08 July 2015

Aliyah Advice for Those Who Are Interested

22 Tamuz 5775

There was no Nefesh b'Nefesh (NBN) when I made aliyah. I just contacted the Jewish Agency in Denver where I lived at the time. The Jewish Agency is still in the aliyah business and in fact, everyone who uses NBN's services must still go through the Jewish Agency.

From everything I've heard from those who have used NBN services, they are very discouraging of those most willing to give up on life in the Diaspora - the poorer segments of Jewish society - and even those whom they deem to be a good risk of their funds don't get the kind of support they were expecting after the fact.

Their website, however, offers a wealth of information that is free for the taking - like this page which explains what you need and where you need to go in order to "make aliyah" from within Israel.

If you can afford the (one-way) plane tickets over and a temporary place to live til you get processed, you don't need anyone's approval before coming to Israel. You just come and then apply for immigrant status at the Ministry of Interior.

However, be aware that the people you are dealing with at NBN present aliyah like it's only for rich people - pilot trips, so much money in the bank, arrangements to bring over your car, etc, etc, you get the idea. It reminds me of those studies that claim it takes 1 million dollars to raise a child to maturity including the cost of his college education. Poor people all over the world have babies with no money and poor Jews can make aliyah without money, too. It's hard, yes, but it can be done. How badly do you want it??? 

I recommend you read this two-year-old Haaretz article on NBN before deciding whether to approach NBN or not. Just know that it's not necessary. You can go directly to the Jewish Agency and by-pass NBN.

(See this nice Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) online brochure for a description of the process, rundown on benefits offered to ease absorption, and important contacts.)

It says: "We recommend that you schedule an optional meeting with a Nefesh B’Nefesh representative to explore their programs and services and to participate in their PreAliyah sessions and seminars." But, it's not required

If I had to give the aliyah shaliach at the Jewish Agency a reason for why I did not want to approach NBN, I would be very honest and tell them that I had it on good authority that they are very discouraging of poorer Jewish families making aliyah. I would tell them how determined my family is to go and have a successful klita and that you believe that having endured hard times in America has already prepared you for living with less in Eretz Yisrael. If the Ethiopians can do it, the Americans can, too.

Read this brochure carefully to understand your immigration rights as a Jew and don't let anyone mislead you, intentionally or otherwise. For example, if you are ready to leave for Israel and someone wants you to wait for a NBN flight, it's not necessary: "Once you have received approval you are ready to finalize your Israel program plans and book your flight. Your “Aliyah” flight is paid for by the Jewish Agency for Israel and facilitated through Nefesh B’Nefesh’s group and charter flights. Individual flights are also covered." 

To me that says, normally you would be lumped into one of the NBN flights which are only scheduled a few times each year, but if you choose to fly separately, that is also your right. (That's how my family came before NBN.)

Let me know in the comments if there is anything else I can look up or a general question I can get answered for you. I'll do my best to help, but specifics will more than likely have to be answered by your local aliyah shaliach. People are welcome to share their own experiences, what they would do differently if at all, etc.

B'hatzlachah rabah!


  1. I approached the LA-based Israel Aliyah Center in 1993 regarding my own aliyah.

    They non-committal, at best, even though in the end, they did sponsor my aliyah. The rep at the time was flabbergasted by my answer as to my plans. Move, find an apartment, get a job. He must have thought I was crazy. And yet, that's exactly what happened. Even in 1993, without too much effort, I had five job offers in very short order (high tech, remember), including Jerusalem.

    1. Because we had no money, we let the JAFI send us to the Galil. We stayed in an absorption center for 5 months, but my husband (at the time) got a job after after only one month. The company was getting ready to move from the Krayot to new offices in Yokne'am Elit. To satisfy government requirements, they had to move 1/2 of their workforce there, so we got a really good deal. We already were entitled to a rental subsidy from JAFI and the company paid half our rent for a year, too. This was a tri-level private home with lemon trees in the yard and a beautiful view of Mount Carmel. We could never have known things would work out that way before we came. We were just so happy to be here, we would have been satisfied with anything. Hashem just arranged it all that way.

