Sunday, January 08, 2006

Conclusions Leave You Breathless: The Aliyah Dilemma

The following began life as a blog post, was reworked for an article in a magazine, and now, in light of (good) questions posed by Jameel, Treppenwitz and various real-time friends who have the privilege and merit to make Eretz Yisrael home -most specifically, "why have you not made aliyah?" - has been reworked again slightly to answer that question. I look forward to the discussion it will hopefully provoke....I would appreciate thoughts and comments. Thanks.

Each year since coming back from Israel, I look at the Nefesh B'Nefesh website, feel a pang of heartache watching the videos of families making aliyah, grow antsy when yet another friend takes the plunge, and then...I do nothing.

The issues for me are many, but I can narrow them down at essence to three: singlehood (I am adamant about not making aliyah as a single person - as wonderful as Eretz Yisrael is and as many friends as I have there, once I left yeshiva, all of a sudden I was alone and lonely in a foreign country, and most of the anglo women at my level of religious comfort tend to leave post-seminary if they do not marry, and I would like to marry an anglo), financial viability (I do not need to be rich, but I do not want to have to wonder where my food will come from each month. I have been told to come to Israel with at least $20,000 saved, which I do not have; I do not have a career which is considered viable in Israel and I am not willing to be miserable by becoming an accountant in order to be there, nor do I have parents who are willing to supplement my income every month if I am there (nor do I think they should)). The third - and most compelling - issue for me is family.

I envy
those whose parents are supportive of their making aliyah (mine are not), or who have the ability to recognize the greater good of what they are building for the future, and are able to weigh that against parental anguish(I am not).

Though my parents support Israel politically and in charitable giving, Israel was never part of our family lexicon. There were no yearly trips there, no marching in the Israeli Day Parade, no recognition of it as the place for Jews. It has become a part of lore that my parents are the only ones the Israel counselor at my day school was unable to budge when it came to sending their kids on a post-high school year, for fear we would end up wanting to live in such a far-away place. My parents have never been to Israel (my mother has a fear of flying); I was, in fact, the first person in my family to visit Israel in 3 generations. So it did not come as a surprise when they were upset by my recent three year stay there.

My parents cannot bear the thought of not seeing their children on at least a semi-regular basis - and I do understand where they are coming from. Parents raise their children with the expectation that they will always be a part of their lives. After all the love, sleepless nights, financial
output, do they not deserve to see their children and grandchildren more than twice a year? Do they not deserve the comfort of knowing that their children are nearby to help them and take care of them in their old age? Shouldn't they be able to reap the joy of being at brisim and watching baby's first steps, instead of receiving e-mail updates and a round of pictures every month? I want these things for them too...I have heard from a number of older friends whose parents have passed on that if they had realized how much their making aliyah had hurt their parents, they may never have done it. I have other, younger, friends living there who refuse to think about it, because of the pain it engenders in their own hearts, let alone in the hearts of their parents. It is so much easier, once you are there, to block out other voices a world away.

My parents live for their kids. We are the most important thing in their lives. Is it worth my parents' heartache and sadness to be in Eretz Yisrael?

The counter-argument is rather simple and straightforward: It's Israel. The Jewish homeland. It's where we belong. If we don't make the move, who will? Someone has to be first. You have to think about what is best for you, and for future generations - in terms of Torah, environment, education, connection to the land and to our heritage.

But even discounting all of that for a moment, there is still the feeling when I am there - the
feeling of belonging, of community, of being alive, of walking the same land my ancestors walked. Israel penetrates your bones, seeps into your soul. I don't have such feelings for any other place on this earth (certainly not NY, which I have made no secret of my distaste for). I have been to many beautiful places- Boulder, Berkeley, the coast of Maine, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome - and a few communitues that I like very much, such as Baltimore, but none of them pull at me or have taken up space in my head and my heart and my soul like Israel has. I love it despite its backward third world ways, rude taxi drivers, and anti-pedestrian mindset.

How can you give up the chance to be in the land we were promised, the land we fought so hard for? Living there affords the opportunity on any give day to wake up and daven at the kotel, visit the kever of the Ari and ma'arat hamachpelah; to celebrate the chagim en masse with Jews from all over the world, to live a simpler, more spiritually-based life - are these opportunities to throw away? They say there is no Torah learning like the Torah learning in Eretz Yisrael - the kedusha is extraordinarily present there, in the trees, in the air, in the soil. And I want that, with such a longing, I want that for myself, for my future wife, for my children (be"H). I want that for my parents too...

I realize that much of this is based on how they were raised. It is a New York phenomenon. If
you grew up in the five boroughs in my parents' generation, moving away means Long Island or Teaneck at the furthest. There is no need to go anywhere else. It is not like Denver or even Los Angeles, where until very recently, if you were Jewish and even marginally observant, it was a given that at some point you'd be sending your child to the east coast or to Yerushalayim, if only to expand the prospective dating pool. My parents and their circle stayed in NY, just as their parents and their grandparents did. But why should I be bound by their choice?

My grandfather has suggested a compromise, such as moving to Baltimore or California, which would at least get me out of New York. But what room is there for compromise when it is not distance I am after, but Israel itself, and when it is not Israel per se my parents take issue with, but the very concept of physical distance? I come from a long line of stubborn people. I don't know how this will be resolved. The one certainty, though, makes me quite sad - no matter what I choose, the Israel issue is going to make one (or both) of us miserable...

