Category Archives: Tips

How To Start Your Aliyah Story

Make sure you are eligible for Aliyah:

All Jews are eligible to make Aliyah under the Law of Return. You will need to provide documentation proving your status to both Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency. This is usually just a letter from your rabbi attesting to your Jewishness. If you converted to Judaism, you are eligible for Aliyah whether you had a Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox conversion. You will need to provide proof of your conversion as well, so be sure to have your original conversion documents. Note that this means you are eligible for Aliyah, not that you will necessarily be considered Jewish in Israel. The Israeli Rabbinate only recognize Orthodox conversions from a select number of Diaspora rabbis. If you had a non-orthodox conversion, or your Orthodox rabbi is not on the approved list, you may have to go through another conversion process in Israel if you want to live as part of a religious community or marry another Jew within Israel. In addition to this, a non-Jew may make Aliyah if they have a Jewish spouse, parent, or grandparent.

Complete your Aliyah Application through Nefesh B’Nefesh (if you live in the US, Canada, or the UK):

This is actually a fairly quick and easy step to finish. Make an account with Nefesh B’Nefesh and browse through some of the questions on the application. The more family members on the application the longer the process will take, but all in all the website is very user friendly and simple to complete.

Speak with Nefesh B’Nefesh advisers through online meetings, and attend the informative webinars offered on the site for free:

Nefesh B’Nefesh advisers are extremely knowledgeable and experienced in helping people make Aliyah. As your Aliyah date approaches, they increasingly reach out to see where you are in the process and are available for any assistance you’ll need. There’s also an archive on their website filled with several hours of recorded webinars. These range over all kinds of topics, from finding a place to live and budgeting to healthcare and leasing a car.

Make a pilot trip (or several) to Israel. Get a feel of the different communities to help you figure out where you want to live:

I cannot stress enough the importance of making a pilot trip to Israel. If you are financially able to make a pilot trip before Aliyah- do it. If you cannot afford a pilot trip, reach out to Nefesh B’Nefesh and they MAY be able to help you find a way to get a subsidized trip. This is not a guarantee though. Pilot trips are essential for understanding where you are moving to, the culture, researching job opportunities, and schools for your children. I recently took my parents on their first pilot trip to Israel. More on that trip in another post. But making Aliyah without a pilot trip is like moving blind and should be avoided if at all possible.

Meet with the Jewish Agency:

You will need to bring your original documents in order for them to verify you are eligible for Aliyah. If you don’t live in the US, Canada, or the UK you will start your Aliyah process by contacting the Jewish Agency. Once you are approved by the Jewish Agency, you are in effect approved for Aliyah.

Set a date for Aliyah, and start packing!

What About My Dog?

I have a dog. Actually he belongs to my brother, but he acts like a family dog. His name is Romeo, and just as his name suggests he is extremely loving and affectionate. We could not imagine making Aliyah without him, he is as much a member of our family as any of us. It’s no surprise then, that he will be a part of our Aliyah story. In preparation for this, I researched what it will take to bring him with us.

Luckily bringing your pet with you to Israel no longer means having to leave it in quarantine for a period of time. As long as all of the conditions are met prior to your Aliyah, moving across the globe with your pet should be relatively simple.

Common types of pets such as cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and gerbils are allowed, with the approval of the Misrad Hachaklaut (Ministry of Agriculture). More exotic pets must also be cleared by Reshut Hateva V’haganim (Nature Reserves Authority- for pets considered wildlife).

According to NBN, Dogs that unfortunately are not allowed entry into Israel include: the Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier (Amstaff), Bull Terrier, Fila Brazileiro, Staffordshire Bull Terrier (English staff),  Tosa  Inu  (Japanese  Tosa),  Rottweiler  and  the Argentinian Dogo.

You’ll need to make sure your pet is up to date on all of their immunizations and titers. They may also need to be micro-chipped (for dogs, cats, and certain other types of animals). The chip Israel requires isn’t usually used in the United States, so you’ll have to have your veterinarian special order them.

