ISRAEL: THE NEW GOLDEN COUNTRY FOR YOUNG AND SINGLE JEWISH
By ERICA EDVI
Despite overwhelming odds, Israel has matured into an economic powerhouse boasting an ever-increasing GDP, strong currency, a lower unemployment rate than the US and the EU, and a rich and diverse culture.
With all that Israel has to offer, Aliyah is increasingly becoming a normative lifestyle choice for recent college graduates and young professionals from western countries.
Young professionals in their twenties and thirties are faced with major life choices:
What career path should I pursue? Should I attend graduate school? Should I date this person?
These critical life decisions naturally tie into where one chooses to live. Will I find fulfillment in Manhattan or Toronto? Los Angeles or London? Such times of introspection inevitably lead to larger questions of how we define ourselves as individuals, as members of a community, and as Jews.
When studying the recent trends in Aliyah, it emerges that many young singles at this juncture in their lives are realizing that their future is in Israel.
Since 2002, over 7,000 students and young professionals have made Aliyah from North America and the UK with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh, bringing with them their skills, idealism and determination to contribute to a society that is at the forefront of global technology.
As it turns out, many young Olim first fell in love with Israel on birthright trips or Israel programs, however several factors draw them to stay and build their lives here.
Professional opportunities in Israel are varied and plentiful. Many Olim integrate seamlessly into careers based in Israel, while others telecommute to their home countries, commute to Europe or consult globally.
The two main destinations for young professionals are Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where Olim can find a vibrant social life and many career prospects.
Many students and young professionals are drawn by the incentive of free tuition for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. In the United States, the pressure to get a degree from a top university puts many into significant debt that can make Aliyah prohibitive, while Israel incentivizes young people to further their education.
Army service is another avenue which allows Olim to get involved and gain firsthand insight into life as an Israeli.
It also affords them the chance to improve their Hebrew and build personal contacts that can help them in the future, opening doors professionally and socially.
According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, of the 1,300 singles who made Aliyah from North America and the UK last year, over 60% identify as non-Orthodox.
However, one underlying concern expressed by all young professional Olim, both secular and religious, is connectivity.
Israel presents tremendous opportunities for young Olim, many of whom come to Israel without a built-in support system and are actively looking to socialize.
Nefesh B’Nefesh caters to these needs by organizing social events such as night hikes, beach parties, , speed dating , Shabbat dinners and many other activities designed to bring together veteran and new Olim with native Israelis.
In addition, social networking groups such as Telalivit exist in order to further expand the possibilities for Olim.
Social and networking events enable Olim to create a new sense of community while getting involved in the endless activities and opportunities available.
“This is a country where who you know matters. Social networking is key to immersion, and major cities like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem are the ultimate melting pot for young people to meet each other and find new opportunities.
The nature of the young scene in Israel can definitely be a springboard to success,” explains David Matlin of NBN’s One Aliyah Department, who works exclusively with students and young professionals.
Aliyah often entails compromise, be it in salary, apartment size or distance from family. However, these are offset by the attractive quality of life that Israel has to offer.
Life in Israel has a different tempo, and a recent Gallup survey on global wellbeing ranked Israelis seventh in the world in terms of happiness and satisfaction with their lives.
Israelis certainly know how to enjoy life, and while professional demands may be on par with metropolitan cities in North America or Europe, the professional world also respects family, free time and personal enrichment.
The back pages of daily newspapers are overflowing with last minute vacation deals within Israel and abroad, and it is completely normal to find that your friend or coworker has just found a great deal to fly off to Europe for a long weekend.
Israel sits, quite literally, at the nexus of the world.
A country that rests at the crossroads between Asia and Africa yet is often identified as European in values.
This tiny nation is not only in the geographical heart of the globe and at the center of international attention.
Israel is also at the very core of innovation, a leader in global commerce and technology. Outsiders may see Israel as a risk-taking country.
However, rather than serve as a deterrent, this is just one more impetus for young trailblazers to take their own risks and stretch beyond their personal or professional comfort zones, building a life in Israel as the first step on their path to Jewish fulfillment.