It breaks my heart that I am not in Israel. I think about it every single day - literally. But for me to make aliyah, at least at this point, would require me to be married, have a viable career for Israel, and have the ability to make frequent trips to the states to see my family, or live 4 months of the year in the states. Impossible? I suppose not. But all easier said than done...

For now, the best I can hope for is that I will encourage my own children (if I am blessed to have any) to make aliyah, and join them when I am able to retire, though it makes me sigh even just to write seems so far off....


Simcha said...

I have been reading much of your blog since it started, until now silently. It is beautiful and personal.. deeply touching issues that many of us struggle with, in a sensitive and eloquent way.
There are a few issues that you seem to be struggling with regarding aliyah. One is making aliyah while single. From a financial perspective, it definitely makes more sense to make aliyah when married. That being said, the likelihood of finding someone who is like-minded is much greater in Israel than in the US. Of couse there is also the aspect of the unfulfilled dream that you are carrying around with you.
The greater issue, however, is something that we all struggle with... the degree of responsibility that we have for the happiness of others (particularly our loved ones). As one who made Aliyah 2 years ago next week, I understand this very well. One set of parents were sad that we would be so far away, but happy for us that we were fulfilling our dream. The other set of parents said that they would NEVER visit, and had already started to mourn the loss of our relationship before we left... physical violence was even threatened at one point. Like your parents, they had a dream that we would live down the block from one another, and feared that the move was our rejection of them. The truth was, however, that our decision had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with our fulfilling our dreams and ideals. They are coming to visit us next week B"H. We have worked very hard over the past 2 years to make every effort to make it clear to them that we love them and intend to be as close with them as we can be (technology has been a great help in this). Eventually, they seemed to move on from mourning their dream of our all living near eachother. They realized that their relationship with us and their grandchildren was really the important thing.
The truth is, you can never make someone else happy. What is really important is your relationship with your parents (although they may not see it that way right now). If you stay and resent your parents, will you have done the relationship any service? Just some food for thought.

MC Aryeh said...

Thank you for the kind words, Simcha. As to the issues you raise, while I agree that probability-wise, I am more likely to find someone like-minded in Israel, you and Beth are a beautiful example of how you can meet the right person when and where you least expect it. You never know...
Living in Eretz Yisrael is not a dream I plan to leave unfulfilled - it's just a question of when.....but I know I will be there one day..
I think it is wonderful that your in-laws have come around (though I do wonder if they would agree with you, if asked), but everyone's situation is different. I know a number of instances where the parents and children no longer speak, or where a parent actually has had a nervous breakdown as a result of their child's aliyah, which forced the child to return to the states. Though it is true that most often the decision to make aliyah is about the individual and fulfilling an idealistic dream, the decision does have consequences for others. As much as phone and e-mail are great for staying in touch across distance, it is not a substitute for the kind of relationship one can have when close by.
I agree that to stay in the states resenting my parents would not be healthy for either of us or our relationship, but neither would the reverse - if I go to Israel and my parents resent me for what I am taking away.
All that said, I have to tell you that I am so proud (for lack of a better word)of you and Beth for making the move to Eretz Yisrael, and I love that I can read about how it is all unfolding at House Of Joy. Please keep it coming...I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts, Simcha and please post more at Darchei Simcha!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MC Aryeh: I thought The "M" stood for Muqata!?

Wow...and I was all charged up this morning to write about aliya on now I see your blog...

I will address you answers in a posting on my blog, while interspersing comments here.

As I will be celebrating my aliya anniversary this week, which I did single, without any money, and without much parental approval and wihout a real job in hand -- I will have some interesting comments and advice for you.

Shavua Tov - Will be back in touch soon. (If it was Sunday in American now, I'd have lots of time to answer right now, but since it's a workday here...I'll work on it during my lunchbreak)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MCA: Since I started blogging, the one major change I've gone though is to stop guilt tripping poeple on aliya. I don't say any longer, "Why aren't you on a plane?"...I'm past that.

I still actively encourage aliya, but differently. R' Wintson wrote in his book "Talking about Eretz Yisroel -- the profound and essential meaning of making aliya" about "The Want of Wanting to make aliya."

At least you're past phase 1, which is alot better than many others. At least you think about it daily - that's amazing! I can't describe how happy I was last week after my silly MEME investigation which revealed that almost every Jewish Blogger who answered the MEME rated Israel was "where they want to be."

I will have to write lots more about this later - my only regret is that you posted this NOW without giving me a few hours warning ;-)

treppenwitz said...

Mcaryeh... The first thing I would ask is that you take Israel out of the equation. I know, that sound crazy, but indulge me for a couple of minutes:

OK, let's say you meet a nice girl, get married, and one of you gets a great job offer in Chicago, Seattle. LA or West Palm Beach. Would you pass up this opportunity because it would take you a day's travel from your parents?

OK, let's take the same scenario of a wonderful job opportunity in one of those American cities I mentioned, but instead of being married you are only engaged... and the job is being offered to your fiance. Would you break off the engagement if she made it clear that she was inclined to accept the offer simply because it would take you a day's travel from your parents?

I ask these two questions because I have a sneaking suspicion that physical proximity to your parents is not the issue you think it is. People relocate a days travel from family and friends all the time for job opportunities or simply because they want to live in a particular place other than the one where they were raised. Israel is a day's travel from where you live. You should think honestly about whether your, or your parent's, issue with aliyah is with the distance or the destination.

