What attracts young Jewish people to Israel

A lot has happened with Iris, Lisa, Gabrielle, and Dina since I first published this article in February 2013. Iris, Lisa, and Dina were in Tel Aviv during Operation Protective Edge. Trying to grasp the concept of being attacked by enemy rockets for no other reason but living in Tel Aviv. They spent the summer between attempting to live their normal life and running to staircases to find shelters every few minutes. I wondered how this experience influenced them and their decision to live in Israel. I added a paragraph at the end of the original article with their recent experiences.

When Iris told her parents that she has decided to make aliyah and shortly after that left for Israel to begin her new life, no one understood why she did that. Iris is a very pretty and bright young woman from a well-to-do, large loving family. She has an advanced college degree, the right connections, and she is fun to be with. She could have had a very comfortable and meaningful life in America.

When a year later another very pretty and bright young woman from our Jewish social circles, Lisa, announced that she is making aliyah after graduation from a prestigious US law school, we were surprised again. Lisa is also a very likable motivated young woman who could have a bright social and professional life in America.

Neither Iris nor Lisa has another motivation to leave home except for their desire to build their life in Israel. Iris and Lisa are good friends and there is no doubt that their own decisions were influenced by each other’s decision. Yet, they are not the only young American professional Jews who are now trading the comfort of their life in America for a challenging life in Israel. Needless to say that when Lisa’s younger sibling Gabrielle Iris’ cousin Dina began showing the same interest we knew what’s coming.

Although it is an individual decision, there is a common theme to this growing trend; both Iris and Lisa were very active in Jewish student organizations in college. They visited Israel numerous times while still in college, taking advantage of every Taglit-Birthright program that paid for their airline ticket and provided them with minimal living arrangements. Both found programs that allowed them to spend a year in Israel as exchange students. In the process they met many other Jewish young people from all over the world who came to Israel using the same methods. Together they created a large network of people with the same pro-Israeli attitude and when the time came to choose where they wanted to live their life, Israel wasn’t a strange, faraway place, but a second home that they knew very well.

Why giving up the comfort of life in America and moving to Israel? A place where everything is more intense (cost of living, military service, political system, state-religion conflicts, etc.). I never really asked them that question, but I think that I know the answer. They are ready to start a family. What is better place to look for a Jewish soul mate than Israel, where almost everyone they meet is Jewish? This is not the only reason: They want to raise a Jewish family in a place where Jews are the majority and their children could grow up free to fall in love with anyone in their class without worrying that it might lead to a mixed marriage. A place where most people feel the same way they do about Judaism and Israel; a place where their children will not be seen as different because of their religious affiliation.

The fact that many young bright Jewish people leave their comfortable nests and move to Israel,is that a good thing or a bad thing for the America Jewish community ? I think that the answer could be found in the History of Jewish people; a 150 years or so, young Jewish people left their comfortable homes in Europe and moved to the malaria infested, unforgiving country, which at that time wasn’t much more than a wasteland. These young motivated people were called Zionists. Their parents were faced with the same difficulties that Jewish parent are facing now; seeing their children move to a challenging place to build their homes. However, looking back there is no doubt that the young motivated people made the right decision. 150 years later Jewish communities all over the world are benefited from the State of Israel, the country that gives the Jewish people pride, support and protection, the country that became the center of the Jewish universe. I have no doubt that the immigration of the well-educated and motivated young professionals to Israel begins a new chapter in the Jewish-Israeli history, on its continued progress toward excellence, prosperity, and humanity. I can only wish that I could live few hundred years longer to see the fruits of their actions. I do not believe that Iris and Lisa are thinking in these terms, yet, their decision to make aliyah is strengthening the Jewish community worldwide, including the one in their hometown in America.

Since I first wrote this article, Iris has completed her education. She met a handsome young Israeli and they live together in Tel Aviv. It is a serious relationship. Iris is working full time while her boyfriend completes his business degree. Lisa is full-time student in Tel Aviv University. She lives with her boyfriend, an American born, young Jewish man, who came to Israel to join the IDF and now completes his MBA. Dina, is still in college, she came to Israel for the summer to participate in an a summer internship program. The war caught all of them by surprise; Dina’s internship program was cut short by the war so she returned to America three weeks after the war begun. Iris and Lisa are in Israel. The war did not alter their plans in any way. Gabrielle was a counselor in a Jewish camp near Atlanta this summer so she wasn’t in Israel during the war. She was there earlier this year during winter break. Although Gabrielle is not there physically, her mind is there; her boyfriend, a young Jewish American man from Florida is on his way to Israel to join the IDF.