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.