Next, let's look at the preference for a mate who is an 'anglo'. There are plenty of single girls in Israel from anglo countries (US, Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, etc.), and they all share one thing: You won't have to convince any of them to move to Israel... they're already here! Not only are they already here but they are probably already employed so if you end up marrying one, you have a little breathing room while you establish yourself professionally here.

The last issue is the whole employment thing. I have a couple of neighbors who are accountants and work for US accounting firms via the Internet. Every few months they fly in for audits and meetings and such, but for the most part the work they do isn't dependant on them being located in any specific location. They are able to work these deals with their US employers because they can work for significantly lower salaries while living in Israel. The lower salary and the 4 or 5 plane tickets a year ends up being a wash for the company and has the added benefit of allowing more frequent visits with family in the US.

Of course all of this is moot if the real problem is that you are suffering from the all-too-common problem of feeling a religious or Zionistic obligation to seriously consider aliyah... but deep down being quite comfortable living in the US. There is nothing wrong with this... and if this is what's going on you need to come to terms with it before it ends up sabotaging your future happiness wherever you end up. Aliyah isn't for everyone and it demands many compromises. There are countless rewards, but there are also rewards to living in West Palm beach or Boca.

So, after this long-winded comment all I can say is to remove Israel from the equation and see if your feelings stand the test scenarios I've mentioned above.

Unknown said...

Treppenwitz - I like the questions you pose (and am curious to see MCA's answers.)

There's one thing I can testify to, however, and I'd like to save MCA the trouble of testifying to it himself.

He wants to be in Israel - really. His longing doesn't come from a feeling of obligation. It's not that he has to; it's that he loves the place. He loves the people. He loves to get lost in the streets. He loves to breath the air. He loves to wander around the shuk.

NY gives him hives.

'nuff said.

tafka PP said...

What a post. I'm hitting six years next week, and often, I wonder why I bothered: it is so very tough, and almost all the reasons I originally made Aliyah were in retrospect not in any way connected with my daily life, all figments of the Sochnut's mighty propaganda machine.

What I will say (at risk of being shouted at by Jameel) is that if your reservations (justified or not) so outweigh your desire to be here, I wouldn't bother to take the step until that is no longer the case. That may never be the case, you might have to come to terms with that too. But it is hard enough to live here as it is without having to play the regrets game on a daily basis. So do what you need to do and don't beat yourself up too much about it.

MC Aryeh said...

Jameel - First, mazal tov on the aliyah anniversary. In many ways, I think it is much easier to make aliyah right out of college, and had I done that, I am sure many of the issues I struggle with now in terms of aliyah would not be factors. Sorry for the lack of advance notice, but you were likely sleeping when I decided to post this!

As far as the MEME, I think you are reading too much into people's answer of where they would rather be. As Steg attested to in the comments on your blog, I think many U.S. Jews would like to live in Israel in an ideal sense, but don't actually want to live there in a real sense.

I took Israel's presence on so many of the MEMEs to be a case of the former - would ideally like to be there, but in reality not genuinely interested in leaving the states anytime soon(which is why it didn't surprise me that Israel was so common an answer).

And the M does stand for Muqata!...

David - Good questions. My parents would have difficulty with my living in any of the places you mention. The difference, however - and it is a big one - is that nowhere in the U.S. is a day's travel to New York. At most we are talking 4 or 5 hours by plane, as opposed to 12 from Israel (without stopovers). Were I living on the West Coast, I could afford to come to NY many more times a year than I could were I in Israel. They would have a problem with it if I moved to California, but to a lesser extent than Israel or China or France, and I would feel much better about it because seeing them every couple of months would be a real possibility. The issue for my parents is definitely one of distance (they were quite agitated even when it seemed I might move to Philadelphia for a time - and that is only a 2 1/2 hour drive away!)- though I do imagine psychological distance is a large component of that. Israel is not only on a different continent, but pyshcologically it feels much further away than, say, California - it is a different world, a different life, one which is completely foreign to them. Also, they see from their friends who have children in Israel that for many Israel represents a break in the family - a leaving behind and rejection of the parents and their way of life; it means their children are lost to them in a way.

I agree with you on the anglo women, except that in my experience the ones that make aliyah single tend to be on the less religious side of the religious spectrum, which is not necessarily in line with the kind of woman I am looking for. It also would be much easier to deal with the parental issue were I already married, Single I am their son and only their son; married, I am already part of something larger.

As to employment, I am not an accountant (though I do have nightmares about being one, on occasion)! The setup you mention would be the ideal, only I don't think it exists unless you are willing to work in certain fields, such as accounting. My unwillingness to be an accountant in order to live in Israel speaks to my desire to not be miserable in Israel being greater than my desire to live in Israel, Whether that means I am not really willing to do what it takes to be there is hard to say.

I have never been comfortable living in New York. Israel is where I feel alive, where I can breathe. Ultimately, I don't think my desire to be there is a religious or Zionistic pull - it is the pull of my heart. I do not need the comforts a life in the U.S affords, and though I am not thrilled about many aspects of daily life in Israel, those sacrifices,at least, are worth it.

Whether it would be enough for me to only come in the summers to Eretz Yisrael or just for chagim, I don't know. But the thought of tearing apart my family so I can live there year round makes me feel selfish, and that we will all be losing out in some ways.

