Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Israel

I was taken to task by a commenter on a different posting as regards Israel. That posting was on OOT as a viable alternative to living in the NY Metropolitan area.

I can't officially say why others are not considering a move to Israel (although unofficially I really could as this has been the topic of conversation more than once). I do know, however, why we are not there. And even as I write this I also know there are going to be people who are sneering self-righteously and saying that living in Israel tops any reasons I have. So be it.

When I first got married it was my husband's and my intention to make aliyah. Early on I was sent to scope things out and see which community would be good for us to live in. We ran into a big stumbling block. The profession my husband had trained for and was working in was simply not available in Israel back then. That was a major problem. The profession I was in paid half a pittance. We weren't going to have parnoseh if we moved. And then there was family that was in Israel at the time. Some of that family was plain and simple not frum. The other part of the family was frum out of sight, and to them we were not exactly what they were looking for. It was going to make close family relations difficult. We weren't going to have a reliable family safety net. And then my father died and left my mom a fairly young widow with youngish children. And my father in law got ill. In short, real life got in the way of any plans we may have had.

Fast forward to now. We are nearing retirement. Why aren't we moving to Israel instead of the wilds of Nevada? Which part of my mother's being 86 do I have to explain? We are going nowhere that is more than a few hours traveling from where my mom is, and since she is planning on spending a good portion of the year with us, that traveling is as far as one bedroom to another. And no, she is not making aliyah at her age, and she isn't leaving her kids, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren behind.

And then there are our children. They, too, love Israel but they, too, have professions that are hard if not impossible to transfer to Israel. The difference in living costs from Israel to here would not make up for that drop in salary. And no, I don't wish those commuter marriages on them. One younger couple from our neighborhood who made aliyah with the husband commuting back to the states is now divorced. A second couple moved back here to solve the real shalom bayis problems. No, I don't wish poverty and dependence on state services on my children, nor being married but only sometimes. And if I then suddenly had to kick in the money so that they could have a secure financial footing, my financial footing would go in the toilet.

So yes, job and earning opportunities and close family relations are key factors as to why my family is here, not in Israel. Not every dream comes true--grown ups know this; children assume they can have everything they want.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a very carefully considered post.

It does seem that unless one makes aliyah when of University age or equivalent, there are often 'real world' issues which can intervene in deciding to make aliyah - everyone has their own cheshbon.

Even if one spends one's working life in chutz la'aretz, a chance to retire to Israel is worth considering with care.

One other point: whilst family connections are always important, Israel is big and varied enough to allow for new friends to develop, even at an advanced age - isn't that what a melting pot is all about?


Lion of Zion said...

i find these stories depressing as i fear what it portends for me. many people have aliyah aspirations that get pushed aside because of very real tachlis issues. they look forward to retirement in israel, but the tachlis issues never stop getting in the way.

my grandparents were lucky to have bought a apt there back when real estate was cheap. they couldn't make aliyah for the usual reasons, but they were able to spend summers there.

i've given my wife express directions that when the time comes i don't want to be burried in israel. if i can't get there while alive, i don't deserve it when i'm dead.


"It does seem that unless one makes aliyah when of University age or equivalent, there are often 'real world' issues which can intervene in deciding to make aliyah"

uh huh. if you don't do it then, chances are slim you'll ever do it. too many issues (or excuses, depending on perspective) will inevitably present themselves

Chaya said...

It's not just having someone to talk to and hang around with in friendship Anon 613. Family is much more than just friends. Good, bad and ugly I can count on my family to be there, really be there for me and me for them. We share a history that is impossible to develop with any friend no matter how close. They don't just like me they love me.

And it's about not being selfish. We could have disappeared to Israel and said forget about everything going on the family and with our parents but that would have meant putting ourselves above our parents and everyone else--not the way we were raised.

For us the money would also have been an issue but it wasn't the main issue. Leaving the family and tearing apart the generations wasn't going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Whether what you have written will be viewed as reasons or excuses will depend on where the hearer is living. Our Israeli family views everything we say as excuses---we could move if we wanted to but we don't want to. Easy for them to say because no one is asking them to tear themselves up from everything they have ever known and tear themselves away from family that will remain here and go to build a new life in a strange place. Never mind the money difference.

Family and friends here see what we say as reasons, and good ones.

Anonymous said...

It may be somewhat easier to move now as compared to when ProfK was graduating college. Keeping in touch with family and friends is much easier now due to cheap international calls and email. Back then, a long distance international call was a big deal, you couldn't always get a connection and they were very expensive. Flying for visits is also much less expensive. Also, there are many more job opportunities and industries in Israel now. There also are a wide variety of communities.

Ruth said...

All boils down to lots of people who like to mind everybody elses business. Making aliyah is not an easy decision and there are lots of reasons--yes reasons not excuses--for why people can or can't do it. But to badger people who have made the decision not to go is ridiculous. It's telling these people that they aren't intelligent enough to know what they can and can't do.

tnspr569 said...

LOZ - I hear you loud and clear. Same thing here.

Guilt is not going to work for a lot of people. Instead, it can create or strengthen a negative association with Israel. Those who truly love Israel should focus on the positive, and just try to cultivate an increased awareness of and love for Israel. Even if people can't move there, they may still visit occasionally, time and money permitting, among other factors. But without that love of the land, that strong positive association, the chance and frequency of those visits declines precipitously...

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

LOZ, you know that the g'mara and Rambam explicitly contradict you (actually, you are in opposition to them) re: burial in Israel. If you didn't honor it in life, you should AT LEAST be buried there.

Although we haven't returned home yet either, I would make two observations. I always told my students that they should make aliyah young and single if possible. A lot fewer issues get in the way then. ProfK noted that now her children also are in professions that aren't an easy fit in Israel. On that I say to other parents and educators, since living in Israel is a mitzvah/high value, at least encourage your children and students to pursue professions that are more likely to fit in Israel. Better yet, if they go to college there they more likely will know what profession or occupation to pursue that will keep them in Israel.

If Israel isn't at least at the forefront of our lives and planning, then certainly we won't see people making aliyah. We can at least promote it and educate towards it; unless, of course, we don't truly think it is a priority.

Good post ProfK. You know that many people have found themselves in similar predicaments.

Miami Al said...

I hope to be able to get a vacation place there one day, and summer in Israel. Aliyah... probably not... but summers and Chagim sounds wonderful... :)

Anonymous said...

As a 25-year-plus Israeli, I do not care where you live, though I wish you well. We have given up a lot to be here, in terms of family connections, family support, income, professional growth and opportunities...and still, I would not have missed it for the world.

I think LOZ is right that if you don't come at college age, the odds are against you.

I knew virtually no one when I came to Israel to study for a year, and I was plopped into ulpan level aleph, the ones who knew Hebrew letters at least.

I met Mr. Wonderful (B"H), who, in his capacity as shaliach to one client, made a point of convincing me to stay in Israel. We now have 5 children, including a combat-unit veteran, and a grandchild on the way.

I would never presume to tell anyone else where to live, but do not dare to negate my achievements here. I speak Hebrew, I wrk in Hebrew, learned my profession in Hebrew, and Hebrew remains my chidrens' language of choice. I have no doubt regarding he language in which I will speak to my grandchildren, which happens to be the only language my son-in-law and his famly know.

I would never presme to tell anyone else how to live his life, as long as he is taking responsibility and paying the bills.

But, as Eliezer Ben Yehuda put it in his autobiography, the fact that I live my life in Hebrew, in the Jewish state, does make me more "Eretz Yisraeli" than you. Not necessarily better in terms of value, not even necessarily happier, or more accomplished, but yes, more connected with the Land.