For the first time since the 1967 Six Day War, there actually appears to be a buzz about making Aliyah. The last 5-6 years have seen a continual- year on year- surge in numbers of both actual olim, and those who attend Aliyah informational events in both North America and the UK. While more than 20,000 new olim is a statistical ‘drop in the bucket’ with regard to the numbers of Diaspora Jewry, it’s a huge accomplishment compared to Aliyah numbers in previous decades.
There are many reasons for the spike in western Aliyah: the cost of Jewish education, a sluggish economy and more recently, a backlash against the election of President Obama, but much of the credit needs to go the Israeli government for understanding that the best way to bring olim is to privatize the whole process.
The successes of organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh and Ami point to the fact that if you provide olim with a full service Aliyah platform, they not only will come, but they will stay in Israel. Instead of letting olim fend for themselves regarding housing, employment, and schooling after they arrive, these organizations help prospective olim with these issues long before their plane arrives at Ben-Gurion airport.
For those of you contemplating Aliyah in the near future, here are 3 financial tips that should make your financial transition smoother.
Create a Budget
One of the biggest hang-ups that prospective olim have is that they have no idea how much money they will need to live on in Israel. While the cost of living in Israel is far less than in the US for example (mostly due to much lower education and healthcare costs), incomes in Israel are far less than in the US. There are a lot of ‘start-up’ costs associated with making Aliyah. The NBN website has good budget information that will give you a good idea how much it will cost you to live in Israel.
When it comes to shopping, new olim often choose the familiar, old country products. In fact many Aliyah counselors will encourage buying ‘American’ products as a way of easing the transition. While there is nothing wrong with this in moderation, these products tend to be much more costly than local, Israeli products. You are not making Aliyah to Woodmere. You will be living in Israel and as such, need to adapt. (BTW- I think Local Telma Cornflakes are so much better than Kellogg’s!)
For those of you that either will continue to be paid in US Dollars, or are living off non-Shekel based pensions, the issue of getting your money to Israel in an efficient and low cost manner is critical. Whether it’s by sending electronic wire transfers, depositing dollar checks in local banks or with licensed foreign exchange firms, speak with veteran olim or a financial professional to figure out which way is best for you.
\It is also important to speak with a financial professional to figure out if/how to hedge your foreign currency against the Shekel. While things have been relatively stable over the last few months, over the last 2-3 years we have seen moves of over 20% in both appreciation and depreciation of the Shekel/USD. If your income were to drop 20% in local terms, that could have a serious impact in the feasibility of your Aliyah and as such needs to be addressed.
There is no question that making Aliyah is a big lifestyle change. With the right planning the transition should be smooth, and your lifestyle will change for the better.