You have given me much food for thought, and I aprreciate your taking the time to write such a well-thought out comment. Thanks, David,

'laizer - Thanks for the expert testimony. Just reading about the shuk and the streets of Yerushalayim made me smile, Curious as to your response to my response to Trep's questions. I must now check for hives...

TAFKAP - Wow. I was not expecting a response like that. Is there a place youcan hide out before Jameel comes back?! Seriously, I would like to hear more about how your expectations and hopes have not met with reality, if you are willing to share. What were your original reasosn for going on aliyah? Do you ever consider returning to England? Six years is a long time....

You make a very valid point about regrets. At this point, I can honestly say the regrets would be too much for me to make aliyah right now, What will be in the future is hard to say. Thank you for your honesty here.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MC Aryeh and Purple Parrot: I'm back. So there...actually, running into another meeting which should give me another hour to think about what to reply to the Parrot's comments...

Anonymous said...

Arye - Began to write a comment and it got way too long. Sending you an email. You can quote from it as you wish.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Seems like everyone's sending long emails to MCA today...

Eshet Chayil said...

I won't make my comment too long. I think you're in the same situation as a lot of people. I also think it's just as hard, maybe harder for a single girl to make aliyah on her own. I personally could not see myself doing it.

Jack Steiner said...

Boy, this is a topic that hits so close to home I cannot begin to really express it well.

There was a time in which I physically ached to be back. I couldn't stand that I was back in LA but I couldn't figure out how to overcome many of the obstacles I felt that I faced.

To a certain extent I have to admit to taking the path of least resistance and accepting that I would make the move at a later date.

At this point in time there are a number reasons why I would and wouldn't go. Family is a part of both of them.

I may have to blog about this again because this is your blog and should be about you.

But I do feel what you saying.

tafka PP said...

EC- not sure how much being a single woman has to do with anything. Its a hard place to live, whoever you are.

McA- I think I'll be writing a post about this too sometime soon. See what you (and Jameel) have started? Aliya Posts Epidemic!

MC Aryeh said...

Jameel- Always happy to get long e-mails. Looking forward to you response to TAFKAP

Mirty- Thanks for the comment, and for the e-mail. You raise a number of good points, and I would like to quote from your e-mail when I have a bit more time - hopefully later today. Your comments are always insightful...

Eshet- Do you really think this situation is so common? I wonder. I agree with you that it is harder for single women to make the move to Israel - I think because they crave community more, and aliyah can be quite lonely. Also, the more religious women tend not to stay in Israel post-seminary - maybe to stay close to family? I don't really know,

Jack- I think I may find myself taking the same route as you, although that is not a decision I am willing to come to terms with just yet. This is my blog, but I welcome others sharing their stories. In fact, I love it when they do. But if you would rather blog about your experiences at your own blog, I will be sure to read about it there. I would like to hear about your experiences and thoughts on this, so I hope you will blog about it, if not add more here. Thanks...

TAFKAP- It's a good and important discussion to have, I think. People don't really talk about aliyah in real terms, the actual feelings and experiences and consequences, I have always heard it presented in black and white terms from both sides of the debate, and I don't think that is accurate or fair. I really look forward to reading your post!

Babka said...


Its never an easy question.

Its something we all struggle with - those who are here with our families, those who are here without our families, those who are not and wish they could be, and those who know they are probably better off being a diaspora Jew.

Just know that the world is small, and that flights between Israel and the US are frequent.

And this may sound tacky, but whatever decision you make will be the right one. Worst comes to worse, you can always change your mind.

treppenwitz said...

Mcaryeh... OK, I'll take you at your word (why shouldn't I?), but I should clarify a few things:

1. "...nowhere in the U.S. is a day's travel to New York. At most we are talking 4 or 5 hours by plane". Let's be realistic. The ticket costs more to Israel, but if you are going coast-to-coast in the states you better plan on killing a day in transit. Some of that day will be spent in cabs, some in lines, some in the air. But you aren't going to be doing anything else with that day. The difference is a couple of hours... not a big obstacle.

2. "but pyshcologically it feels much further away" This should be a big flashing warning sign. Obviously Israel is culturally distant from what you would experience in any part of the US (except, perhaps in parts of LA and Queens) but the distance you are describing shouldn't be an issue... unless you are on the American side of the equation looking east.

3. " my experience the [anglo girls] that make aliyah single tend to be on the less religious side of the religious spectrum" You simply aren't looking in the right places. There are plenty of very religious anglo girls here who are here by themselves or with family.

4. I just used the accountant thing as an example. There are obviously job opportunities here, but there are also plenty of professions that lend themselves to telecommuting.

I really am not trying to talk you out of making aliyah or making light of the perceived obstacles. I'm just asking you to make sure you are being completely honest with yourself or you will be in for a lot of years of asking yourself "What if...".

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

What a post. I'm hitting six years next week, and often, I wonder why I bothered: it is so very tough, and almost all the reasons I originally made Aliyah were in retrospect not in any way connected with my daily life, all figments of the Sochnut's mighty propaganda machine.

Purple Parrot...You bring up such difficult questions! What draws us to Israel in the first place? Is it the longing to recapture the amazing times that we spent in Yeshiva/Sem/University/Kibbutz in Israel? Unfortunately, those days are only a fascade of real life here. The message that the sochnut wants to sell has little to do with real life here, either.

Yet...for all the hardships and problems everyone faces; there's always those great moments that come up that make a difference. You know what I'm talking about.

