Choosing a Community in Israel - featuring Eli Bialik from Nefesh b’Nefesh



One of the most important steps in making aliya is choosing the right community. We sat down over Zoom with Eli Bialik who's the Community Advisor for Nefesh B'nefesh. He's been with them for years and has a ton of insights about Aliyah and communities specifically for Olim.


Summary:

  • Aliyah from US & Canada in 2020 was 90% of the 2019 level.

  • New applications are up 300% for 2021.

  • Over 50% of NBN olim go to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Beit Shemesh.

  • Carmei Gat and Harish are up and coming.

  • Best thing for choosing a community is to get as much Israel experience as possible.

  • Utilize NBN advisors & community contacts for info about different places.

  • Make sure to define your needs as broadly as possible.

  • Next step is determining your priorities.

  • Focus on “Hard landing” vs. “Soft landing” and employment

  • Separate between real estate investment decisions and where you want to live.



Please find the full transcript of the interview below:



(Trusted House) As we get started I'd love to get some inside information from you. I've read a lot of articles recently about how numbers of Olim from North America are really booming in the past year. Is that true or is this just a feeling that people are having?


(Nefesh b’Nefesh) Well, first of all, that people are making Aliyah during the period of the pandemic is incredible. The people who are making Aliyah now are true heroes. And actually the numbers for the end of 2020: We were at 90% of the numbers of Aliyah that were in 2019 - about 3,500 Olim (from the US and Canada). For 2021 we currently see an increase of Aliyah applications. It's actually an increase of 300% of what we had the year before. We are very excited as far as the potential. We'll see what happens!


(TH) So as the expert on communities for Olim, what's your general wisdom for how one should go about choosing a community?


(NBN) I would say the best thing to do is to get as much Israel experience under your belt. The idea is to have as many trips as possible and to really feel things out yourself. That being said, now with Covid-19, that type of travel is impossible. Then I think the person really needs to say, is this something that I really want to do now and it's important that I do it now with the information that I have? And what tools can I utilize from my home in North America to research Aliyah? That's exactly why Nefesh B'nefesh is here. We have community contacts in the different communities so that you can get as much information about the different communities and neighborhoods.


(TH) What other kinds of resources are available to learn about what communities are there and to compare between different neighborhoods and cities?


(NBN) Well first of all even before we compare communities I think it's important for a person to understand what their priorities are and to determine - are they looking for an urban community? Are they looking for a rural community? Are they looking for something in between?


Are they looking for a community that has many English speakers? Are they looking for a community that has some English speakers? Or are they looking to fully integrated into an Israeli Community? You know, to understand their needs.

Do they have children who are of school age and would do better with a community that has an existing infrastructure to assist English-speaking Olim? So these are things which are important.


(TH) What would you say these days are the most common Anglo-friendly communities or cities?


(NBN) So first of all I can say with absolute certainty that over 50% of Nefesh B'nefesh Olim have gone to three cities: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beit Shemesh.


(TH) So besides for those big three, where do you see as being up-and-coming?


(NBN) If you're talking about places, which are just building the Anglo infrastructure from the ground up there are two places in particular which are really starting to get off the ground. One is Harish and the other one is Carmei Gat.


(TH) Would you say most of the people moving to those areas are moving within Israel or are a lot of new Olim going directly to those places?


(NBN) For the most part, to go to a community that is really building its Anglo presence it's usually most appropriate as a second move after understanding the nuances of Israeli society, but we are seeing more and more olim who are interested in just getting into some sort of real estate and feels that these places are good Investments. I always say, between where you live and where you buy it's not necessarily an Aliyah decision - many times that that's an investment decision.


(TH) For someone who's watching this now and is either in the process of making Aliyah or is thinking about their next steps and are not able to come here in the next couple of months, presumably. What would be the next recommended step for them?


(NBN) I think it's important for them to understand what their priorities are. I think the most significant question usually is: does a person want to be in a community that is a "soft landing community" that has a lot of English-speakers or do they want you to be in a place that fits other criteria? Then the other issue which is very significant is employment. Again, education, health care, and the other issues are also crucial but without sufficient 'parnasa', without income, you are not able to keep your Aliyah viable. So the question is also, with what you're doing professionally, is there any specific area of the country that you need to be in? You know, somebody who works in finance, for example, will most probably need to be within the greater Tel Aviv area.

(TH) Okay. Thank you so much for all your time and your insights. I really appreciate it. And I hope that next time we can meet will be in person. I hope that everyone continues to feel well and looking forward to speaking with you again soon. 'Toda raba' (thank you).


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