The last items you’ll need to get approval are a health certificate completed by a licensed veterinarian and an endorsement of the health certificate. The latter will need to be signed by a USDA Veterinary Services Officer.

The final hurdle in your pet’s Aliyah process will be El Al’s requirements for boarding the flight. There is a pet fee based on the size and weight of your pet and it’s carrier. Any pet weighing over 8 kg (including their carrier) cannot fly with you in the cabin. There is a special temperature controlled cargo hold for pets, just verify with the pilot that the temperature control is in fact switched on prior to take-off. Whether your pet is flying in cabin or in cargo, there are set dimensions for their carrier that must be in accordance. You’ll want to be very clear on all of the rules when it comes to travelling with a pet. I recommend speaking with an El Al representative or reading from their website.

How To: Learn Hebrew

Competency in the Hebrew language is the single most important skill you can acquire before making Aliyah. Does this mean that Aliyah is off the table if you don’t speak a word of Hebrew? No, it is fairly simple to get by day to day living in English, especially as a tourist or student. But for those making Aliyah consider this: what happens when you receive your electric bill, your army draft notice, or your lab results from your doctor all in Hebrew? How do you sign a rental contract for an apartment when you don’t understand what’s in the fine print? In some of these cases it helps to have a friend translate, in others it’s better to have a lawyer deal with any legal issues. Nevertheless, for any non-legal issues it is important to try to be as independent as possible. There are several ways to learn Hebrew, both before and after Aliyah:

  1. Find a Tutor- Learning from an Israeli tutor is an invaluable resource. If you have the basics down, start focusing on advancing your conversational Hebrew. It’s one thing to understand Hebrew when reading or hearing it. It’s quite another to be able to speak back in Hebrew, even more so using more advanced vocabulary. Challenge yourself to start speaking with an Israeli dialect, and to have as little of an accent as possible. If you do not have access to a tutor locally, try reaching out on some of the Facebook groups. Many people run a business tutoring people online through Skype, FaceTime, and Whatsapp.
  2. Online Language Learning Programs- After having a tutor, the next best thing for beginners is to learn through online programs. Some examples of these are Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, and HebrewPod101. I would recommend Rosetta Stone only for those just learning their letters and first few words. Duolingo and HebrewPod101 are a better choice for a long term investment, as they also teach more advanced vocabulary and sentence structures.
  3. Translate Israeli News Articles- Once you know the basics of Hebrew, you can begin to build your vocabulary by translating news articles from Hebrew to English. This process is long and often tedious, but it is effective.
  4. Watch Israeli Movies/TV Shows- You’ll hear Hebrew spoken more naturally in conversation, and it’ll be a challenge to keep up with the speed at which the actors are speaking! Another thing to try: listening to Israeli music.
  5. Take Advantage of Ulpan- Ulpan is an intensive Hebrew learning program offered to olim for free up to five months. You will be tested for your baseline, and then sorted into a class based on your proficiency. There are many different kind of ulpanim spread throughout the country, and each one offers something a little different to stand out from the rest. It is important to do your research into which ulpan will be right for you. Some things to consider are location, hours per day/week, and the target student population.
  6. Talk to Israelis on the Street- even when they want to practice their English upon hearing your accent, insist on conversing in Hebrew. This will also increase your vocabulary and usage of Hebrew slang terms. Here you will learn how to speak more like a local using the common vernacular versus the grammatically proper speech taught in ulpan.

How To: Travel Around Israel

Travelling around Israel can be a little tricky. Luckily, many of the street signs are in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic, and English) so you can easily find your way around.

Car: You can easily rent a car with your driver’s license from your home country. If you have made Aliyah, you’ll eventually need to get an Israeli driver’s license. If you have been licensed for at least five years, you will not even need to take the driving exam. Pros for driving: Freedom and flexibility to go anywhere in Israel, it is faster than taking a bus, and probably cheaper than using a taxi. Cons: Finding parking in the big cities, steep gasoline prices, driving in Israel (To say driving on the roads in Israel is dangerous would be an understatement), and if you’re not familiar with the area you may accidentally wander into an Arab village.

