Why do people make aliya? Young adults may envision establishing careers and raising children here, but seniors anticipate a different kind of homecoming, armed with their life experience, precious possessions and coming to a Jewish State that didn’t even exist when they were young. Ezrat Avot spoke with several senior olim for a first-hand look at the issues faced by “Golden Olim”.
Fearless at 86, Rita Weiss
“I always felt that Israel was my second home,” explains Rita Weiss, an Auschwitz survivor who made aliya from New Jersey. She chose to make aliya a year ago at the age of 87 to be close to her daughters and grandchildren after her husband passed away. Rita retains great faith in Hashem and finds solace that she is finally living in the Jewish homeland.
Despite an injured back, she walks up and down Emek Refaim Street every morning and attends aerobics classes and Torah shiurim at the OU Israel Center weekly.
While one daughter is fearful of terror attacks on Israeli buses, Rita continues to ride the bus, “I wouldn’t have grandchildren, nieces and nephews here if we were all afraid….I feel more secure living here alone than I would in America.”
Not Just a “Telephone Bubby”, Naomi Sussman
“These past years have been some of the happiest of my life,” proclaims Naomi Sussman. After diligent research and a 4-month pilot trip, Naomi made aliya nearly five years ago to be close to her daughter and grandchildren in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
A big challenge was figuring out what to do with her possessions in America. “I’m a packrat,” she admits, “I realized that I had to give away many of my belongings because if I wanted to take everything with me, or wait to sell it all, I would never make aliya.”
After donating almost everything to a needy newlywed couple and a poor family, Naomi finds pleasure in the simplicity of her belongings. But her greatest joy comes from her family, “I’m not just the bubby on the telephone anymore… We have a very close relationship now,” affirms Naomi with a smile.
Difficult but Worth the Schlep, Alfred and Rose Cohen.
“Be prepared for a change in lifestyle,” warns Alfred Cohen, 88, “But though it’s been difficult, it is the best move we’ve ever made,” referring to his aliya with wife Rose, 92, a decade ago. They moved from New Jersey to the Katamon neighborhood in Yerushalayim, to a cozy apartment found by their two daughters who live here, one in Efrat and the other in Ra’anana, (a third daughter remains in the US).
“I’m an ulpan dropout!” the vivacious Rose admits. However they’ve both found that they can easily get by in Yerushalayim in English. Their two complaints are the heat and the Israeli medical system. “I’ve waited in lines here for hours,” Rose explains, referring to medical treatment she has received in Yerushalayim. Despite the drawbacks, she maintains that “to perform a mitzva outside of Israel just isn’t the same.”
Among the resources they have found most helpful are their children, their books, their air conditioner for the summer heat and their housekeeper Jane, who cares for all their needs.
To make Golden aliya a smooth and rewarding transition, Ezrat Avot recommends considering the following points:
• Language: Many retired immigrants choose to attend an ulpan either to begin learning, or to improve their Hebrew. Others find that even a minimal level of Hebrew is sufficient, especially if you are planning to live in areas such as Beit Shemesh or Yerushalayim, with a large English-speaking population.
• Housing: Some real estate agencies such as Anglo Saxon and ReMax cater particularly to Anglos coming to Israel. The internet can also be a great resource: www.flathunting.com is an English website offering Yerushalayim daily real-estate listings. Aliya organizations such as Nefesh b’Nefesh and AACI can help find different types of retirement housing or assisted living facilities.
• Pensions: Eligibility for US Social Security or British pensions are not affected by aliyah – you can arrange to receive payments in Israel. Immigrants who make aliya after the age of 60 are not entitled to a standard Israeli pension through the Bituach Leumi (National Insurance Institute, nor are they required to pay premiums. However they may be eligible for a “Special Old-Age Allowance”. It is also possible to receive “Avtachat Hachnasa” (income supplement), if one’s income does not exceed a set percentage of the average wage, however the seniors who seek help from Ezrat Avot can unfortunately attest that the Israeli pension alone is insufficient to financially survive.
• Health Care: Every Israeli citizen is entitled to mandatory health care coverage from one of the four kupot cholim (health funds) – Maccabi, Meuhedet, Clalit, Leumi. Therefore every kupa must accept the application of a new immigrant, even with pre-existing medical conditions. Private health care is also becoming more popular and dental care is mainly private.
• Transportation: Many golden olim “throw in the car keys” when they make aliya, wary of driving in Israel. This may play a factor in the decision to settle near children. Public transportation is cheap for retirees and convenient within most cities, but insufficiently accessible to the physically-challenged. A number of organizations offer wheelchair-accessible transportation but the fees can be expensive, particularly in outlying communities. Cities such as Beit Shemesh and Netanya have a convenient fixed fare for cab rides within the city boundaries, unlike larger cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Ezrat Avot, based in Jerusalem, provides the services, resources and education necessary to enable Israel’s elderly to age in the comfort and dignity of their own homes and communities. Visit our website at www.ezratavot.org
Heather Shinder made aliya from Montreal in 2005. Check out her blog at www.ezratavot.blogspot.com
This site is powered by PBCSTechnology.