Thinking Aliyah? Talking Tough to Potential Olim

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A woman writes that she is planning on moving to Israel with her husband. In advance of that move, her husband came to Israel and tried to open a bank account. This is something easily done in Israel – a few minutes in the bank, stamp, sign, photocopy your ID, and you’re good to go…unless you don’t live in Israel. About a year ago, the government aligned itself with American and other first world countries to work against money laundering and other abuses that lead to human trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, etc.

The precautions may mean that honest citizens spend a few more minutes and a bit of frustration when dealing with banks, but the benefit to the innocents of the world is huge. I can understand this woman’s frustration up to a certain point…and at that point, once reached, I lost all patience and decided to write her a truth that I think neither she nor her husband are willing to discuss. It was the last line of her post “I prefer Brooklyn any day” that got to me, that annoyed me, that got me to thinking that once and for all, it’s time to admit the sad truth. Israel isn’t for every Jew. I surrender. I’ve had people tell me this before but I kept thinking, kept hoping. Finally, I see.

As you can see from her note, she was annoyed and frustrated that her husband had to go to five banks before he succeeded in finding one willing or able to figure out a way around recent legislation intended to minimize foreign agents from using Israeli banks for money laundering. After reading her post, this is how I responded (below). And after I did, I thought – this isn’t just for her. It is for many people, Jews around the world. Israel is here waiting for you. We want you to come. We desperately want you to come home because this is home. But until you see that, don’t come. Do you prefer life where you are? Is Brooklyn really where you are meant to be?

A note to Jews in the diaspora…

 If it is that easy to dissuade you from coming, I’m worried about how you’ll survive here. I mean that in a gentle way. Rather than criticize, why don’t you ask why the banks are so careful…it’s called money laundering and international attempts at hiding funds for horrible purposes – like human trafficking.

The MINUTE you are in Israel and an Israeli citizen, opening an account in any bank is a 10 minute process. I tried to open a bank account in the US online – never succeeded.

But the issue here really isn’t the banking system – at least that’s my feeling. I have to tell you that aliyah is not easy and an attitude which includes “I prefer Brooklyn any day” is a recipe for failure.

I’ll tell you one more thing that I read recently. I probably won’t do this justice but let me try.

A great Rav once used this story and then explained the reason why. The story – a very wealthy man moved into a small village and learned about who was the most beautiful, desired young woman. He then went to her parents, seeking a match. The parents told the daughter and she said she wasn’t really interested. The parents insisted. A day was set for him to come meet her. The parents left him sitting in the living room and called for the daughter.

She came in with her hair wrapped in a towel, old clothes, etc. – a little while later, the wealthy man left and went around telling people how very plain she was and how he much preferred Brooklyn…I mean someone else….

The Rav then said that Israel is like that young woman – it doesn’t always choose to show its beauty to everyone.

I live in the most beautiful, wonderful, kind country in the world. My children were raised here and I am in awe of them…every day. They are kind people; helpful people, caring people.

If you’re going to let bank bureaucracy convince you that you prefer Brooklyn than I guess sadly, Israel has chosen not to show you (or you refuse to see) the great beauty that is here.

And one thing your husband should have realized after the first or second bank is that there are laws in Israel and they are very strict when it comes to foreigners opening accounts here. I’m working with an international company that wants to open an account here and they were told…by the lawyers…that it will take a while.

You’re welcome to complain about the banking system but I think you and your husband need to do a lot more thinking about your plans and your feelings for living here because if your attitude is going to be to endlessly compare life here with “America” and “Brooklyn” – honestly, you should save yourself (and us) the cost involved. I know this is harsh but I’m writing it that way on purpose. I don’t know if you have children but bringing them here, having them make friends and then wrenching them back to the States is going to be very hard for them.

And honestly, asking Israel to invest thousands of dollars – free medical care for six months, paying for all your flights, discounted rent, extra hours of assistance for children…just so you’ll choose to go back to your precious Brooklyn…that’s not fair.

Maybe consider coming here for a year and try it out. Or wait until you are really committed….

Either way, I wish you tremendous success in whatever you decide and if you do come to Israel and need some help, I’d be happy to offer whatever I can…because that’s the kind of country I live in. Four of my children have or are volunteers for MADA (ambulance); my husband is a volunteer police officer, I do what I can…

That’s Israel – the most amazing place in the world…and the most beautiful for those whom it chooses to show itself.

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5 Comments

  1. roxanne

    What no one has mentioned, are their posts are deleted, is that banks in Israel employ poorly-trained staff. Bank teller is considered a menial position, so service is given with that attitude. You will watch your teller text someone while she is serving you. Also, there does not seem to be any professional training for any staff, including management. This will not stop them from making up answers. If you are coming from the States, then your banks are in serious competition with each other, and can usually only offer excellent service to keep customers. In Israel, banks don’t really compete for customers, and the Israeli native does not really know how bad it is. If I need a large loan, I will have to open a checking account with one of these banks. In the meantime, I have a checking/ATM account with the Bank haDoar, that is, the bank at the post office. You pull a number, unlike at banks, where people will jump your place in line; and no one is pretending to be a bank teller.

  2. Karen Davitz

    Oh Paula, how I agree with you. I have a few friends who already came on aliyah who tend to air their grievances on fb. Which is why I usually post positive articles about, e.g. Israeli innovations and sporting achievements.

  3. joel

    It turns out that immigrants in any country have to deal with more bureaucracy than people who have been living in a country for years. And they have to deal with it all at once. For example, an Israeli I know is moving to North Carolina for a few years. Can he open a bank account there before he arrives? No. How about buying a car? Need a driver’s license first. Health insurance? Nope. A jungle, and can’t be sorted out remotely.

    Also. much of what we thought was weird Israeli stuff when we first moved here turned out to be weird European stuff that we weren’t used to.

    This doesn’t look like Kansas, because it’s not.

  4. Mark L. Levinson

    This is more by way of agreeing than by way of disagreeing, but as an Israeli citizen I wanted to open an account at a new bank just in order to surreptitiously accumulate a little money for a surprise gift to my wife, and I couldn’t do it. They wanted to know all about our joint account. I said, “What does it matter? You’ll get valid checks that I’ve received for work that’s been legally performed, covered by receipts, and reported for tax purposes. The other bank has nothing to do with it.” No, they insisted on making the whole thing complicated and coordinated and inevitably un-confidential, defeating the purpose. It’s not just US citizens who suffer from the banks’ sensitivity to possible hanky-panky.

  5. Klein

    Israel is not the USA. It has its own rules and bureaucracy. They take some getting used to. The N’Fesh bNefesh organization does help new olim (new immigrants) make the transition much easier. They work with Olim from North America.

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