For example, I have every right to be annoyed now --I'm in the middle of remodeling a bathroom in our house, and my wife and I routinely swear at our building contractor, the tile supply company, the water faucet name it; they're all pathetic. When it rains and my roof leaked, I had to grit my teeth and remember how much we need the rain...

However, I'm sure you can post a few reasons what you love about it here. I won't post my own yet, since I'm sure you have your own.

And as frustrated as you may feel; If you take a deep breath, and count to ten, you'll be able to talk about some of the things you love about here. (How's that for a mega-gamble?)

Let's see what you say...I'll be back tomorrow AM.

Stacey said...

I empathize with the position you are in, MC. You bring up very valid points, on both sides of the issue and the tug-of-war has got to be so difficult.

Your longing to be where you are not is palpable.

You could always try it, MC, and make a change if it simply does not work.

Best wishes to you as you sort out the best way to live the life you were born to live.

Mia said...

Hi, it is a real hard decision you will have to take one day in your life.

After reading all the comments, one question comes up my mind. Do your parents know how they make you feel? Do they realize the struggle they are putting you through? Maybe they would feel very selfish themselves would they know how you really feel.

I don't think its fair of parents to make their kids feel that way, make them feel obligated. They encouraged me to go to Israel, but I am coming from a different background. Now I am about to move to another country which is around 8 hours travel away from them. They are not happy at all. But they understand that I have to live my life and they try to be as supportive as possible, eventhough they are extremely sad. I will probably never again live in the same country as my parents, my siblings, my cousins, my grandmother etc. But I chose to marry somebody from another country.

I am sure your parents are the most loving and kind parents one can wish for. Maybe if they would read your post and the comments they would understand/realize how you feel. To not even get a chance to try out how it would be to live in Israel. Maybe Aliyah isnt't for you. But you can't tell until you tried.

I hope it helps you to write down your thoughts and get feedback from Americans who either made Aliyah or didn't - I hope you will take a chance and try it out as I think it is very important for you not to live with regrets.

Be Hazlacha

MC Aryeh said...

Chavaleh- Thank you for your comments. I appreciate that life is difficult no matter where you are and who you are with. Flights are frequent, but expensive, and less and less possible as a family grows in size. The decision I make does not have to be the right one, but I think it is good to keep your last point in mind - nothing is irrevocable - at least until it is.

David- 1.True, you do lose time coming from California to NY, but the flight is still only 4 to 5 hours of actual time. Israel is a twelve hour flight. That's a 7 hour difference in jetlag, no matter how you slice it. Every time I have flown to NY from LA, and especially from NY to LA (where you actually gain time), I have had time to do other things during the day. Traveling from Israel or to Israel, I am so wiped out that I usually sleep for a day. But this is a total side point. The main point is that it is not realistic to travel to NY from Israel every few months with your family. As the family grows, it becomes even less realistic - especially from a financial standpoint. That my mother does not fly also plays into things quite a bit, as it means my parents would not be able to visit.

2.This is not an issue for me, but for my parents, who have never been to Israel, it is psychologically far away, a world they cannot conceive of or imagine. I am not sure I follow you when you say "this should be a warning sign" - a warning sign of what?

3. OK. I'll take your word for it - and happily so...I guess I was looking in the wrong places...

4.A telecommuting job working for an American company seems to be what most of my friends who make aliyah hope for - but very few actually find such jobs. If I do make aliyah, it would make sense to develop a working relationship with a company in the US that would be open to such an arrangement while I am still here.

The "What If" card can work both ways. Certainly, coming to terms with my decision, whatever it is, will be essential. Living a life filled with regret is no way to live. Again, thank you for your extensive and thought-provoking comments here. I really appreciate them.

Jameel- What is this message sent out by the sochnut that both you and TAFKAP refer to? I am sure TAFKAP can come up with many things she loves about being in Eretz Yisrael, and I would like to hear those, but I am more interested in hearing about her actual experiences and thoughts she does not have to reach for.

Stacey- Thank you for your good wishes and your empathy. Life is always about some sort of struggle, and on the scale of things, this isn't so terrible - it's difficult, but I can put it into proper perspective and live my life...

Mia- First of all, mazal tov on your upcoming marriage! My parents do know how I feel - and they are wonderful, loving parents. Yes, it is selfish of parents to demand that their children stay close by, but it is also selfish of children to pick up and leave, when it means only seeing their parents once a year. This is not a case of me meeting and falling in love with someone from another country or finding a great job somewhere - it is me wanting to live somewhere (that I happen to love) which is far away. They see that as selfish and only see the distance involved. Yes, it would be nice if they were supportive of my making aliyah, even while not being happy about it; it would be great if they would just be happy that I am happy, wherever I might be in the world. But that is just not the way it is, and as frustrating as that may be, you have to deal with the cards you are dealt. Everyone's family dynamics and expectations are different. Some parents have a very hands-off laissez-faire attitude, some have an out of sight out of mind stance, some could not care less what their children are doing where; others want to be involved in their children's lives, want to be there to watch the grandkids, make their children the center of their lives; and many are able to want those things, yet recognize that they made their choices and their children must make their own, too; and some are not. I'm not saying any one view is more appropriate than another, just that people and circumstances vary. If my parents' feelings did not matter to me, or if they were less intractable, I would likely already have made aliyah. Though I did not live there as an oleh, I did have the wonderful privilege to live in Eretz Yisrael for three years (during which time my relationship with my family was very difficult), so it is not like I will never know what it is like to live there. I would not trade those years. Whatever decision I make will have to be besimcha and with acceptance, because living with regrets would suck and slowly eats away at a person. I am curious - you mentioned how your parents feel about your move, but not how do you feel about moving 8 hours away. What are your feelings on the matter? Thank you for your heartfelt comments.