    2. would that be the same subsidy that NBN gives? Tots

    3. No, that comes from the Jewish Agency. NBN has additional money that they give out if you qualify for it.

  2. I made aliyah with NBN but not with a family. I had no savings and was coming after after over 2.5 years of unemployment. There is nothing that I would change about the process itself but I would have been more careful to get advice from people about what mistakes to avoid that new olim typically make. (For those wondering what those mistake are - ask people that recently came. The reality is always changing so those of us that have been here for years had a different reality to deal with.)

    When I first arrived I stayed with a family I knew for about 3 weeks until I found job and an apartment. And then about a year and few months later I got married to an Israeli. And please G-d we are here to stay. Living here requires flexibility, a positive attitude and willingness to leave the American high goshmi lifestyle and attitude behind. Trying to live an American lifestyle even if you have a lot of money simply doesn't work here. And what EY has to offer is SO much better and more fulfilling. It is a great merit to be here.

    The most important thing you can do to prepare for aliyah is to daven! Daven about all of the details as much as you can. That is what I did. And HaShem sent me just what I needed when I needed it despite all the "obstacles" of no savings, no job etc. HaShem has everything you need and so much more.

    1. That's wonderful! Good advice and good to hear. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Does Nefesh b'nefesh help with finding an apartment and finding a job? That's the main reason I'd consider going through them.

    1. JOBS and HOUSING.

      I would be willing to help anyone coming to my area - Jerusalem, Binyamin.

  4. You make important points here. I was a bit shocked on the insistence for pilot trips as that seemed to me a luxury. In the end I did make one, and it was useful. But I wouldn't call it a necessity. Neither is a lift a necessity.

    NBN has its place and does good work for many but aliyah is really between you and the State of Israel. All the money comes from the JA, not from NBN. The latter didn't give us a dime. The State pays for your plane fare. The State pays for the taxi from the airport. The State provides the absorption basket. The State gives you a counselor when you arrive. NBN mostly provides information and helps you to organize all the paperwork. One of their main services is to reduce fear, which is important. Also they keep reminding you about aliyah with their ubiquitous ads.

    I should note that the paperwork really isn't all that intimidating. The challenge of the bureaucracy of Israel, at least as far as aliyah goes, is exaggerated. It's much easier than getting citizenship from the USA or even applying to college. Much easier. It's quite reasonable actually.

    My great-great grandfather came to the USA from Russia with $16 and about a dozen people depending on him. He got zero help on arrival. What Israel does to help Jewish immigrants is so astounding that I cry when I think about it. I'm crying right now.

    This is a terrific country. The people have been wonderful. My new hobby is announcing that I am an oleh. I have received more brachos than in all the years of my life combined.

    You feel Jewishness all over this place. Not just at the kosel, but in the intelligence and compassion that is much more apparent than in any gentile country.

    1. Thank you, Yisrael K. Every Vatik(a) needs the occasional injection of positivity that only a new oleh can give. ;-)

    2. don't think i'm gushing
      there's plenty i don't like about this place, geulah certainly has not come, it's golus in ey too
      but one has to take in the whole picture of things
      1) we are supposed to be in ey
      2) the rest of the world is a sewer and life is difficult everywhere
      3) life in ey is manageable so why not come

  5. Shoshana Shoshana8/7/15 10:32 PM

    I have had the experience that my mother-in-law was given the green light by Nefesh B Nefesh but then "unofficially" blocked by the Jewish Agency. She was financially well off and had family here but alas, had alzheimer's. When the family mentioned to the Jewish Agency that they would take a lawyer to pursue her rights they answered that they would fight to the end.
    Later, we heard of other "undesirables" getting the same treatment. Then, I read this in the book "The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul" by Yoram Hazony:

    "In 1995, Uri Gordon, the head of the Immigration and Absorption Department of the Jewish Agency, told the press that the Jewish Agency had begun testing Jews who want to immigrate to Israel to determine whether they would be able to support themselves financially or whether they had psychological problems. Jews who were deemed "unfit" to immigrate would be persuaded to stay in the Diaspora- even though, as Gordon said 'I am aware that these tests contradict the Law of Return'."

