To All Who Don’t Understand

When is the right time to make aliya? I guess you could say I’m paying for my decision to make aliya early. Already, I have friends who I thought I was leaving behind coming to make aliya. They’re mostly all better off than me, and have started with their lives. Most of my friends from high school (the 20% who aren’t in kollel), have one or two degrees, stable jobs, in some cases great jobs, houses, wives and children. I’m still in university, and will be for the better part of the next two years. And that’s just for a bachelor degree.

Needless to say, had I waited to make aliya, things would definitely be easier. In fact, I think that any person considering aliya, looking at his or her present situation, will always find evidence for pushing off aliya by another year or two (or ten). I don’t think there’s any stage in life where it wouldn’t be beneficial to wait. If you’re just out of high school, then it’s definitely advantageous to get a degree first. Making aliya with a degree is a whole new world over making one without, and roughing it in an Israeli university. If you already have a degree, why not wait until you have an MA, or an MBA? Israeli companies salivate over the prospect of an American MBA, and there’s always the option of telecommuting for an American company, an option much more feasible with a US degree. If you have an MA or an MBA, why not wait a couple of years to build up a nest egg? You can make more in a year in America than you can save in five in Israel. You might also want to get married in America. Why risk the Israeli singles scene? The American singles scene is something you understand, or even enjoy. What compares to the Upper West Side? Certainly not Katemon. On the UWS you can find a mate who compliments your American background, and who wants to make Aliya. After all, she told you so on the first date! You put together a five year plan, to save up money. Now you’re comfortable in Queens, you’re making money, you’re saving money, and you realize you can even start having kids and still save money. So why not? Have a kid or two.

At this point you’re thirty-two and you’ve got two kids. Maybe you’ve got another one on the way. Do you really think you’re still making aliya? (I mean, maybe you are. But you’re in the minority. Let’s not delude ourselves here.) To your horror (or perhaps bemused acknowledgement) everything you’ve accumulated in preparation for aliya has become an anchor to life in America. You love your job. You love your community. You love your wife, who’s beginning to have second thoughts about relocating. You love your kids, and you don’t relish the thought of them having to start school over in another language. You played all your cards right, and looked at the situation rationally at each and every stage, and decided every time that even though you definitely want to make aliya, it would simply be irresponsible to do so at this stage in your life, and you need another year or two of prep. And you were right every time! So where did you go wrong?

I’ll tell you were you went wrong. You went wrong because you simply want to make aliya. You don’t need to. It doesn’t hurt to stay in America. It doesn’t pain you when the plane takes off at the end of your yearly vacation in Israel. Living in America doesn’t make you feel like a fish out of water. And I don’t mean “fish out of water,” in the general, uneasy-feeling like you don’t belong sense. I mean the actual gasping for breath, dying because you’re in a hostile environment sense. If you did, you wouldn’t stay for a degree, you wouldn’t stay for money, and you wouldn’t even stay for love. After all, a fish can only love another fish. He doesn’t belong with the mammals. He doesn’t need to rationalize jumping back in the water. He simply has to, and damn the consequences.



22 thoughts on “To All Who Don’t Understand

  1. you wolly bob ! its just fact… its what happens you can wait all your life aliyah isn’t rational it can’t be … its the most complex thing but also the most simple thing … well done Pritt Stick you got it in one.

  2. Great post Menachem, your last paragraph is really nicely put… “gasping for Air” I think that it might just be the biggest problem with those who “want” to make Aliyah..

  3. great post. I agree completely. I have a cousin who went back the US after 2 years in Israel in yeshiva. He wanted to stay but his parents insisted he come back and go to University. He finally gave in after a fight but mid-way through University he had enough. He picked himself up and made aliya. He is now in the army and planning to finish his degree when he gets out. He also met a girl and got married here in Israel.

    It is not a matter of “want” to make aliya – it is “need” to make aliya

  4. I think after college is the perfect time to make aliya. I came after grad school, my dh came after college. I was very tempted to stay the summer after I graduated with my BA and almost did, but I ended up getting my masters first.

    It was impossible dating in the U.S. when I wanted to find someone who REALLY wanted to make aliya. The aliya thing eliminated practically everyone.

    The katamon scene is much better than the Upper West Side, not everyone wants to live in NYC. And Katamon is frummer. Plus in Katamon, almost everyone wants to live in Israel. (I didn’t meet dh in Katamon, but Katamon gave me an amazing singles community while I was there.)

    The longer one stays in America, the harder it becomes to leave.

    Contrary to what people say, it is easiest to make aliya single because you only have to take care of yourself. If you wait too long, it becomes to hard for your kids to adjust, and eventually your parents get too old and you can’t leave them, and of course the longer you stay in America, the more settled you get, so the harder it is to move.
    College in Israel is much harder and takes much longer. I feel for you. My brother has taken a similar path. Hang in there. You should at least be more Israeli then those of us who came later, with better Hebrew and a better understanding of how things work here.

