I have spoken to thousands of people about making aliyah and have received some very interesting reasons why – even though they would love to make aliyah – they have decided not to. I must state that my focus and direction on speaking to my brothers and sisters about this life-changing move is different from almost everyone else. I do not push aliyah because of rising anti-Semitism, intermarriage, or the high cost of yeshivah education. I do not talk about the crumbling of America nor the change of the political map. I focus on the positive, always the positive, because that is why I made aliyah back in 1990, and that is what gives one the strength, attitude, and relentless dedication to make it work, despite the difficulties and challenges.
A common response to why people cannot make aliyah is something like this: “Shmuel, I just can’t do it right now. My wife and I are in our 40s, the kids are set in school, and I just won’t flip my whole world upside down to make this move. But here’s what I can guarantee: My wife and I will retire in Israel. Don’t worry, we’re not interested in the whole “Collins Avenue – Miami Beach” scene – that’s not us. Jerusalem is a great place to retire, so tell the mayor we’ll be there in 25 years!” Sounds good, no? The guy is honest and straightforward. He’s not making up an excuse; it’s real! He loves Israel and is not running away from the issue. In short, it’s not “no” – it’s “not now.”
While I appreciate honesty and direct answers, allow me to now offer mine. Let’s keep this scenario going for the 25 years he wants to wait. Our potential retiree is now in his late 60s and he and his wife are ready to retire. The kids are married and, baruch Hashem, they have the cutest grandkids on the planet. At this stage in their lives, when they want to enjoy the grandkids, do you really think they will move 6,000 miles away from them? At this stage in their lives, when medical issues are more important than ever, do you really think they will switch their doctors to brand new ones who have no idea who they are? At this stage in their lives, when they can spend time with friends and finally relax after all those years of hard work, do you really think they will sell their home, pack their things and move across the world to start all over again in a new country, with a new language? The answer to each of my three questions – and another ten that I can easily ask – is: absolutely not.
Yes, there are some people who retire and move to Israel, but 95 percent of those people do it because they already have children there. Virtually nobody – and I mean nobody – retires in Israel when their kids and grandkids live in a different country. They come for long vacations, lasting for several months at a time, but “home” is still in America, Canada, South Africa, or Australia. The only ones I know – from an English-speaking country – who retired in Israel, without having their kids with them, are from England, where a flight to Israel is similar to NY-Miami.
So, let’s be honest: Even though you have the best of intentions, you are not retiring in Israel. But there’s still something you need to do right now, and here it is: Figure out a way to buy an apartment in Israel as soon as possible. As the expression goes: Beg, borrow, or steal, but make sure you make funds available to purchase an apartment in Eretz Yisrael. (Note: I was just kidding about the “begging,” whoops, I mean “stealing” part.) Why buy an apartment if you’re not going to actually live in it, you ask? One second – I never said you won’t live in it; I said you won’t retire in it. Allow me to explain.
First of all, buying an apartment or house in Israel will be the best financial investment you can make. That’s not the reason I am advising you to buy – that’s an added bonus and proven fact. Ask any friend or relative who bought an apartment in Israel, how much it has increased in value, and you will be amazed by the answer. It is not uncommon to find that it has doubled and even tripled in value! But let’s go to the main reason.
People who own apartments have a completely different experience when they come to Israel. Yes, it’s wonderful to be “wined and dined” in the Waldorf or Ritz-Carlton, but you are a tourist and a visitor. When you arrive in Ben Gurion and drive your rented car to your apartment, you are home – even if it’s for ten days! You shop at the local makolet, daven in the same shul (maybe even have a regular place to sit), and start getting to know the neighbors. You become buddies with the butcher, have a favorite café, and enjoy reconnecting with friends in the local Daf Yomi up the block. And (drumroll please…) you come to Israel much more frequently!
But wait, there’s more! As soon as you own an apartment, not only will you use it, your kids will use it, as well! Your son, daughter-in-law and grandkids will come for winter vacation and may even spend a month in the summer. They will work in the apartment via Zoom and find how great it is to be free all morning and start work at 3 p.m. Your daughter, son-in-law and their three kids will come for Sukkos – since it’s much cheaper than staying in a hotel – and will love seeing the thousands of people walking with lulavim. As each year passes and flying to your apartment – for you and your family members – becomes a regular part of life, the idea will start to grow that this could definitely become more permanent and less vacation…
Therefore, dearest friends, stop the retirement idea and start the rearrangement idea. Find a place in a community that makes you feel comfortable and rearrange your finances to buy a modest home. Then rearrange your vacations, Pesach plans and summer schedule so that they center around your new home and community. Get to know the people and join the local WhatsApp groups. Plant a fruit tree in your Israeli garden, sign up for healthcare in Kupat Cholim, and learn how to wash your floor with a “sponjah.”
Retire in Israel? No way!
Be smart and find a way to live here – without flipping your life upside down? Yes way!! (Is that even an expression?) You can do it – but hurry! Since you started reading this article, that apartment you wanted in Israel just went up ten percent.
Am Yisrael Chai!