Each year an increasing number of North American young adults are embarking on a fresh life adventure and making Aliyah. In 2010 alone, close to 1200 singles and young professionals crossed the Atlantic Ocean looking to actualize their dream of living in Israel. But what is it that is drawing these young people to settle thousands of miles away from home, far from family and friends? Why do they want to acclimatize to a new language, new work expectations and a new environment? And more than that, after leaving the buzzing sounds, bright lights and social frenzy of big city American lifestyle, what it is that they love about life in Israel?
A strong feeling among both recent and veteran olim is the powerful sense of community in Israel. Without close relatives nearby, friends become family. The large majority of young professional and single olim choose to settle in the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. With an eclectic mix of Jews from across the globe, both places provide endless opportunities for young adults. Popular areas are the Rechavia, Katamon and Talbieh neighborhood cluster, which is often referred to as the “Upper West Side” of Jerusalem. It’s a comfortable mix of religious and secular, an aesthetic blend of old and new buildings on winding narrow streets. Local synagogues such as Yakar and Ramban are generally the Friday night hotspots and the ‘places to be seen’. Nachlaot is in the heart of Jerusalem’s downtown across the street from the effervescent Machane Yehuda Market. It is one of the city’s older and more colorful neighborhoods and possesses a distinct “hippie” presence. The growing communities of Baka and the German colony sit side by side and offer great hangout opportunities on Derech Beit Lechem and the bustling Emek Refaim street. “As a young person, I think it’s so important to get out there, meet people, make connections and experience life as part of a community”, says Ari Green, a 27 year old accountant from Staten Island, New York. “I love living in Jerusalem. I feel so at home here. My friends all live a few minutes from me and I’m constantly meeting new faces at Shabbat meals and parties”.
Tel Aviv is an ideal location for those who work in the merkaz (central Israel) or those who want to live by the beach. Central Tel Aviv comprises of an eclectic and diverse, yet warm and welcoming population. Northern Tel Aviv offers quiet and quality to those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center. It is situated close to the Tel Aviv University campus, so is useful for those olim who take part in the school’s overseas program. Givat Shmuel and Ramat Ilan are predominantly religious-Zionist in orientation and have a very mixed Israeli and Anglo community, many of whom are students at the nearby Bar Ilan University.
Another defining factor that attracts both singles and young professionals to Israel is the social element. “Young adults choose to make Aliyah for a whole variety of reasons”, says Rachel Kaufman, Nefesh B’Nefesh’s post Aliyah programming and events coordinator. “But perhaps the overarching reason is that socially, it’s very happening here. Many young Jews feel that it’s easier to live a Jewish lifestyle in Israel. They feel part of a greater community and enjoy socializing with like-minded Jews from across the world.”
With a full calendar of events on offer, Nefesh B’Nefesh provides ample opportunities for singles and young professionals (not just olim) to meet and experience Israel together. “Our job is make these young people feel comfortable within their new environment and facilitate as smooth an integration as possible”, continues Ms Kaufman. In January 2011, a guided mountain biking trip was organized along the historical Burma Road for 90 young adults from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Riding along the striking mountainous landscape with a clear blue sky overhead, these olim were able to learn the history of their country while formulating new friendships. “It was such a perfect event,” remarked Ruth Schneider, a speech and language therapist who recently made Aliyah from West Orange, New Jersey. “I got to enjoy my favorite hobby and at the same time experience my new home with a group of like-minded people, many of whom I’m definitely going to keep in touch with.” Jewish holidays are also an excuse for get-togethers and in December 2010, 200 young people attended the fourth annual Chanukah panoply in Jerusalem for an evening of fun competitive trivia rounds. “One of our most popular events was a beer and volleyball party on Tel Aviv beach”, explains Ms Kaufman. “We had around 300 people coming together, playing volleyball and frizbee and we even had a drumming workshop. It was a fantastic evening, and in fact, a couple who met that night just recently got engaged!”
One of the biggest pull factors of living in Israel is the relaxed and ‘chilled-out’ attitude that seems to encompass the whole country. Perhaps it’s the stunning Mediterranean climate or the fact that Israelis just love to strike up conversation with anyone and everyone, but people seem to go about their days in a good mood. The atmosphere that pervades is definitely one of ‘work hard, play hard’, with shops and cafes buzzing until the early hours of the morning, every day of the week. “The whole country feels like a neighborhood, like one big family”, comments Shoshi Shmulevitz, a 25 year old History student, originally from Brooklyn, New York. “Everyone seems to know each other, and even if they don’t, they act like they do! People have more time here. Instead of grabbing a coffee and running with it, people sit, shmooze and relax.”
Due to its thriving nightlife and young atmosphere, Tel Aviv has been hailed as ‘the city that never sleeps’ and is a partying hub for young olim as well as Israelis. Popular areas include Allenby Street, which is a central spot for bars and clubs, offering house, funk, disco and techno music, and the pumping promenade along the beach which leads on the beautiful Tel Aviv port, where one can enjoy stunning sea views whilst simultaneously dancing (or eating!) the night away. On a Friday (Israel’s Sunday), these same people will be found having brunch in Dizengoff mall or one of the vibrant cafes on Shenkin or Bograshov streets, or sunbathing blissfully on the wide open stretches of picturesque sandy beach.
Nefesh B’Nefesh’s One Aliyah department is specially designed to support and assist young professional and single olim from the ages of 17 to 35 in making Aliyah from North America. From the initial phone call enquiring about potential Aliyah, through to landing on Israeli soil and integrating into life in Israel, young olim are provided with a plethora of opportunities to network, socialize and get to know their country and fellow olim. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Nefesh B’Nefesh One Aliyah fan page on Facebook.
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