MC Aryeh said...

A few comments from other places which add to the discussion. Dutch Girl's comes from Jameel's post and Mirty's from an e-mail (with permission to quote):

DUTCH GIRL said...

As someone who has struggled/is struggling with the same issues, I would like to address McAryeh's post. I would have done it on his site, but you have to be a registered "blogger".
1) marital status. You don’t have any promises min hashamayim that you’ll find you’re wife in Israel- but it goes both ways- you don’t have any guarantee that you’ll find her in NY either. I don’t know you’r hashkafa but I can tell you that most religious girls’ complaints about dating in Israel is that guys are not religious enough. You have the advantage. If satisfactory level of observance means meeting girls who are shomeret halacha, shomeret mitzvoth, tzanua,..etc, there are plenty. If you really think that you won’t find her here, then move later, and make sure you meet someone who is also aliyah minded.

2) career. You’re right, not all careers work in Israel. But, if you are really aliyah minded, you’ll move your career in a direction that will be more appropriate to the job market in Israel. Choosing a career is a conscious choice. Some people in Israel just get by, finding jobs here and there- if you can’t be satisfied with that then plan appropriately.

2)Family – its extremely hard being away from you’re family. Get ready for a typical answer: When you move here, you do so with the intention of building a family here. Someone in your family has to be the first. If you live in America, what makes you think you’re children will not have the same justifications for staying?

3)What is it about Israel that you are attracted to? Many jews feel a sense of belonging, that it feels right..but when you’re actually here and living life, going to work, buying groceries, paying bills, dealing with language barriers, cultural differences, bureaucracy, involved in your community, depressed by the political situation, what is going to keep you going, what will motivate you to stay here? You need to define that for yourself.

As much as I love this land and her people, I can admit that living in Israel is not for everyone at this point. However, you can prepare yourself in America. Become a part of a community- actively involve yourself- not in shul politics, but in chesed. Look around- what is you’re community missing? Often, when we say “I want to live in Israel” we are actually saying “I want a meaningful life”. It's a good place to start.

Life is about choices. We can’t 100% choose our fate- that’s up to G-d, but we can choose to live life in a meaningful way, according to ideals. You wrote: “At this point, the best I can hope for is that I will encourage my own children to make aliyah, and join them when I am able to retire” I don’t think that’s the best you can hope for- if this is what you believe in then make it happen.

MIRTY said....

My family made Aliyah twice and came back. But my parents tried again -- and again -- and now they are living there successfully.....Now, what makes the difference between failed Aliyah and successful Aliyah?....

1. Parnassa. HUGE, huge issue. Do not discount it. When one of my uncles moved with his family to Israel, he took a post as "second-in-command" at a major Yeshiva. (He was a rabbi.) Once there, he found out what his real job was. They wanted him to work on smuggling electronic equipment in or out of Eretz Yisrael and cheating the tax man. Totally dishonest. He was an honest man and so he quit that job. And could not find another. The experience ruined not just Aliyah, but his life. He returned to the U.S. and could not get back his post at the synagogue. His family lived in strained conditions for years and years. His health deteriorated and he died at a young age. Horribly sad.

By starting a new career in Israel, my little brother took a huge risk. However, he had the financial backing of my parents, which provided a good safety net. Also, he was starting work that he really, really wanted to do - computer programming. And it was a good field in Israel. He did not get rich, but he's managing and he does enjoy his work. So I agree with you -- go there with a good bankroll or family who will help you through the startup period.

2. Eggs. The joke in my family is: Why did my parents leave Israel? Dad wanted scrambled eggs. It's a joke, but it sums up a problem: When in Israel, you won't have the comforts you knew in the U.S. I'm not talking about expensive, fancy things, but little things. Scrambled eggs. My father insists that eggs in Israel don't taste as good as American eggs. I don't know why. Different chickens? In my family, scrambled eggs for breakfast became the symbol of all that is missing in Israel.

But it's really not the eggs, is it? It's the friends. Friends are your comfort. When my parents went to Israel the first time, they went alone. But when they returned in 1990, almost all their friends had already made Aliyah and were living in Jerusalem. In fact, one of Dad's best friends was there. Also, my mother had many friends in Israel. And she quickly learned that she was much in demand socially. Being an international bridge master means a lot in Aretz. Bridge is very popular and thus, so is my Mom. Also, by then, many of my cousins and other relatives had made Aliyah. My mother is only happy when surrounded by friends and family. She would not have been able to stay there any other way. There had to be a group there already.

Going it alone? I don't recommend it at all! If you can convince at least one brother or sister to join you, that may make all the difference. A few brothers and sisters and some cousins, better yet.

Datingmaster, Jerusalem said...

of course living in Israel has it sown rewards including cute girls

Elie said...

Excellent, thought-provoking post and comments. Nothing more to add right now, but this has inspired me to think about this topic for my own blog.

Adding you to my slowly-growing blogroll. And thanks for your past comments there.

Mia said...