Bus: Israel has a very well-developed public bus system. In the main cities, most of the waiting times are between 5-20 minutes until the next bus. Moovit is on the app store, and it is essential to have in order to plan your route and find your stop when using the buses. The only con to using this app is you may have to type your destination in Hebrew on occasion. If you are unable to do this, Google Maps is a great alternative. In Jerusalem, if you switch buses within 90 minutes of first using your Rav Kav, each following bus is free. Just be sure to swipe your Rav Kav each time you get on the bus for validation. I’m not sure if the 90 minute rule applies to anywhere else in Israel, but I know it exists in Jerusalem.

Taxi: You can take a taxi in Israel, though it is very expensive. It’s also a bit of a gamble unless you know the driver is trustworthy. If you use a taxi, try to make sure there are other passengers in the car with you. Also, if they pick up on you being a tourist they will try to overcharge you. Insist on having the meter running, even if they claim it’s broken. Have an agreed upon price before you start your journey. Pros: Almost the same flexibility and freedom as renting a car, you don’t need to worry about parking, and you’ll have someone to talk to during a long journey. Cons: They will try to swindle you, and it can be a bit of a safety risk.

Tremp: Otherwise known as hitchhiking is something a lot of Israelis engage in. There are Facebook groups dedicated to tremping from city to city. This is a very dangerous method of travelling in Israel, and not recommended for people new to the land and the culture. Unfortunately some areas of Israel are not very developed, and this means there isn’t public transportation. So those who don’t have a car have to either carpool or tremp to get where they need to go.

Train: The method of using the train or light rail system in Israel is very similar to using Israeli buses. The 90 minute rule also applies here. Pros: Travel a lot faster, can also use Moovit. Cons: May be more expensive, not as many different places you can travel to using this method.

Airplane: There are three airports in Israel that are available for use: Ben Gurion near Tel Aviv, Ramon near Eilat, and the Haifa airport. Ben Gurion is the main international airport, and any flights that need to be redirected are sent to the Ramon airport. Getting to Eilat can be a four hour drive each way from Jerusalem, so while expensive it may be worth it to get a ticket from Tel Aviv and fly into Ramon if you’re planning a day trip.

How to: Pack for Aliyah

The most important word when it comes to packing for Israel is DECLUTTER. This is true for any move anywhere. When we live in one place for many years, it’s natural to accumulate many things. But when it comes to moving to Israel, you don’t only have moving to a far away place working against you. The apartments and houses in Israel are a lot smaller than we are used to in America. In addition, many of the luxury items we enjoy here are also available in Israel, making it unnecessary to pack them from the US. With that said, decluttering is best performed in 3 stages:

Stage 1: Pre-Aliyah (about one year before Aliyah date)

Go through your house and take notice of things you would not bring with you to Israel. All of the junk you’re keeping in the garage or attic- if you haven’t used it in a year get rid of it. Adopt Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering: if it doesn’t spark joy when you see it, toss it out. Start with your clothes: get rid of anything that doesn’t fit you right now. Then be honest with yourself, are you really going to wear that? It can be hard to part with our possessions, but in order to organize a messy house you’re going to have to be ruthless in getting rid of clutter. After that, take a good hard look at your bookshelf. This may be the most painful part of the decluttering process. Take more expensive books like chumashim and siddurim with you to Israel (they may be harder to find with English translations). Then decide on just a few other books such as novels to take as well. Books take up a lot of space, and paper is heavy. Speaking of paper, the next step is to go though all of your paperwork. Save things you’ll need for Israel, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, social security cards, proof of residency, etc. If you have piles of mail, bills, old business documents that are obsolete, then shred them. The final part of this process is to go through everything else in the house. Toys the kids don’t play with anymore, tools in the garage you never use, and pool supplies when you don’t even have a pool anymore all need to go. Remember with anything you are discarding, there are organizations you can donate to for the less fortunate.

