Archive for the 'Aliyah Info' Category

Telfed in Ariel

Telfed

Telfed

With the growing popularity of Ariel’s Community Aliyah Program word has a way of getting around. True – North American olim and South African olim are not quite the same.  Still – they have a lot more in common than their mother tongue, and for one reason or another the South African community has begun to take an interest in Ariel.

Telfed (The South African Zionist Federation) has been pushing aliyah to the land of Israel for their constituents. Back in July Telfed brought a flight of 100 new olim to Israel. They’re taking a serious interest in stepping up their operation, and as such it was just a matter of time until they made their way to Ariel.

During their visit this past Thursday, mayor Ron nachman showed the group around the city. The guided tour included thorough visits to the up-and-coming Performing Arts Center, the brand new Sports and Recreation Center and the Ariel University Center. As with all of Ariel’s visitors, the delegates were very impressed.

A few months back, after a series of inquiries from potential South African olim about Ariel, I approached the Ministry of Absorption and suggested that they add the South African community as potential benefeciaries of our Community Aliyah Program. The response was that they’d rather leave things status quo… unless the South African community makes an organized request to come to Ariel. Well – Telfed is now in the process of issuing that request – we’ll keep you posted as things move along. 

Oh- by the way- my wife is originally South African. So – when the time comes I think we’re going to have to issue a dictiionary that translates South African terminology to American terminology. Don’t worry- it’s not too bad. Just keep in mind not to hold your breath if a South African says “just now”.

Behind the Scenes: Letter to the Jewish Agency

Jewish Agency

As I’m sure our readers know by now, our Ariel Aliyah program has a very good relationship with all of the organizations involved in North American aliyah.  Recently the Jewish Agency shared with me an insightful letter that an olah chadashah wrote them.

Guess why I mention this – that’s right! Because I’m about to share that letter with you…

Of course, the name of the olah and the name of the “involved city” have been removed. The purpose of this post is not to single-out a person rather to highlight a phenomenon, not to disparage a city in the Land of Israel – G-d forbid – but to give people practical decision making tools.

Here we go: 

Dear —,

My name is — and my family made aliyah to — through the Communal Aliyah Program in May of 2007. We have truly appreciated all of the additional help that we received through the program, however we will be leaving — shortly, and we felt the Jewish Agency should be aware of the reason why.

When we arrived in —, we were able to find a 4 room apartment that was conveniently located for 2800 NIS per month. When the time came to renew our lease, our landlord demanded 3800 NIS per month, a 30% increase. A brief search of the real estate listings shows that the lowest rent available for even a 3 room apartment in — is 3200 NIS. If the point of the Communal Aliyah program is to build communities, instead of just giving olim an Anglo destination to crash land into for a year before benefits like sal klita and arnona reduction end, perhaps there should be a different approach to choosing the participating cities, such as someplace more affordable.

We visited Ariel and they seem to have the right idea. It’s a very Israeli city with a small Anglo population that really needs assistance, versus —‘s large Anglo population that can afford the rising prices with or without the addtional benefits.

Thanks for your time,

I can’t say that I personally agree with the terminology used in the letter. It’s not that where there are Anglos there’s less of a need and where there are Israelis there’s more of a need. HOWEVER – the bottom line is perfectly clear: Ariel continues to develop an ideal location for Anglo olim. It’s not about an attractive benefits package, leaving you high and dry when it runs out. It’s about a REAL place you can call home, afford, enjoy and be part of a community.

 Simply put, Ariel works for those who choose to live in Israel, work in Israel and love life in Israel.

Singles Choose Ariel

Nefesh B’Nefesh got wind of the fact that quite a number of singles are hopping on the Ariel Aliyah bandwagon so they asked me to write a post for their new blog (I don’t know if its public yet). So, if I wrote it anyway – why not post it for our own readers here…

Making aliyah as a single isn’t easy. On top of all of the challenges that face any oleh, singles have to start a new life for themselves in the context of an array of basic uncertainties about life and their future. Community life, interpersonal relationships, professional development and “living the dream” are terms that take on new meaning when referring to singles that make aliyah. Through and through, every step of the way, singles have to face the challenges of aliyah on their own.

Finances are often a primary issue. Particularly in cases where a single prefers to live without roommates, the issue of housing affordability becomes paramount. Of course, in order to earn an income that pays the bills, no matter how affordable the neighborhood, people need to be in close proximity to their place of employment. It isn’t easy to find a city that’s both affordable and close to an array of employment centers.

When Nefesh B’Nefesh representatives visited Ariel they were very straight-forward: “Ariel is for singles” they said. Though the city has been attracting couples and families through its Community Aliyah Program, it turns out that many singles share the Nefesh B’Nefesh assessment of the situation. Whether through word of mouth, pilot trips or the internet, singles have begun to pursue Ariel as their aliyah destination. For some it’s the quiet atmosphere, for others it’s the beautiful views of the Shomron. Whatever the initial pull may be, it seems that the open and supportive community along with the presence of the city’s university campus with 10,000 students, provide the necessary human element so significant to the lifestyle of these singles.

In Ariel singles can be anonymous or gregarious, low-key or involved. If they want their space – they have it. If they want a community – it’s there. If they feel like hopping on a bus to meet people in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – they can. The affordable housing, the proximity to major employment centers, the in-city services and the comfortable lifestyle make Ariel a convenient and comfortable option for singles who are ready to think a bit out of the box.

