OK, the weather is not really an important factor in the decision to make aliyah…yet I can’t but help notice that the high temperature in Toledo on Monday is forecast at 9 degrees, and in Jerusalem it’s forecast to be 55 degrees. We’re looking at a couple of days of below zero lows here, which certainly makes Israel’s climate sound pretty attractive about now! I really like running, I find the gym gets pretty boring, but it’s been too cold here for running to be much fun lately.
We’re now something like five months away from our move to Israel, so it’s feeling more and more "real" as our to-do list gets longer and more detailed. We’re planning to put our house on the market in about a month, and have some things to do to get it ready. Unfortunately, real estate prices in Toledo for the last three years have been as flat as the geography, so expenses, etc., taken into account we’re probably coming out behind on the sale of the house. I shouldn’t complain, we did more than OK on the last three houses we sold up and down the West Coast.
We’re still waiting to hear from Nefesh b’Nefesh on the status of our application for financial aid and the schedule of the summer charter flights. But in the interim, they have been very helpful with practical stuff like looking for jobs, etc. If you’re thinking of aliyah, it’s definitely worthwhile to get started with them sooner rather than later.
Jerusalem is a part of the "communal aliyah" program. The staff person has been very helpful — she’s helped us get our youngest daughter registered in the school we want, and our two older daughters are first on the waiting list for the same school.
In making aliyah there are a million decisions to make — we’re very glad we started the process early, so that we’ve had time to go through a thoughtful process on all the issues. I’m going to post some of the significant decisions we made with the idea that the information might be helpful to others thinking about making aliyah.
Where to live: we decided to go for Jerusalem. We love the city, we have friends there, they have the kind of schools we want (religious, but pluralistic), and it’s a beautiful, happening place. It’s where we face when we pray, so if we’re making aliyah we figured we might as well go to the source. The only downside is it’s more expensive than a lot of other places. But we figured it’s worth it if it helps make our adjustment to Israel easier. We can always decide to move later if we really miss the bigger place to live.
Schools: Part of the reason we favored Jerusalem is the availability of schools like Efrata, Dror, Reut, Evalina de Rothschild, etc., — schools that are religious, but still have progressive values. We’ve decided that Efrata looks like the best choice for us, which means we need to live in a particular neighborhood, and still have to hope they have room as it’s a very popular school.
Work: A lot of recent immigrants from the West find opportunities "tele-commuting" for firms in the "old country." Looks like we may be part of this trend. Also, like a lot of Israelis I know, we may have a "portfolio" of a couple of different jobs. When it comes to making aliyah, I think it really helps to be as flexible as possible in your ideas about employment. Lauri will be doing legal work in her field of intellectual property, and I’ll do a combination of business and rabbinic stuff.
Rent or buy?: We decided we’ll rent an unfurnished place for the first year. It’s too complicated to try and buy something ahead of time, and we don’t want to go into a furnished rental for a few months while we buy something because you pay through the nose for storage, and we’d have to deal with moving just as we’re getting settled into jobs and schools. So a year in a rental will allow us time to get settled and find just the right place to buy.
What to bring?: There were several things we debated long and hard about whether or not to bring them: my baby grand piano, our home theater setup, and our car. We have decided in favor of bringing all three. People in the know tell me it’s hard to find a good piano in Israel. I priced TVs, and 65" High Def TVs cost as much as a car in Israel. We’ve found some converters that sound like they’ll work fine for allowing us to play different format DVDs, etc., on the TV. Besides, before too long, Netflix will let you download stuff you can play on your TV, and all the format stuff won’t make much difference for what we like to watch.
Most people will tell you not to bring a car to Israel. Even at the special discounted "oleh" rate, you have to pay something like a 77% tax on the value of your own car to import it to Israel. Which means we have to pay something like $11,000 PLUS shipping to bring our three year old Dodge Grand Caravan to Israel. But we did the math, and if we sold it, took that money plus the $11k in taxes, plus the shipping costs, and bought a car in Israel with all that money, we wouldn’t end up with something as nice. Dodge supports the Caravan with parts, etc., in Israel, so there are no issues there, so we decided we’ll bring it.
We’ve been debating all of these different issues for months. Having them settled reduces our stress a lot, even though we still have all the work to do of turning it into reality. But having a plan really helps!
Every day in my prayers, when I come to the line in the Amidah that blesses God, "m’kabatz nidchai amo Yisrael," "who gathers the dispersed of His people Israel," it really feels personal!
Shavua Tov (Have a good week),