Making Aliyah with kids is not easy, especially if they are preteens or older. Often the parents’ biggest concern is if their kids will adjust to their new lifestyle in Israel. As you make your most important Aliyah decision – where you will live – keep in mind these 3 very important factors that can have a huge impact on your child’s happiness in Israel.
1. Choosing the Right Community
In Israel, you’ll find lots of types of communities. Choosing the right community may feel like walking into a Baskins and Robbins ice cream store and having to choose from their 31 flavors. Not easy!!
When I was a kid, my parents chose to live in Rechovot – a city that at the time had very few English speaking residents. As I think back on those years, I realize this made our Aliyah experience much harder. When my husband and I moved back to Israel a few years ago, we felt that the transition for our kids would be much easier if we moved to a community that had many English speaking kids. So we decided to look for neighborhoods that had a large Anglo support system.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when you’re looking at different communities.
Often moving to a community where there are families who speak English, come from similar backgrounds and have similar interests makes the Aliyah process so much easier.
If your kids love playing a particular sport, find out if this sport is offered in the neighborhood to which you are moving.
2. Schools in Israel
Finding a school that is good for your kids is another challenge. Often parents will choose a community based on the level of the school. Here are some tips on what to look for in a school and how you can ease your child’s transition into their new community and school:
Find out what the school offers in terms of Ulpan (Ulpan is a program that teaches Hebrew to new Olim). Some schools have excellent Ulpan programs to help the kids learn Hebrew and slowly adjust to learning in a new language. Each school offers a different number of Ulpan hours weekly depending on the number of Olim in the school – obviously, the more hours the better.
Speak with the school guidance counselor to see what other resources are offered for Olim. There are schools where girls from Shirut Leumi (National Service) give extra lessons to kids.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, MAKE SURE YOUR KIDS ARE HAPPY IN SCHOOL. Someone gave me this advice after a few months of our Aliyah. In your first year in Israel, school results are secondary. As long as your children are adjusting and happy everything else will fall into place.
3. Sports and Extracurricular activities
Sports and extracurricular activities are universal activities that kids from countries around the world know and love. And especially in Israel where the weather is nice 95% of time, get your kids off their electronic devices and get them playing outside. Another thing to keep in mind is that the school days in Israel are often shorter than those in other countries so they’ll have a lot of free time. Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
Schools in Israel typically only have 1 or 2 sports teams (usually soccer and basketball). Other sports programs do exist but these teams are run through private programs (“chugim”).
The cost of sports programs vary and can run anywhere from a few hundred shekels per years to 1200+ shekels per year. You should save some time after school for private tutoring. This could be extra help with Hebrew, homework, reading etc. You’ll be amazed at what an impact 1-2 hours a week of private tutoring can have on your kids’ understanding of the material that is being taught at school.
You should save some time after school for private tutoring. This could be extra help with Hebrew, homework, reading etc. You’ll be amazed at what an impact 1-2 hours a week of private tutoring can have on your kids’ understanding of the material that is being taught at school.
The bottom line is that making Aliyah and settling in Israel can be an exciting, invigorating and amazing experience. At the same time, it can be a frustrating, challenging and overwhelming especially if you are moving with kids.
There is one thing that you can do as a parent that will greatly reduce your kid’s anxieties about moving and make their transition to their new life much easier. This is called planning. Plan as far ahead as possible and do lots of research. Talking to people who have moved and joining the various Facebook groups can answer many of the questions you or your children may have. The more you do ahead of time, the easier the transition will be.
Does this sound overwhelming?
I know that this sounds overwhelming and perhaps intimidating and believe me, as an Olah, I can relate to you.
At Olim Advisors, we are here to guide you and help you find the answers to many of your questions and concerns about making Aliyah. We can save you time, money and aggravation and give you some piece of mind that you’re doing everything possible to ensure that making Aliyah is a great decision for you and your kids. Reach out to me now and let me know what I can do to help make your Aliyah easier. I look forward to hearing from you and wish you all the best!