People joke that the best way to have a million dollars in Israel is to have come with two. I don’t really know if that’s true, though —not because I have become a millionaire since making Aliyah, but because our lives, both financially and in general, are much richer here than they were before. To tell you how I got here, let me take you back ten years when this crazy idea to move thousands of miles away from family, friends, comfort, and everything we knew came to be.
I blame this whole thing on my husband. Ever since I met him, he talked about his dream of making Aliyah. He “threatened” me with “one day…” and I always said, “Maybe when we are old or broke.” It never occurred to me that we would make Aliyah when we were neither old nor broke. I say I blame it on my husband because, looking back at the day I supposedly agreed to move, I realize this was a conspiracy on his part.
A couple of days after giving birth to my youngest daughter, my husband casually said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we moved to Israel now? A new beginning with a new baby in our life?” I may have been under the influence of baby blues, Percocet, and sleep deprivation, so I don’t remember what I said, but I am pretty sure I didn’t say “Yes.” I might have said, “Maybe.”
It made sense to move then; days before, we sold an ATM business we had operated for six years. That was the only thing tying us down – other than family and friends, of course – and the sale of the business left us with some money. Well, he took my “maybe” and ran with it, and nine months later, we were unpacking our new lives in Israel.
We spent our first year in Israel adjusting. We went to plan, traveled around the country, learned our way around, and made friends. We learned to buy meat using numbers and fruit based on seasons. We were ready to immerse ourselves in Israel by our second year.
When we moved here, we thought of starting our own business. We had been serial entrepreneurs in the US, and we wanted to do the same here, but getting accustomed to a new country and getting a new business off the ground was tough, so we joined the job market.
Having to re-align our expectations was a challenge. Still, we had both immigrated once before (my husband had moved from Mexico to Miami, and I had moved from Colombia). We knew that to adjust to a new culture successfully, and we needed to accept the fact that things were not the same as they were in our countries of origin.
We kept telling ourselves that we needed to stop thinking about hamburgers and start thinking about falafel. So that’s what we did. We saw our new jobs as an opportunity to learn everything we needed to learn about Israeli culture and the ways of doing business.
With a background in marketing and advertising, I found a job as a content writer at a marketing agency through a recommendation from a friend from Ulpan. Although the salary was small, I loved getting paid to do what I love: writing. I wrote articles about luxury lifestyles and traveling worldwide to magnificent destinations, all from a small office with air conditioning that leaked above my head (as if they wanted me to be inspired by Niagara Falls).
A year later, the company wasn’t doing well, and they let go of all of their writers, including me. I found myself back on the job market without a clue about how to look for a job. I contacted everyone I knew, looked for job postings on every portal I was told about, and worked with headhunters. I soon found a job as the content manager of a mature software startup.
I had no idea what high tech was at the time, but this became my entry point into the industry. I learned about Israeli benefits, like Keren Hishtalmut and TenBis. I learned that Israeli companies feed their employees well (we had fresh groceries delivered daily for breakfast).
A year and a half later, I got a call from a friend about a similar job at HP. The big corporate dream. Before being offered the role, I went through about a dozen interviews and long assignments. I learned a ton at HP. I learned about corporate processes and about sitting at the table. I helped put together massive expo booths and events, working across teams and geographies.
One day, while working at HP, a headhunter called about a mysterious job (she wouldn’t disclose the name of the company). After a long conversation and some probing, I found out the job was at Google. I jumped in with both feet, as you do when someone calls about a job at Google. I’ve been here for almost five years, and although I’ve stopped pinching myself to believe I’m not dreaming and am actually here, I do look back and question how I made it here.
I think being an Olah has a lot to do with it. You see, Olim are the bravest people. We leave our countries of origin, where we know the language, where we know our way around, how to get things done, where we know friends and have family.
We come here, where buying milk means standing in front of the shelf for ten minutes trying to figure out which one you want, calling customer service requires complete concentration, and keeping up with Whatsapp group messages is a full-time job.
I truly believe that the same resilience, discipline, and courage it takes us to move here and adapt serves us well as we look for a job and sets us apart from other candidates. I don’t think I’d be where I am professionally had I stayed in my comfort zone of Miami.
It will be ten years this summer since we made Aliyah, and not only do I feel like I’ve “made it” professionally, I’ve made it in every sense of the word. Our kids are thriving, and they have friends and the freedom to walk around safely. Their values are in the right place. They know that what’s important in life is who you impact, not the brand of shoes you wear. My husband has returned to being an entrepreneur and volunteers for the police. We have great friends. We enjoy life to the fullest. We are happy.
This is not our home country, and guess what? Things are different here. But that is why we moved here, to have something different from what we had before, so we’ve embraced it with a good attitude, and it’s served us well. My advice to you, if you are thinking of making aliyah, is:
- Come with an open mind and be ready to face Israeli culture, bureaucracy, and disorganization.
- Come ready for strangers commenting on your life choices and for having personal boundaries trespassed
- Be prepared to be yelled at by the bus driver and hugged by the store owner.
- Stop asking where you can find Cheerios. Israel is different. Take this both literally and as a metaphor.
- The first word Israelis want you to learn is Savlanut (patience); you’ll need it, but the irony is Israelis don’t have any.
- There are no words to describe Israelis (maybe hand gestures). Israelis are impatient, they yell, speak with their hands, cut in line, and have no concept of customer service as we know it, but if you ever need them, they are there to help you, no matter what. Take advantage of this as you are looking for a job. Israel is about who you know, so don’t be shy to ask for help, whether by sending your CV to someone your friends may know, reviewing your resume, or anything else.
I don’t know what would’ve happened if my husband hadn’t packed our bags based on a “maybe.” I love this country. I love how we have made friends who are like family. I love how we can take a day trip and see the sea and snow on the same day. I love the food and the people. My husband may be the one I blame for the crazy idea, but he is also the one who can take the credit for how amazing it has been moving here. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has definitely been worth it.