The names of the family members you're about to meet have been changed to protect the innocent.
This story is about an American family
that made Aliyah
Arrived 1987 - Departed 1989
Jewish Immigration to Israel falls sharply
Jerusalem June 23, 2003
Immigration to Israel has fallen sharply this year, a Cabinet minister said Monday, as the government took a step to try to reverse the trend by reinstating housing grants for new arrivals.
Only 7,692 immigrants came to Israel during the first five months of the year -- putting it on a trend for a yearlong total far below the 2002 total of 35,168 -- according to figures from the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.
Immigration is in a "tailspin," said the minister, Tzipi Livni. "It's impossible to remain indifferent to what's going on." She said her ministry needed to examine the attitudes of potential immigrants and find ways to make Israel more attractive to them.
A main factor depressing immigration figures is nearly three years of Palestinian-Israeli violence. Many potential immigrants have had second thoughts because of the frequent images of terror attacks inside Israel, and the unrest has contributed to a serious economic recession with high unemployment.
In 2001, there were 44,633 new arrivals in Israel. During the peak years of 1990 and 1991, almost 377,000 immigrants came to Israel, most from the former Soviet Union.
"I fully believe that immigration will define the strength of the state of Israel. We have to find out the reasons for what's happening and focus our resources to bring in more immigrants."
Jewish immigration to Israel is the cornerstone of Zionism, the Jewish national movement. About half the people living in Israel today were born abroad.
Mike Rosenberg, director of the Jewish Agency, the body responsible for bringing Jews to Israel, said that besides Israel's difficult economic and security situations, administrative measures, like cutting housing grants, have cut into immigration.
"Newspapers in countries like Argentina gave great prominence to the mortgage cutbacks," he said.
On Monday, Israeli officials reinstated housing grants for immigrants that had previously been cut, the prime minister's office said.
The government also set up a task force to "study the needs of immigrants and propose an optimum package of benefits," the statement said.
This story has been reconstructed from a manuscript written ten years ago. This writer's agent tried for one year to get it published to no avail. It has been on a shelf collecting dust since then. Why resurrect the past? The present indecision that exists in Israel, its inability to stand fast and agree on a authoritative method of handling the conflict, may be the result of an deep-rooted mind set I experienced a decade ago. Researching the web has revealed Americans are still being cautioned about pitfalls inherent in the Aliyah system. Whether it still is as destructive now, years after the depicted experience you will read about, has not been explicitly documented, only alluded to. Publishing the material was a promise made to my vatic friends (old timers) in Israel. Perhaps doing so at this late date will fulfill that promise.
"Aliyah" in Hebrew means going up but for better understanding I'll refer to it as going home. Not all Americans making Aliyah will undergo the same circumstances.
There are those who will retire in Israel, and not be involved in a need for rapid absorption. They can choose the pace and depth of their integration. They can live with minimal problems if they chose to, in an American community. There is no rush to secure employment. Most likely, various retirement benefits they secured in America will be their means of support.
Others taking advantage of the Aliyah program, use it to enjoy an extended vacation in Israel requiring very little of their own money. This group has no intention of remaining, and did not disassemble their lives in the U.S.. Both the above groups can basically ignore, and keep their distance from most government agencies.
Another group will live in Israel for an extended period and their means of sustenance will come from earnings generated outside of the country. This group can also avoid, to a large extent, government supervision of their lives.
I could not write this book without touching upon those groups. However, they are not the reason or purpose for this this narrative.
The group I concentrate on are Americans that count on being employed and integrating totally into Israel’s society. They might join a Kibbutz or Moshav, or stay in the private sector. It is this group, and generally those choosing the private sector, that will have to endure the arduous absorption program. The ordeal they will innocently struggle through, submerges them deeply into the fabric of Israel’s convoluted system.
Caught in this environment, an amazing realization dawns. Your accustomed norms for self determination will die away. Self determination, is what the world continues to fight for, and was the essence of achievement Israel’s founders worked for. Weren’t they fleeing from oppression?