    (cited source: Haaretz, July 7, 1995 and Ma'ariv, Jan 2, 1995)

    I personally wouldn't (and didn't) use either NBN or the Jewish Agency- just do as Dvash said- get on a plane and come over and do your aliyah from here. Much easier process anyway.

  6. I think it's important to remember that the Medina has ALWAYS tried to stick it to immigrants. (And when those who became the Medina were immigrants themselves, they tried to stick it to those who were already here.) Whatever NBN does is small potatoes compared to what was done to religious Jews at the beginning, Sephardim, etc. They persevered, all the more so you.

    Maybe I've said this here before, but I very much wanted to go to Sherut Leumi upon making aliyah or a really good ulpan with some kind of board. There was no NBN back then and the shaliach refused to let me go to Sherut Leumi, which shocked me at the time because I thought the whole culture was very into some kind of National Service for All (at least that is what they keep harassing the chareidim about). Anyway, at first he insisted on sending me to radically Leftist Shomer Tza'ir kibbutz, even though I was obviously dressed religious and kept declaring I was religious. (Some agendas never change.) He said I would be happy there because I would meet a nice boy and get married. After haggling, he finally "compromised" by sending me to a pseudo-religious kibbutz. It was awful. The ulpan was teaching no higher level than alef-bet and the English-speaking participants weren't olim, but secular-traditional tourists who were escaping problems back home. I think the kibbutz's plan was to take most of your aliyah money and then after the allotted time (6 months) dump you on the street with no Hebrew skills. And that was just two things wrong with it. Things got worse and worse until I escaped and went to a BT seminary and became chareidi. So the last laugh is on the Erev Rav shaliach.

    You are giving great advice, Devash. If I'd had you around then to tell me to be extremely assertive with the shaliach, I would've gotten what I wanted from the beginning. But things still worked out really well, so I am not complaining.

    P.S. Regarding Israeli bureaucracy: Bureaucracy anywhere in the world is a pain, it's just that as American (or Australian or Mexican, etc.) citizens, we don't need to deal with the red tape that immigrants do. I talked to Europeans married to Americans who lived in America before coming to Israel and they said that Israeli bureaucracy is MUCH easier than American bureaucracy. So I guess it helps to keep things in perspective, that immigration is a nisayon and it's not that Israel is so bad, per se.
    And like Yisrael K. pointed out, there is compassion here. You can actually get around a lot of the bureaucracy by appealing to the compassion within or showing empathy toward whatever clerk you're dealing with. They know it's a frustrating process and they understand you, but they themselves feel trapped within the system. However, when you try that in America, people can get very cold or angry.

    I wish everyone here much blessing and success.

  7. Devash

    Found it difficult just to acquire an Israeli passport under being an Israeli citizen born abroad (after an ordeal of many years) and am also faced with the huge task of trying to establish an Aliyah plan despite my disabilities.

    It is currently stalled at the moment partly because the task is simply too overwhelming for me to do by myself as well as also being in the situation of caring for a recently medically retired diabetic parent with MS, who has no desire to make Aliyah (partly) after a bad experience in Haifa decades back when locals said that Israel belongs to them (who in retrospect may have possibly been Arabs).

    1. When you hit a rough patch like that, the only thing to do is daven, daven and daven. It's all of it - every last bit of it - in Hashem's hands. He will make miracles for you if you trust Him to.

  8. I write as someone who made Aliyah and reluctantly returned to Galut within the year.

    If you are going to make Aliyah and you are not rich, then you have to be really smart about it.

    ***The key factor in a successful Aliyah is finding employment in Israel.
    I really advise either finding a job before you go, or training in a skill that is in demand in the Israeli job market.
    One such job for English speaking immigrants is 'Technical Writing".***

    The money you get from the Israeli government s a new immigrant is pocket money for a few months, use it for toiletries etc. It is not going to pay for much else.

