Earl Shugerman’s Corner: My Aliyah

Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.

In many, if not most cases, the decision to make Aliyah involves a lot of anxiety. There are many things to give up, including: your home, friends, family, employment and mother tongue-to build a whole new life. There are no guarantees that this move will be a successful one. For me it was easier, because I had already reached retirement age and already had family and friends in Israel. Even then, friends and family here had urged me to think long and hard about this bold move.

There is a support network available to make the move less difficult. The first step in the alley of process is to contact the local Shaliach-the local Jewish agency representative. The Jewish agency has been a semi independent government organization that was formed 1929-well before the founding of Israel in 1948. At these times, the organization was busy raising money to buy more lands in Israel, and also encouraging Jews to immigrate to Israel. I turned to the local Shaliach in Pittsburg who initiated and monitored my Aliyah procedure.

This procedure takes three to six months. Personally, I began this process during the second war in Lebanon. Family and friends around me were even more apprehensive towards the move due to the war. I also enlisted help from Nefesh b’Nefesh-an independent American based group that tries to increase immigration from North America-and Britain. These two agencies-The Jewish Agency and Nefesh b’Nefesh- offer services that, at times, supplement each other.

These services include-pre-Aliyah and post-Aliyah counseling, and flight payments are covered by the agencies. Arriving in Israel, new immigrants get a six months financial supplement-called Sal Klita. It was not much-but offered some support-in my case paid half my rent. The agencies involved in the Aliyah- from the United States-have loans available that are for people who commit to stay in the country for at least three years.

On the first six months of the arrival every immigrant receives an intensive Hebrew class, called “Ulpan”, which is a part of the “Sal Klita”- the basic financial support. Students spend four hours a day, five days a week- for six months. The classes are composed of students from all over the world-which also makes it a social base- there are trips and social activities in which I participated and met a lot of friends.

As good as my experiences were at the “Ulpan”, I ended up learning Hebrew through teaching sport’s at an afterschool program. The people of my community warmly accepted me-and served as my primary support system-rather than the Ulpan-the formal Hebrew class .

Three years later, I’ve gone from living at the Shulamit-an apartment hotel-to my first real home. Right here, in the community that accepted me so warmly. I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream of being a writer-journalist. The wonderful climate and beautiful city of Haifa is now my domicile. In conclusion, I’m glad I made the trip, but it’s important for me to let the readers know that it’s been a bumpy path. 

About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist,  currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.

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