  5. Very well written and impressive.

    This relates to many of the regrets I have.

    The last paragraph decribes much of how I am feeling.

    Now I’m ready to go crawl into bed and cry.

  6. I was never gasping for air in america. i love america, it rocks. i don’t think you need to negate a great thing in order to appreciate somthing else. However I do agree with you that the difference is need vs. want. The overwhelming NEED to be here is what brought me here.

  7. I was just as passionate and determined as you but I think that in many ways, I was wrong. There is a time and a place for everything and if you and your future spouse want to make aliyah, (both of you), if you choose your career accordingly, it will happen if you make it happen. Your post screams of doubt and I feel for you, because I also have doubt. I made aliyah for the same reasons as you but sometimes, I wonder if it was the right decision. Not everyone has the guts to do it alone, but that doesnt mean that they don’t passionately want it. We have no promises min hashamayim as to where we’ll find our spouse and as young people in our 20′s, this is a HUGE consideration. I would have patted you on the back after seminary but not now. Marriage is too important.

  8. [well said Ms. Anon]

    …of many, here’s one question I will ask you: aliyah is definately as important as other mitzvot (ie. learning + teaching Torah, cibud av v’em etc. and marriage etc.) but when did it become more important than all of these combined?… or is your point that any and all of these mitzot can only be done properly in Israel?…
    (then tell me: has your experience and those on the bandwagon proven this?)

    and M? the majority of Orthodox single guys and girls do not live or want to live in the upper west side.

    Shabbat Shalom.

  9. “He doesn’t need to rationalize jumping back in the water. He simply has to, and damn the consequences.”

    Not to psychoanalyse, but it seems like the consequences are getting to you. Don’t get me wrong, Kol Hakavod for for aliyah but consequences can’t be damned.

    Gasping for breath in America? I can’t tell anyone else how they feel… There are two ways you deal with being in America when your heart is in Israel. One is to do everything possible to get out – PLAN your aliyah, talk about it until people are sick of hearing it and move as soon as you can. Two- make aliyah when the time is right and in the meantime, be active and a mover in your community. Stay true to your ideals while building and strenghtening yourself and the people around you. There is more than one way to be idealistic.

    “After all, a fish can only love another fish. He doesn’t belong with the mammals”

    That statement is offensive. For those of us with similar values, we’re all fish. “Species” are not determined by timing.

  10. anonymous 1&2 and B. I think you are all missing the point. this post ( as i understood it) was not a value judgement on whether one should or should not make aliyah at this stage in life, nor was it a halachik one of whether marriage/ kibud av/ torah are more or less important. the point was just an existential one- its a feeling ” gasping for air” its not a choice its simply a reality you cannot ignore- just like a person does not choose to breath .so damn the consequences not because the consequences are not a pain in the ass and even when they “get to you”- because there is nothing else you can do. therefore the fish/mammal analogy was not a derogatory racist comment – its just simply an existential decription : some people feel like fish out of water in america and some people are like mammals who can survive out of water. once again, not a value judgement just a fact.

  11. i’m laughing because i’m the (almost) 32 year old you described, except that thankfully in my case, we feel the intense desire to make aliyah and it’s stronger now than ever. so we’ll be coming over in 2007. however, several years ago, we had the opportunity to make aliyah before we started our family, and we didn’t do it, for some reason believing it better to wait. now, we of course realize that had we done it back then, things for us would be infinitely easier. however, whenever a person makes aliyah it is challenging. hopefully more folks who’ve toyed with the idea will actually go through with it.
    great post.

  12. Great post, Menachem!
    I’m beginning to know how you feel. It seems I’ll be switching majors, which in this country means you ditch your previous year(/s) of study. I’m glad you expressed how I feel very often. Looking back, I’m more than happy with my decision. I love life here, as I might have loved life there. Except here I have new challenges virtually every day, and a close group of people who are battling these challenges along with me. It’s a nice feeling.

  13. so what i’m getting here, from the cvomments here and from ezzie’s blog, is that those who are actually making aliya only wish that they’d done it sooner, while those who are waiting to make aliya later still maintain that waiting makes things easier, and that there’s no rush.

    i think that proves my point exactly about the difference between needing and wanting.

  14. Blogee, Well said! I’m really glad it worked out for you and that you are able to live your dream. I, Ms. Anon made aliya and I want to make clear that I do not regret my decision. As blogee said, I have challenged myself in unimaginable ways and I am so thankful for what I’ve learned about myself but I must acknowledge that there are consequences. I think we have to see a greater picture, stive for ideals bur recognize that sometimes, ideals cause us to temporarily live outside of Israel. We must recognize that there is validity in that.

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