    I offer the following advice:

    1.) Stay in an Absorbtion Centre. This will be for a minimal charge for five months after arrival. It really helps with saving money.

    2.) Make use of the free five months Hebrew language tuition you are offered (Ulpan), and start it about a month to two months after arriving.

    3.) Sell off what you do not need before leaving Galut. You would be surprised how little you actually need in terms of possessions, and how much money you need once in Israel. A laptop, a printer, religious items, a decent suit, a few other clothes, some learning Hebrew books and some Israel guidebooks are important though.

    4.) You have little to lose approaching Nefesh B Nefesh. They might offer you a bit of cash three months after you arrive in Israel. They do also offer an employment service, and good guidebooks on the nuts and bolts of Israeli life, such as how to choose a utility company or phone contract. But do not rely on them, they are a bonus not a crutch.

    5.) If you are an English language speaker, the JIA are great. They help you find accommodation (they will sit with you and search accommodation websites) and offer computers/phones to be used from their offices.

    6.) Network and network and when you have finished networking, network again. Israel is very much about who you know as well as what you know. Friends of friends, distant relatives or even people you meet on the bus can provide jobs or accommodation or good advice. It is Hashem working through people...but that is how it works there.

    7.) Do a thorough Cheshbon Ha Nefesh as soon as you decide to make Aliyah. Clean up all spiritual faults that you can. It will help your chances of successful Aliyah.

    8.) Savlunut. The Hebrew word for "Patience". You will need it. The people who make Aliyah and find a job and a wife/husband within a few months are the exceptions. It can be a struggle.

    9.) B Hatzlachah!

    1. Jobs are Hashem's problem and if you daven for His assistance, you will get it. I came with a profession that was in high demand, but in the end I never worked in that field. Hashem, through a neighbor, brought me a job with much better conditions and higher pay from a direction I could never have anticipated. If we accept that we are just not in control and open ourselves to Hashem's plans for us and live more by our faith and less out of fear of going without, He really will work miracles for us.

    2. Well said Devash. When I arrived I lived with family that was about a 40 minute walk to the Kosel. I went all the time and spent a lot of time davening to find a job etc. I did not work in my field here and instead was open to whatever HaShem would send. And trusted that if He was sending it then I also had the skills to make it work. I also was open to learning new things. When people would ask me what my career was I would respond "flexibility".

  9. All very interesting and different strategies, Devash. I had no clue that one did not have to use NBN to make aliyah. Eye opening. Thank you.I will pass this along to my husband.

  10. All very, very good advice. Thanks to all who have commented. There is no denying that aliyah is a challenge on virtually every level of life - physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. It proves the truth of the words, "Three things are acquired only through suffering - Torah, Eretz Yisrael and the World-to-Come."

  11. To RA - It is a fact that some olim were either required or strongly requested to write thank-yous for the money they received from xian donors. You accuse me of "misstatements" and "misinformation" and follow it by saying "I don't even think they take Christian money anymore. That was very early in the organization's existence."

    Christian Zionist Hagee Gives Nearly $1 Million To Nefesh B'Nefesh

    2014 - John Hagee Ministries donated $400,000 to NBN

    2013 - John Hagee Ministries donated $500,000 to NBN

    For everyone else, I'd just like to clarify that this particular advice was aimed at those being rejected out of hand by NBN. If you can qualify for their assistance and the xian connection doesn't bother you (it seems the JA takes from Hagee, too) then go for it!

    1. what's so terrible about sending a thank you letter?

    2. There shouldn't be anything to thank them for.

    3. somebody gives you a present, you say thinking
      do i need to explain?

    4. I don't understand the question, but I'll give you another perspective...

      ASK THE RABBI: May Jews accept charity from Evangelical Christians?

    5. Because there is a 0.01% chance that my memory could be wrong and I am unable to re-confirm the information I was given about who arranged the money for which a thank-you to Xians was required, I have edited out that comment from the original post.

