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DEPT. OF LIFE CHANGING

The Secret of Making a Living after Making Aliya

In practical terms, when you first make aliyah, you indeed may not be able to make a living in your current profession.

Working in Zion

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A lot of people say they can’t come on aliyah because they don’t know how they will make a living. The issue of aliyah and livelihood is a legitimate concern. For instance, here’s an email I received from a potential oleh seeking advice:

“I am a professional film producer based in NY who is looking to make aliyah.  My only reservation in moving to Israel is the lack of a job.  How can someone like myself, who was very successful in the business, and never compromised his Yiddishkeit, make a living in Israel?  I am not looking to make millions, just a living wage to support a family of six.  Do you have any suggestions?”

This is what I answered:

I’m not up to date on the film business in Israel, so I can only share some general thoughts. The Zohar teaches that our forefather, Avraham, searched for the place in the world where he could get as close to God as possible. This burning desire of Avraham was the catalyst that brought God to command him, “Get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.” To truly get close to God, the Jewish People have to be in Israel, serving God as a Nation, and not as mere scattered individuals and communities in foreign gentile lands.

Rashi explains that the double language of the verse, “Lech lecha,” literally meaning, “Go, go for yourself,” was to reassure Avraham that the move was for his ultimate good, and that it would bring him and his descendants great spiritual and material blessing. After all, it is no small challenge and test of faith to give up your country of birth, social standing, and livelihood to move to another land. And indeed, at first, things did not go easily for Avraham. When he arrived in Israel, there was a famine in the land! But, eventually, Avraham became a very rich and famous man.

This uncertainty, challenge, and difficulty, is common to all olim. The word “Canaan,” as in the land of Canaan, also has the meaning of humbleness and poverty. The lowering of one’s status is part of the immigration process, helping to break impure traits of pride and ego which prevent a person from forming a deep connection to God. Aliyah means to go up, and therefore, the first and foremost goal of each new immigrant to Israel should be spiritual – to get closer to God. When a person holds fast to this goal, clinging to it at all times, even through periods of difficulty and change, God’s bountiful blessings flow in its wake.

In practical terms, when you first make aliyah, you indeed may not be able to make a living as a film producer. You may have to get to know the right people first, learn the language, etc. You may have to make videos of bar mitzvahs and weddings to have some income coming in before you make the bigger, professional films that you are accustomed to producing in NY. Personally, I’ve made some money making videos in Israel for organizations and the Department of Education, and I’ve taught screenwriting at a film school in Jerusalem. I have several friends from the U.S. who work in the film business here on a regular basis, and they seem to be supporting their families. Even so, it may turn out that you won’t be able to find a niche in the film industry in Israel, and you may have to change your profession.

But always remember, “Is God’s hand too short that He cannot provide for you and your family?” Just like He provided for us in the Wilderness, He provides for us still today, each person according to what is best for his needs. Keep saying to yourself, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” These reassuring words of King David should be your mantra during your planning stages and time of transition in Israel.

The main thing about your coming to Israel is not to make finding a job your Number One concern. Let me give two examples. A short time after I had made aliyah, I met an acquaintance from New York who had also recently moved to Israel, but who told me that he was going back to the States. When I asked him why, he explained that before he had moved to Israel, the Israel Aircraft Industries had promised him a more advanced job than his position in America. But when he arrived in the country, they could only give him the same level job he had in the past because of budget cuts. “Why should I stay here when I can get paid almost double in the States for doing the same job?” he told me.

The very next day, I met another friend from New York, who also informed me that he was returning to live in America. It turned out that his boss had been caught in an embezzlement scam and all the people he had hired were fired, including my friend. Even though my friend had been offered a very good job at another firm, he decided to pack his belongings and call it quits.

At the time, before I started studying in yeshiva, I was lodging in Jerusalem at the home of a saintly, 85 year old woman who was one of the secret Tzaddikim of the Holy City. I hadn’t come on aliyah with any savings, having blown my screenplay money on the vices of Hollywood, and this kind woman was happy to take me in as a non-paying boarder. When I asked her why God hadn’t worked things out for my two friends in a more successful fashion, especially since they had made the very idealistic move of immigrating to Israel, she answered: “They placed their careers over their love of the Land. A Jew has to set Jerusalem above his greatest joy. The Jewish People have been shedding their blood for the Land of Israel since the beginning of our history. The Land tests us when we come here. She makes things difficult at first to see if we really love her. Your two friends think that they are rejecting Israel, but Israel is really rejecting them.”