For more info on Ariel you can visit:
Ariel Aliyah Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5994778609
Ariel Aliyah Yahoo Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/arielaliyah/
Ariel Aliyah Blog: www.arielaliyah.wordpress.com
The City of Ariel’s English Site: www.ariel.muni.il/en

Or contact Avi Zimmerman, Ariel’s Community Aliyah Program coordinator:
arielaliyah@gmail.com

Housing shortage in Israel – personal story

This is a personal story, not expert financial advice. Please do your own due diligence.
 
A few weeks before I got married in ’99, my wife and I came to Ariel to look for a rental. It was pre-war and hi-tech was ramping up, the college was gaining momentum and the massive building projects next to the college were being completed. The real estate market was heating up. We drove around looking for rental ads or signs on balconies, nada. We were relegated to the agents.
 
We went to three agents and saw some potential places but mostly ‘old’ places or different sizes, nothing that grabbed us. I’ll give credit to the secretary at Eli Arbiv, after we came back to the office, disappointed about not finding something ‘nice’, she gave us advice that is once again relevant today, “what you see today is not going to be on the market tomorrow. You do not have a few days to think about your options. See something decent and suitable, take it. Start negotiating with the owner and maybe you can get some touch-ups.”
 
We went to the next agent, saw three apartments and chose one with a nice (sorry, awesome) view, a 2 metre kitchen counter, no balcony, and overlooking a strip mall with restaurants open really late, a parking lot which was active 24/7 and lived there for about seven years.
 
The market in Ariel, in fact all over central Israel right now, is one of a major housing shortage. During the mini-recession in 2002-2006, many builders went out of business or reduced building starts. The financial papers talked about the supply of apartments running out in a few years and here we are; the amount of new apartments does not match the demand. And rising prices have speculators in the market as well buying ‘investments’. Some areas in Jerusalem, Ashdod, for instance, are suffering from heavy buying by foreigners who in trying to do a mitzvah of owning land in Israel, are a) raising the prices for us Israelis, and b) not living in the apartments year round and not renting out either consequently driving the shortage to epidemic proportions.
 
The time is not one to be picky and certainly not one of looking at some decent homes and sitting on it for a couple of weeks or even a day or two. You never know when a ‘better’ home will get put on the market, but that dilemma can drive anyone crazy, and that’s why it’s good to have faith in God to send you the most suitable options to choose from.
This is advice for many places in Israel now, not only Ariel. The new market valuations in shekels has also wreaked havoc with the market, so try to get immediate advice from others who might have an idea of value comparison.
 
Of course, no one can be assured of anything. One might find a nice place, but have lousy neighbours and vice-versa (preferred, IMO). One might feel like they’re really compromising, but end up with a nice landlord who agrees to make improvements and does not pester.
 
If you know you want to live in a certain place, whether Ariel or not, it’s not a buyers market right now.
 
The preceeding is also more geared towards renting, though relevant towards buying real estate as well. I could not tell you if the continued boom will last, and certainly if, or when Israel’s economy will hit the downturn and prices will drop.
Josh

Planning Your Aliyah?

PlanningWhat’s the most effective approach to planning your aliyah?

From the families that visit Ariel, to the people contacting us via email, one concern about the challenge of making aliyah is often expressed: “there are just too many variables, too much to consider, too much to plan”.

The question is, when we move towards our aliyah what should we be doing: should we be PLANNING our aliyah or should we be PREPARING for aliyah:

Planning aliyah is all about calculating our future. The term and the approach both indicate that life is, at least in some way, predictable – as long as you’ve planned properly. Essentially, the focus of planning is on the specifics: what, where and when.

Preparing for aliyah is quite different. It means that you’re taking the appropriate, practical steps to ensure the success of your aliyah. Still, it means that you’re also preparing for the unexpected, for the dynamics of life. In its essence, preparing for aliyah deals with developing an approach. The focus is not on designing and planning what will be, rather on how to approach the upcoming challenges that aliyah may present.

Both planning and preparing have their virtues. However, there is a significant, basic down-side to an over-focus on planning: it’s misleading. Not everything in life can be planned. In fact – if you think about it – nothing can really be planned from start to finish – certainly not a long term aproach to life . If someone expects life in general and life in Israel in particular to correspond to his own personal plans then what will he do when life takes a turn, when things change. Whether a new opportunity presents itself or a challenge stands in his way – will he know how to respond in kind. Will he emerge stronger, or, Heaven forbid, will the foundation that he has built for himself be too brittle to adjust.

As Americans, Canadians and people of the Western World we tend to imagine that life is predictable and that all that’s left for us to do is make our plans and execute them. In Israel things have never been like that. People live with uncertainty, they live with unpredictability. When will we get rain, what will be with the shekel and what will be with Jerusalem are but a small taste of the ongoing questions in the back of everyone’s mind. We can leave the sociological ramifications aside for now – the point is, from the big things to the small, life in Israel requires a certain degree of flexibility – an awareness of the fact that life is dynamic, and an ability to respond in kind.

Preparing for aliyah is an approach – it’s an attitude. It means that the only constant is that “I’m making aliyah”. As for the variables, the specific circumstances of life, the approach sounds something like: “I’ll do whatever I can to work through things”.

When your aliyah is your priority and the circumstances of your aliyah are secondary – then you have the winning approach to a successful aliyah. It means that you’ve decided that you and your family belong in Israel, and that your primary focus is on turning that decision into a reality. Beyond that, it means that no-matter what life may throw at you, you’ll be prepared to roll with it. If there’s a challenge- you’ll overcome it. If there’s an opportunity – you’ll seize it. You’ll be living life as you always wanted – being yourself, in your Land, with your People.