Stage 2: Packing for Aliyah (six months – day before Aliyah date)

Note: A lot of the information in this section I learned from a NBN seminar hosted by Rebekah Saltzman, a personal organizer. Her business is called Balagan Be Gone, and she is very knowledgeable about packing for Aliyah. She has a free workbook on her website, and offers a free consultation so be sure to check it out!

In this stage you’ll want to examine very carefully each item if you really need it, or even be able to use it in Israel. Divide your packing into 4 sections: carry-on luggage, checked luggage, the lift (if you’re taking one), and before the lift. One of the first things you’ll need to know is whether or not you know the dimensions of your new home? This includes the dimensions of the doorways, so you’ll be able to fit things through them. Know how many steps leads up to/ are in your home. If you don’t know the size of your new home, limit oversized furniture, leave large appliances, and do bring big sturdy storage bins to protect your belongings from moisture (i.e. mold). Israeli power runs on 220 volts with European outlets, so you may need to get a transformer in addition to an adapter/converter. Transfer family photos, videos, and important documents to a USB drive as much as possible to save space.

Designate an empty room as the staging area for your packing. Take inventory, and video record the condition of your belongings as proof should you need to file an insurance claim. Assign colors or numbers to the boxes according to family member and/or category (Dishes, bathroom supplies, etc.) If you know where you are moving to, the lift should be packed as much as 3 weeks prior. Otherwise, wait as long as possible, because it can take a while to get your items back. In Israel, you are entitled to 3 tax free shipments. This can either be used for 3 lifts, or say 1 lift and 2 cargo boxes from FedEx. Depending on which company you use, the lift may be priced according to weight or volume so pack carefully!

You’ll want anything really important/valuable with you at all times, so pack these in your carry-on. Such items include: Important documents, medications, SMALL electronic devices, jewelry, food (TSA compliant), change of clothes, chargers (with adapters), SIM cards, and cash. For your checked luggage, have some changes of season-appropriate clothing for Israel in case it takes a month or two for your lift to arrive. Also include toilet paper, box cutters, a first aid kit, basic kitchen utensils, and shabbat supplies (kiddush cup, shabbat/havdalah candles, siddur, talit).

Stage 3: Post Aliyah

Once you land at Ben Gurion Airport, you arrive to your new apartment, and you take a look around, you may find yourself needing to get rid of even more things! Coming from Texas, we have a saying: everything is bigger in Texas. This statement could not be any more true. Our houses are bigger, our cars, our beds, our couches, pretty much everything is indeed bigger in Texas. This is so not the case in Israel- just the opposite. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s going to be okay. You can buy new smaller furniture in Israel if you need to- Ikea, anyone?

The Advantage of Facebook Groups

While a lot of people these days don’t use Facebook anymore, there is a virtual gold mine of resources for Aliyah through Facebook groups. Just a few I’ve found include:

Housing:

Israel Communities Info for Anglo Olim

House Hunting in Israel

Dati Property Forum – Where To Live In Israel?

Affordable Housing in Israel – Social Discussion For Change

Jobs:

Jobs for multilinguals in Israel – משרות לדוברי שפות זרות בישראל

Nefesh B’Nefesh – Jobs in Israel

Jobs in Jerusalem לעבוד בירושלים

Jobs In Israel For Native English-Speakers

ANGLO-ISRAEL JOB NETWORK

Zionist Jobs/Internships in Israel

Tel Aviv secret Jobs

Army:

חיילים בודדים צריכים | Lone Soldiers Needs

KeepOlim Lone Soldiers Unit (חיילים בודדים) 🇮🇱

Lone Soldier Housing

Chayal Boded – Lone Soldier – חייל בודד

Jerusalem Lone Soldiers המרכז לחיילים בודדים ירושלים

Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center Parents’ Group

Medial Professionals:

