(1) Keep an open mind
Sure, it’s normal to have some specific expectations as you make your move and begin to assimilate. But try not to be too disappointed when not everything goes the way you expect it to.
For example, you may find the directness of Israelis off-putting at first. Don’t be discouraged by this, it is simply a cultural difference. Strike up a conversation, keep an open mind, and you will surely be rewarded with friendship.
Before you move, make a detailed list of all of the reasons that you are making aliyah. Then keep this list in a safe place. This way, when times get tough or you feel discouraged, you can pull out the list and re-focus on all of the reasons that you wanted to move to Israel in the first place.
(2) Make a pilot trip
Plan to take at least one trip to Israel before you move there. This is the best way that you can “feel out” the community where you are going to be living. (Think of this along the same lines as that initial gut feeling you get when you go to a job interview or on the tour of a college. You can usually tell right away if a place feels right.)
If you have children, a big part of your pilot trip should be finding the school(s) that will be the right fit. In general, school life and social life are two major keys to a family’s happiness after making aliyah. Look for clubs, parks, and activities that fit your family’s interests.
(3) Stay in touch with loved ones
It is to be expected that one of the hardest things about moving is feeling distanced from loved ones. Staying in touch with family and friends is critical to the success of your aliyah. Do not alienate yourself.
For immigrants, it is a good idea to get an all-you-can-talk international phone line. You may wish to consider joining an international networking site, such as Facebook. Or, if you like to keep a personal journal, consider writing a blog. This way, your family and friends can read and respond to your thoughts and reflections.
If you prefer good old snail mail, invest in beautiful stationary, nice pens, and a pretty box in which to keep all the letters you receive in return. Making the act of writing special will encourage you to stick with it.
(4) Be prepared for a financial reality check
Many people put off making aliyah because they have set an unobtainable financial goal for themselves, such as “we’ll move when we have saved up x amount of money.” Really, it’s not that likely that you’ll ever reach this magic number. But as long as you plan ahead and are prepared to make some sacrifices at first, you can do it.
For the first seven months, you will receive Sal Klitah, which is a monetary supplement from the Israeli government. After that, learn to “live like an Israeli.” Don’t cling to all of the American products that you are used to. Be prepared to make some sacrifices and some changes.
Consult with financial planners who are dually licensed in both Israel and the U.S. to better advise you on how to invest your money or save for your future.
(5) Don’t turn down help!
The culture in Israel is warm, loving, and inviting. Most Israeli communities are tight-knit, and people have a soft spot for those who sacrificed their “fancy American lives” or “fame and fortune” to move to this humble country and explore their spiritual beginnings.
Be trusting; accept help from others. Oftentimes our instinct is to say, “Oh, that’s okay,” and turn people down when they offer to help us. Learn how to say, “Yes, thanks!” with a big smile on your face, even if it’s just your neighbor’s offer to watch your children while you take a nap.
Take advantage of Gemachs, which is a free loan service where you can find anything from crutches to baby strollers. Utilize free services offered by Nefesh B’Nefesh, the AACI, and others. You are not going through this journey alone.