able to live comfortably on the money (or pension) I have now?
  • How do I find a community that will accept and welcome me?
  • Will I find somewhere to live that I can afford?
  • Will I have friends?
  • Will I miss my family too much to bear?

Now, read through those questions again carefully.  What do they have in common?

The thing they all have in common is that not one of them has to do with age.

Except for the question about pensions, which is really just a general money worry, these are exactly the same questions that EVERY oleh or olah has when they're coming to Israel.  We're all - or almost all - working on a tight budget, whatever that means to each of us.  We're all leaving family and friends behind.  We're all surrounded by this strange foreign language that we're told is now OURS.

Now, that said, some things are tougher for older olim:

  • It's not going to be easy to find something if you're over 50 (some older olim try to get or extend "virtual" jobs in their field so they can work from here...)
  • It's not going to be easy if you're not already fluent in Hebrew (some older olim  try to choose areas with more English speakers so they won't need Hebrew so much...)
  • It's not going to be easy if you don't make friends easily (some older olim volunteer - they are desperate for English teachers in almost every area of the country...)
  • It’s not going to be easy to navigate the healthcare system (make sure you know about the Shira Pransky Project and other initiatives to help non-Hebrew speakers navigate the system!)

But I’m not writing this post just to dwell on the negatives.  Because we all need inspiration, including me, I also think it’s important to stay focused on the very real advantages that coming here as an older adult offers:

  • You don’t have small kids to weigh you down or make your life chaotic (I think coming with young kids is great, because you’ll get to raise them here, but it is a crazy period of your life!)
  • You won’t have to make arrangements with schools, etc.
  • You’re not dealing with an entire family’s worth of medical issues

But most importantly, if you’re no spring chicken, chances are you’ve been through some stuff before.  Whatever the stuff is, you have experienced it.  You have the life experience to know just how strong you are, and to know that you have the strength to get through things.

I’m not kidding here.  Many younger adults come and get twitchy the second things don’t go their way.  Older adults take a longer-term view and generally don’t panic the second something goes wrong.

Also, if you’re no spring chicken, you know yourself well and hopefully don’t care so much what other people think of you.  Which means that even if your Hebrew isn’t perfect, you’re more likely to say, “So what?  At least I’m trying.”  Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, you’re more prepared, hopefully, to face the world as you are, and not stress out pretending to be anyone other than who you actually are.

A Facebook group I’m active in sometimes has a thread right now for people who made aliyah at 50+.  Over and over here, I’m seeing comments like, “I made aliyah at 53… and loving every minute” – “It’s helpful not to take yourself too seriously” – “I thought I was coming here to retire, but I got bored and it turned out they needed English teachers” – and “My only regret is that I didn’t do it 25 years ago.”

Have a sense of humour – you may have one already if you’re no spring chicken.

Be prepared to reinvent yourself.

Expect the unexpected.

And keep your eyes on the reason you’re coming – this isn’t like anywhere else in the world.  It’s Israel.  Focus on that, and on building this country as a holy endeavour.

And you know what?  This isn’t a bad topic to address given that the country itself is celebrating its 70th birthday this year. 

Israel, I hate to break it to you… but you’re no spring chicken yourself.

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Whether you’re older or younger than Israel, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

A few resources that might be helpful:

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


4 comments:

  1. I decided to celebrate Jewish women blogging with a roundup of blog posts from a variety of blogs. Your blog is included. A Jewish Grandmother : The Ladies Blog Take a look please, and visit the other blogs. How about adding them to your blogroll, so we support each other?

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  2. This is very heartening -- thanks! I'm 44 and my family is planning on making our pilot trip in the spring to see if aliyah is for us. None of us have even been to Israel so we don't know where to even begin planning a trip, much less a move, but I'm glad to hear that English teachers are in demand since I have a degree in English and have some teaching experience. ;)

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  3. Tzivia, Shalom. Enjoyed this article...thank you.
    I'm a single pensioner from the Los Angeles area...completed Aliyah May 2015...at the ripe young age of 74...don't speak/understand the language and culture! As you indicated...a "non" Spring Chicken has been already been enough crap...to either say...yay...or, nay! My 1st visit to Israel December 2014 for vacation...with no intentions of Aliyah. Spent 2 weeks in Israel...week in Tel Aviv...week in Eilat. Returning to California...on my flight...asked myself...what is keeping me in the states? Can I live on my social security benefits in Israel? Nothing is keeping me in the states...even though...have 2 sons and 3 grandchildren. Yes...can live on my social security...decision made...doing Aliyah...with the commitment...gonna make it happen...and, not give up! I feel my saving "grace" was...didn't get on Google...and, ask questions! This is what scares people from doing Aliyah!!! They get on Google...and, acquire..."TMI" ("too much information!")! Don't think about doing Aliyah...JUST DO IT...and, commit to make it work! I decided in less than 5 minutes...or, less...and, I'm still here...HAPPY and, commited!

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  4. For those who want to read books in English in Israel, I recommend the Sharon Woodrow ebook library from AACI. It's available at http://www.aaci.org.il/articlenav.php?id=598

    AACI members can download books for free to read on your phone, table or computer.

    There are more than 50,000 fiction and non-fiction books for all ages from more than 1,000 trade publishers, most recent of which is Harper Collins.

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I'd love to hear what you have to say.

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