Anglo Medical Professionals in Israel

Nurses Making Aliyah

Saving Money in Israel:

Living Financially Smarter in Israel

Support an Oleh

Frugal Israel

New Olim Promotions

General Information on Israel:

Ask an Israeli Lawyer

Keep Olim in Israel Movement 🇮🇱 התנועה להשארתם של עולים בישראל

Nefesh B’Nefesh Community

Secret Israel

Secret Tel Aviv

Secret Jerusalem

Secret Jerusalem 2.0- Insiders Community Resource

Secret Jerusalem for women

Secret Haifa

Secret Tzfat

Secret Gush Etzion

How To: Pack For a Trip to Israel

Packing for Israel depends on your length of stay and what kind of activities you plan on doing when you get there. It is important to travel as light as possible, with as little luggage as possible. Below are some things that should be included in your packing list every time you come to Israel:

  • Passport- Cannot expire within 6 months of leaving the US, also it is a good idea to take a picture of your passport photo and save it in your email in case it ever gets lost/stolen.
  • Plane tickets
  • Travel Insurance- Including medical insurance. Verify that your current medical insurance includes coverage in Israel. If it doesn’t, or if you want to be extra safe I recommend buying Israeli travel insurance, such as through https://www.ctas.co.il/.
  • SIM Card/ Phone Rental- To use a SIM card, your phone has to be internationally unlocked. If it isn’t, you have the option of renting an Israeli phone. You can use https://www.talknsave.net/ for either, and have it mailed to you before your trip.
  • Debit/Credit Card- Visa and MasterCard are accepted at most places in Israel.
  • Cash converted into the New Israel Shekel- There are some places in Israel you have to pay using cash. If you can find a local currency exchange, it may be cheaper than at the airport or even within Israel.
  • Coin purse- You will be collecting lots of Shekalim and Agorot. I like to donate it all to tzedaka before I return to the airport.
  • Prescription Medications- From EpiPens to asthma inhalers to insulin, make sure you have enough of what you need with you at ALL times.
  • Over the counter medications: Benadryl, Dramamine, Ibuprofen, etc. can make the difference between a good trip and a bad one. It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have.
  • Portable phone charger- You will be using a lot of battery using your phone for directions, taking pictures/videos, and communication. Some of the buses in Israel have charging stations which may or may not work. Best to exercise caution and make sure you have plenty of power.
  • Phone adapter- The wall outlets are European sockets, and you will need to buy an adapter for charging your phone and other small electric devices. For things that need more power (Hair dryers, straighteners) you WILL need a converter in addition to an adapter.
  • Tissues- Some bathrooms in Israel aren’t well stocked with toilet paper. There’s no telling which ones are which, so always have some pocket tissues on your person.
  • Backpack- If you can manage it, try coming with only a backpack and a small bag as your luggage. You don’t want to be schlepping a ton of luggage bags on a public bus, and it’s really inconvenient to travel with in general. A good hiking backpack for hiking/camping trips is worth its weight in gold.
  • Purse- Good for casual touring around the city. Make sure it has a long cross-shoulder strap for added security.
  • Water bottle- The water in Israel is safe to drink, but the mineral content is different. You may not like the taste, but it’s better than buying bottled water which can be expensive.
  • Changes of clothes*
  • Jacket
  • Sunscreen- The sun is very strong here, protect yourself!
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat- It get’s very hot here in the summer. A hat is a good way to insulate your head and keep your body heat under control.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Beach towel- I recommend using a Turkish beach towel to conserve space in your luggage.
  • Tennis/ hiking shoes
  • Dress shoes

*Many places in Israel are considered holy sites. Here modest dress is required.

For the ladies: Long sleeve shirt/dress past the elbows, no cleavage shown, not see through, and not tight. Skirt that reaches past the knees, again not too tight or see through.

For the men: Kippah, shirt with sleeves (can be T-shirt). Shorts are okay, but they should not be too short or tight.