About your question how I feel, here some thoughts. I don´t think that I realise it that I will really be leaving. I love my family and we are extremely close. We meet every Friday for Shabbes, and I see my mom and my father separately about one additional time per week. We are four siblings and all very close, talk at least once per day. Just to give you a background info about my family. When I met my fiance, it took me only 5 hours to realize that he is the one, my bashert and from the beginning I said, that I will come with him wherever he decides to live. For a total of 7 months now, we were flying back and forth every other weekend to meet and after all this time I feel so extremely happy to finally live in the same country as him, that I don´t have a second thought. It is extremely difficult for me to leave my family, well not leaving them, but put a distance of some countries between us, but on the other side, I am so happy to be with my fiance and I am looking forward to build our life together that I am sure I will find a way to be close to my family. Internet is helping here of course a lot. Already now we all use Skype and MSN. Your question brought the reality a bit closer and made me sad, I think I am trying to push all the thoughts aside and try not to think about it.

I hope you will find a good solution even if it might take some years. I think it is wonderful that you consider your parents feelings so much - this shows how great your personality is. My parents are the most important people in my life and I would do anything to make them happy. So I know how you feel and I wouldn´t know what I would do if the situation would be different. My big luck is also that the love my fiance and welcomed him to the family like another son. They trust that he will take good care of their daughter.

I enjoy reading your blog very much and am looking forward to more interesting posts and comments like this.

MC Aryeh said...

Dutch Girl - Thank you for your comments on Jameel's blog. In response to your points: 1.Good to hear there are so many religious women out there in Erezt Yisrael. I only date women in the states who are open to living in Eretz Yisrael, because I know that if both partners do not want it, it does not happen.
2.I am not willing to be stuck in a miserable career in order to be in Israel - otherwise I would be an accountant. I am still looking for that elusive career that is both fulfilling and viable for Israel - certainly open to suggestions!
3.It is a connection to the land that would keep me going. I feel it in the air. Each time I retrun to Israel, I break down and cry. That doesn't happen anywhere else. It just feels right, feels like home, where I can breathe. It's in my blood, in my bones.

I have lived in Israel and I am aware of how hard it can be and all the shtuyot and beaurocratic ineptness that goes on there. I do want a meaningful life, but a meaningful life in Israel is infinitely better than one in NY.

As to your last point, you are correct -but only if I ignore all the issues I mentioned that are keeping me in the states. Otherwise, encouraging my children to make aliyah may very well be the best I can hope for, at least with consequneces I can live with.

Mirty - Thank you for your comments and sharing some of your family history with regards to aliyah. I am amazed at your parents' tenacity. So many would have given up. What kept them going? Your uncle's story is tragic on a number of levels, and I wonder how or if it could have been averted. I guess there is only so much you can check out before taking the plunge.

Most of those I know personally who have made aliyah have wealthy parents who are willing and able to supplement their income or help when times get rough. Some still support their children after their children have a bunch of children of their own. That sort of arrangement troubles me - what will happen to the next generation when the money runs out but the lifestyle expectations do not?

My first introduction to the "eggs" issue was the rough toilet paper and the "eshbol" cereal. Not the comforts of America, but you adjust. Thankfully, I have a wide circle of good, close friends in Eretz Yisrael - more than in the U.S., in fact. One of the most amazing things about Eretz Yisrael is how your friends become your family. I have no actual relatives there except some very distant cousins who I have never even met. It would be wonderful to go with a sibling or two. If I did not have a wide circle of friends there, I don't think I would be able to even consider aliyah. It is lonely enough there even with them as it is...

I am curious, Mirty (and please don't feel obligated to answer), but did you ever consider living there as a married adult?

DM - Uh, right...

Elie- Thanks for the kind words and for the blogroll add. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this topic, and will look out for it on your blog.

Mia- I feel terrible that my question caused you to be sad. Please forgive for that. It was not my intent. That is so amazing and beautiful that you knew your fiance was the one right away. I am sure it must be a relief to think you will finally be in the same country, as sad as it will be to be away from your family. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words about me and the blog, and for sharing so much of yourself here. You sound like a very devoted daughter with a very supportive family. Those are precious things. Thanks again for your comments and adding to the discussion.

Anonymous said...

MCA: I just wanted to say that the respect you seem to hold for your parents is amazing. So many people today speak so disrespectfully of their parents. Obviously, they did a great job. You bring them much nachas by speaking about them with such respect and understanding. I hope that whichever path you choose, it is the one that brings you satisfaction as well as peace of mind.

Jack Steiner said...


FWIW, I finally blogged about this over at the Shack.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MCA: I "made it" in Israel with zero financial help from my parents. (and I made aliya with $50)

We built a wonderful home...there's food on the table, kids have clothes and shoes. OK, I still wear sweaters I bought 19 years ago, but I like them.

Mirty is right that parnassa is very important, but you can do decently with a whole variety of parnassot here.

MC Aryeh said...

Ezer - Thank you for the kind words and the beautiful bracha. Glad you stopped by.

Jack - Heading Shackward right now. Looking forward to reading it.

Jameel - You have been very blessed. I am happy it worked out for you. I know many more who were not able to make it without parental support, and had to return to the states. I guess if someone is meant to be there, HaShem makes it happen...

SS said...