So! what did my family experience in Israel? What caused Americans who gave up so much to make Aliyah eventually return to the U.S.?
After spending two years in Israel, my wife Naomi, daughter Sarah and I came back. It wasn’t in our plans. We made every effort to avoid it. However, if we didn’t, return there would not have been any possibility of regaining our balance. This is not a melodramatic statement. Only now do we know that the word Klita (absorption), is a unkind euphemism disguising distasteful methods of indoctrination and assimilation.
Having unquestionably earned the credentials to report on the travails of the Olim Chadashim (New Comers) to Israel, I will detail our experiences as well as some other American Olim, all returnees joining the approximately ninety percent come back rate.
Next year in Jerusalem, a phrase recited throughout the Jewish world, was observed by me as I grew up. Those ceremonial words were always laid aside, waiting another year to be repeated. Was it only a mere proposal without significance? From one evocation to the next, concentration on daily life took precedence.
I grew up in Brooklyn, this was my Jewish background, my Shtetel (village ghetto). The rules promoting achievement were straightforward, and you did better than not to follow them. Parents worked hard at providing children with an education, and instilled in them one prime doctrine, (become something in the world). There was no charity, official that is. To live on charity was a shandah (shame). Integral with the work and succeed ethic, you were expected to marry a nice Jewish girl, raise a family, and become a good provider.
I was a conscientious student, diligent worker, accomplishing what was expected. I married, had a beautiful family, a home on Long Island, three cars in the garage, and became president of a company. In essence, attaining that goal presumable meant I had it all. However, something was lacking. Sure others envied my apparent success, some even jealous of it.
Years advanced quickly. Sometimes it feels that life has passed in the blink of an eye. Pondering upon its purpose, somehow from the forgotten past, Next Year In Jerusalem started to surface, take hold, and govern my thoughts. This echo from way back, could I make it a reality?
The more I dwelt on the idea, the more I realized that my affluent way of life, and the effort to maintain it, no longer fulfilled me. My sixtieth birthday was approaching. If I were to alter my life, now, had to be the time. Next Year In Jerusalem, an almost forgotten fancy, is what I decided to convert into reality. It would be a return to abandoned roots, a return to a more rewarding purpose, a return to Yiddishkeit (Jewish ways).
Up to now such visions were my own private fantasies. To make them happen those thoughts must be brought out into the open, and presented to my wife.
Finally I approached her, and hesitantly displayed my plans for us. The very idea was flatly rejected, and why not. I was asking her to give up a lifetime she understood, start again in a country we have never been to, and knew nothing about. Going to Israel was not a momentary fascination for me. Feelings of returning to a Jewish life in a Jewish country mounted, and I continued to convey that desire to Naomi. It took time, countless hours of debating, until we reached the agreement I had hoped for. She said, “yes,’ agreeing to spend the balance of our lives in Israel.
We began the process of Aliyah. Sarah sat in on many of our conversations about going to Israel. She listened carefully, became intently absorbed, her interest mounted, and finally was infected with the same enthusiasm as we were. Privately, when alone in her own home, she spent a great deal of time grappling with the temptation to join us. At dinner one night she made an announcement. She too would make Aliyah. We toasted the event and excitedly planed our journey. A time table was organized. Consultations with our Shaliah (a representative of the World Zionist Organization) began in earnest.
The task of liquidating our possessions, and completing an endless array of details followed. It created a flurry of exhausting, demanding ceaseless activity, and a willingness to accept pennies on the dollar for what was being sold.
The economy had taken a turn for the worse, wouldn’t you know, just at the time we needed cash. Buyers were few and far between. Nevertheless our decision to go was more important than money. Weren’t we prepared to live the simple life? That conviction eased this hectic period. Freely, we gave away those things that were not going to be sold in the remaining time. We even gave an entire business to an Israeli living in the U.S., and wished him luck.
As I continue with my story of the plight of the American Olim, I fervently hope that it can shed some light on conditions that prevailed. If that light can be useful and serve some purpose, then Israel could become a light unto the world.