So you’ve decided to make Aliyah. You’re sure that this is the best thing you can do in your life and that Israel is where you are meant to be. But how do you tell your family you’re moving to Israel?
For many reasons, saying goodbye to your family is very difficult. You’ll want your children to have a close relationship with their grandparents, and vice versa. If you have elderly parents and grandparents, you’ll feel drawn to stay close to them in case they need you. If you’re not an adult yet, your parents will probably try to talk you out of it throughout your teenage years (fearing you’ll draft into the army, which may very well be your intention).
If your family isn’t Zionist, they will have difficulty understanding your decision to become #officiallyisraeli. If they aren’t Jewish, they won’t be able to understand, period. You will have to be careful broaching this subject with them. Keep in mind their perspective. The mainstream media loves to depict Israel as a country that is constantly under attack. Whether from lone terrorists wielding knives, rockets flying from Gaza, or yet another war between Israel and her Arab neighbors. They may also have seen others make Aliyah and return a couple of years later for any number of reasons. They may have heard from Israelis who moved abroad how difficult it is to make a living and wonder how you expect to be able to make it work. So how do you make them more comfortable with the idea?
1. The Slow Progression: Start by introducing the concept of living in Israel without outright saying you want to make Aliyah. Watch videos with them to show them a different side of Israel. Have a lot of discussions with them about Israel. Try to see what they are most concerned about based on the conversation and address their concerns. Do not get into heated arguments with them! This approach will only make them more convinced that this isn’t a good idea and even more worried about you. Instead, engage with them in a calm manner. If necessary, remove yourself from the situation until things simmer down and try again.
2. Take as many trips to Israel as possible: Not only will this benefit you in many ways, it will also help your family to get used to the idea of living in Israel. Go on birthright, study for a year in Yeshiva, go to a friend’s wedding, any excuse you have to go- take it!
3. Backup Plans: Have a plan for what you’re going to do, where you will live, how you will support yourself, etc. Have a plan B, and plans C, D, and E. Backup upon backup plans will have the dual benefit of making you more prepared for living in this very different country as well as making your family more comfortable with knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. Maybe you plan on living in a residential ulpan for the first five months of your Aliyah, but what happens if the school closes and you have only virtual learning due to COVID-19? And what will you do after the first five months? What if you’re planning to go to a university but don’t get accepted into the school you were hoping for? If you plan on finding a job, keep in mind that some professions require you to transfer your degree/license, which can take longer than you originally planned. How will you support yourself in the meantime? All of these scenarios are not meant to dissuade you. Instead, they should prepare you so that if any of them do happen, you aren’t caught with no plan, no money, and nowhere to live. And you can bet that your family will probably ask you some of these questions as well.
4. Reassure Them: Promise to keep in touch as much as possible- and then do it. Keep them updated about how you’re doing, what’s going on in your life, the people you’ve met. You may be the first person to make Aliyah in your entire family- and that’s okay! More than okay, it’s incredible. But if you are, realize that the concept of living in Israel may be entirely foreign to your loved ones. Some may not even have ever been to Israel before! They may not understand everything you talk about when you describe life in Israel, and they definitely won’t understand what it’s like being an oleh chadash, so be patient with them. Keep that line of communication open. And whenever possible, visit them so they can see you in person again and be reassured that you’re doing well. It’s also worth noting that now first-degree vaccinated or recovered family members of olim chadashim can apply for a visa to enter Israel and visit you! Rules for travelers are constantly changing; you can find the most updated information (including current quarantine requirements) here.
The reality is, you can do all of these steps, and your family may still disapprove of your Aliyah. In that case, try to make peace the best way you can and stay strong in your choice. Find friends who will support you during this major life-changing event. Be as successful as you can in Israel, and let your family see how well you are doing here. In time, they may come around. But realize you are your own person carving out your destiny, and only you know what you are meant to do in your life.