I feel like I missed the whole discussion, but I do want to say that I made aliya when single, and my mother and stepfather were upset that I hadn't decided to live down the street. But, they know that this is where we want to be (although planning our wedding was a big fiasco), and my mom has even come to visit a couple of times. Once the grandchildren start coming, well, they can't stay away. My husband's parents made aliya a long time ago, but subsequently returned, but they do agree that Israel is the place to be and wish they could be here with us... Agav, what kind of girl are you looking for? (wink, wink) I'm actually sort-of serious, but if I continue writing, I think my foot will end up in my large intestine...

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

"Each year since coming back from Israel, I look at the Nefesh B'Nefesh website, feel a pang of heartache watching the videos of families making aliyah,.."

- HEY TREPPENWITZ, am I imagining it, but didn't you make an appearance in the 2003 video? As I was watching it, I thought I kept recognizing people that I knew or have seen before.

Perhaps, my vision was just blurry, because like you, MC, when I watch those videos, I also get choked up, both for what I miss and for the happiness that others will be embarking on.

I think the questions that Dutch Girl addressed is something to really keep in mind, especially, what she wrote about the reality of living in Israel. But the reality in Israel is much easier than it was 22 years ago, when my father and I made aliyah. Both because of the economics there, and because of the Internet and the advances in telecommunications, it's so much easier today, to stay close with your family and friends abroad.

MC, even though we don't know you personally, your warmth, humor, curiousity, and open-mindedness won't leave you lonely over there.

You have a huge fan club here online of olim that I am sure will help you adjust and make you feel at home. With their contacts and networking, you will be very busy socially, and probably will be able to find a great job.

It's a huge decision to make, and you may need to do it steps, or just jump right in, and go for it. I think you have an advantage to being single. Once you are over there, you can explore all your options, guilt free.

Best wishes in your quest.


MC Aryeh said...

ss- Please don't put your foot in your large intestine - that sounds painful! I am sure you are correct that once the grandkids come, it will be hard for them to stay away, but it will also likely cause them even more heartache that you are so far away, so I am not sure that is a total plus as far as the Israel/parents issue is concerned. As to the kind of girl I am looking for, I don't think I am comfortable putting that up on the blog. It is very sweet of you to ask, though, and I appreciate it...

SweetTooth- Internet and telecommunications are great, but they are no replacement for a warm hug or watching a child grow before your eyes. I would love to hear more about your own aliyah and yeridah though...

Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. I appreciate the good thoughts. Time will tell what HaShem has in store for me...

miriamp said...

MCAryeh, your post really resonated with me... that (family) is exactly why we too are not in E"Y.

A little over a year ago, we found that our little out-of-town community had deteriorated to the point where we were no longer comfortable raising our kids in it. So we looked around at the options, and seriously considered aliyah.

Now this was not something we had ever considered before. If you had asked us the year before that, we would have said we were not the "aliyah type." In fact, neither I nor my husband have ever been to Israel. (gasp!) His year between HS and college got cancelled because of the Gulf War, (made his mother too nervous, so he gave up on it), I was BT in college (and hadn't considered going before that) and we were married pretty much right after... then the kids started coming (B"H) and we just never got there.

But even not having ever been there, there was something about the country that called to us. We wound up finding another out-of-town community commuting distance from my husband's parnassah and moved here instead. Mostly because we wanted to move then, not in another year (the school and my kids were not a good match, and I didn't want to ruin another year for my oldest) and I was expecting and then we had a newborn, making a move overseas that much more complicated, but also because I didn't want to take the kids away from their grandparents.

This seems to be a really good community for us, and the school is really good for my children, which is really the most important, but that dream of making aliyah still haunts me. Parnassah would probably not be a problem, because my husband's company has offices there, and he works with the Israelis (by phone and email) already.

People say, "oh, you should really visit" like it's some popular tourist destination, but the truth is I'm so scared to visit Eretz Yisroel... and not just because of the expense and trouble of bringing with and/or farming out my 7 children. No, I'm scared because I think that if I once set foot in E"Y, I won't be able to leave again. How can you just walk away from a place where the very air is full of kedushah? Well, from your post, you obviously understand that.

Good luck with your final decision. May Hashem send Mashiach speedily, so this will all be moot, and we can spend our days "peacefully, in Yerushalayim!"

Anonymous said...

I'll be making aliyah in August, so needless to say, I read this post carefully. Why do you feel that making aliyah when you're single is a bad idea? Are you religious? Do you think being secular makes the dating scene more or less difficult?

Thanks :)

SS said...

Totally understand your reservations... Did you realize that our blogs have basically the same name?

MC Aryeh said...

Miriam - Thank you for visiting and for sharing your story. I am amazed at how connected you are to Eretz Yisrael without every having been there! Maybe it is just hardwired into the Jewish neshama, and you are just more conscious of it than most? Very inspiring. The first time I visited Tzfat, I knew I could not go back, because I felt I would never leave. It took 4 years before I returned to Tzfat, when I was in a different place in life, and it no longer had the incredible pull on me. So I can understand your fear of even visiting Israel. But to deprive yourself of breathing the air of Yerushalayim is just not being fair to yourself! I hope you do go for that reason alone, if not for so many others! I am glad you found a place that suits the needs of your family, though. Thank you for your good wishes, and amen to your bracha!

Shoshana - Thanks for stopping by. I don't think making aliyah single is necessarily a bad idea. It is for me, but might not be for you. I am religious, so really cannot speak to what dating - or life in general - is like in Israel for a secular Jew. I would be happy to discuss this in greater detail if you would like via e-mail.

ss- They are pretty similar! Glad your title is in ivrit, then. It's a very pretty hebrew phrase...