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, explained this with a parable. He said it was like a girl who was set up on a shidduch with a guy whom she knew wasn’t for her. But she didn’t want to embarrass him. So she dressed up in dirty, smelly garments so that he would feel turned off. While he thought that he was rejecting her, in truth, she was rejecting him. So too, God, in His kindness, lets Jews who decide to leave Israel believe that they are rejected the Land, but it is really the Land that is rejecting them.

Surely, aliyah is the most difficult and challenging mitzvah – the true test of a Jew’s faith in God. But hundreds of thousands of new olim have made it, and so can you.

Hopefully, other readers will have even better words of advice.

May you remain strong in your holy decision, and may Hashem bless you and your family with success in the great adventure ahead.

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About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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46 Responses to “The Secret of Making a Living after Making Aliya”

  1. Moshe Mordechai Zalman Shulman says:

    I really liked this article:-)

  2. Yaacov Barak says:

    A jew needs to decide: which is holier, the almighty dollar or the God of the Jews.
    If there is a message contained in hurricane Sandy, it might be that what you have materially in America (or anywhere in galut) can disappear in the blink of an eye.

  3. John Molaison says:

    This was great. I too want to make Aliyah and for the love of Yerushalayim. I will admit the USA rejects me everyday and hopefully one day Yah willing, I will perform mitzvoth where it truly counts.

  4. Liad Bar-el says:

    Developing humility is the key. Humility is the ladder through which one can grasp every other good trait. It is the first step in learning to revere G-d and keep His commandments. (Shevet Mussar 17).

    One should follow the advice of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) to his son to read his letter to his son once a week. http://www.pirchei.co.il/specials/ramban/ramban.htm

  5. Justplaino Misha says:

    Very good article! Please keep posting these words of encouragement so we may all have Emunah to make Aliya a reality…5773!!!

  6. Grace Acosta says:

    Thanks for the link, my daughter will love the coloring pages!

  7. I am absolutely NOT making a parnasa in the fields I was trained in or worked in or thought I would. But B"H I am making it. The author is correct…flexibility, the trust that being here is non-negotiable and HaShem will help, and the realization that this is a totally different culture and economy and although the skills you have learned will be very valuable, the profession you end up in may be NOTHING like you expected!

  8. Anyone who says that they want to make aliyah, but cant because they don't know if they can make a livig, they need to speak to me and visit my web site. Israel Business Brokers http://www.israelbusinessbrokers.co.il.

  9. Linda Socher says:

    Great article- I couldn't agree more. It took me over a year to find work, but I feel that Hashem has directly placed me into my new line of business, and it fits my personality better than any of the desk jobs that I applied for and, thankfully, didn't get! ;-)

  10. Anonymous says:

    How can it be possible that Eretz Yisrael rejects a Jew. That is completely illogical. Chassidut teaches us that there is always hope, every Jew is a good Jew and we are all on our way to Israel.

  11. Hoshea Allen says:

    Very well said. Just a few weeks before we made aliyah, a Rav in Chicago asked me, "If the only work you can find is sweeping streets, would you stay in Israel?" I think that was spot on. Let that be your test question. If your answer is "no," then perhaps you're not ready for aliyah yet. Until you are, try reading Tehillim 137 every day before bentching (except on Shabbat, of course), and really focus on pesukim 5-6.

  12. Artikel yang sungguh menggerakkan hati.

  13. Tammy Socher says:

    This is very insightful and deep. I would add that accepting a lower standard of living–less prepared food, fewer appliances, living without a car at first–which is harder than you might imagine–is essential. And a big mazel tov to my kids, who have done it and found new careers.

  14. Tammy Socher says:

    Fantastic article!

  15. Joseph Wajsberg says:

    So understand that I'm preparing so that the land will not reject me O:-)

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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