  12. I'm another example of someone who made aliyah with Nefesh b'Nefesh, having made it before they existed. Then, I returned to the US and re-made aliyah 7 years later (with even more children), and on a 2nd round try NOBODY helps you (not NBN, not the Jewish Agency - 1 official try only), only help from Hashem. Not only that, Bituach Leumi penalizes you for it, charging you for a year of insurance (or you can say no and buy private - which is what we did).

    Important lessons from doing it twice... Shipping things over is REALLY EXPENSIVE, so don't bother. 2nd time around I brought seforim and memorabilia (pictures and so forth) only. Bring your laptops/pads/cellphones, but don't bring the printer (buy a new one, 35% more expensive in Israel versus paying 100% more for shipping it). Buy cheap IKEA furniture to get yourself started, upgrade later as life allows.

    Don't even bring the winter clothes (unless moving to Jerusalem or Tzfat) (do bring the fall clothes).

    Start looking for work even before you come, and have your resume ready in Hebrew. Here's one site that's not bad: http://www.alljobs.co.il/ and for hi tech, here's one source in English - http://www.cji.co.il/

    While you can get by in Israel in English, especially if you work in hi tech, the better your Hebrew the better you'll be. Do whatever you can to learn as much as you can in advance.

    One problem that multiple people mentioned is the Jewish Agency AND NBN sending people out to remote areas, meaning less employment opportunities. Most people would be wise to start in the center (meaning Tel Aviv, Petach Tivka, Hertzaliya, Ashdod, Netanya, Raanana, Kfar Saba, Modiin etc) or Jerusalem (including Mevetzeret Tziyon, Beit Shemesh, Telz Stone) to settle in, find work, get all the government stuff out of the way.

  13. Someone recently told me about a job website called Janglo for English speakers.


    Thank you, Devash and to all who contributed information and good advice!


  14. One piece of advice that would apply even tho my aliyah was 7.5 yrs ago: Apartment renters should be sure whether the rate is set in shekels or dollars. When we were renting our first apt., at first she was going to accept it in dollars; then, before we signed the lease, she told us she was going to shekels. That was good for her, but bad for us because it made us pay more some months, and made our money run out sooner, before I could get a job. Possibly more later.

  15. Yisrael K., many of the Xian organizations that give money to Jews to make aliyah are in it for the payback they expect later from us: They want to win our souls for their deity, or force them from us. I have been there and done that, and it's been over for many years already.

    The thank-you letter you send could be used for advertising for donations to "help" more Jews...but ask yourself, is it really help, or not?

    I saw that Devash said, if you don't mind taking money from Xians, go for it. I think that assumes those who do, know how to handle themselves when the time comes; indeed, I hope they do.

  16. You get to bring up to 60KG of possessions on your Aliyah flight. So if you can bring a well packaged printer and not go over the weight limit, why not?
    It does get cold in Tel Aviv, temperatures of 7 degrees Celsius on winter nights, with rains in January and February, so a small amount of winter clothes, even one good coat and a couple of hoodies, can be useful.
    Tanglo and Janglo websites can be useful.

  17. If I hop on a plane without NBN or Jewish Agency's help and at the airport state that I am here for good, so I still need all the paperwork like marriage/divorce papers. Just call me Eager - signed EagerToGo

  18. That and a few other things like proof of Jewishness and a certificate from your local police saying you have no criminal record.

    See here.

    Good luck!

  19. serious question for anyone that would like to answer. How about a single woman, mid 50's Jewish, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor with good health and dirt poor. Can a person like this make Alyiah, i.e helped with all the money that is needed? Thank you! Pat

  20. Thanks Devash. I'd more or less given up on making Aliyah plans. I'm poor, single, in 50's. But I guess I thought one had to go thru NBN and spend all that money.
    I definitely will pray for guidance and strength in making plans. I have a lot of work ahead of me (for example I don't even have a passport or a copy of my birth certificate!) But I have wanted to live in Israel for years. I know some Hebrew but must practice. תודה! Dina Barzilai