When people (mostly non-Jewish, but also Jewish friends and family) find out we’re moving to Israel, many of them ask, “so how long are you going for?”
Hello?? Does the word move have a different meaning in your world?
We’re moving. That means that if everything works out, as we hope it will, we’re not coming back.
That doesn’t mean everything will work out. Realistically, it often doesn’t, though I believe organizations like Nefesh b’Nefesh do their best to screen people (screening OUT those with unrealistic expectations) and give you a hint of the gruesome realities of making aliyah.
All of which said: participating in the Go North program (which includes extra grants beyond the basic sal haklita – absorption basket - given to every immigrant) means we are contractually obligated to stay in the north of Israel at least three years. (I don’t think this is a state secret; I found that information ages ago on the NbN website.)
Which means the short answer is: three years. We’re moving, yes, wholeheartedly and God willing, forever. But in the back of my mind, because NbN put it there, there are those contractual first three years – after which, well, we’ll see, only because (like when you have one of those mortgage-burning parties) we will take note of the date that we are free from that obligation.
Three years is a good amount of time, it seems to me. I’m told that the first year after aliyah is basically a write-off; there are good moments, but you are miserable a lot of the time. Fun!
So one year wouldn’t be a fair “trial.” Two years, maybe, if you’re just starting to get settled in… or not. I’m told it takes two years to get used to the weather, so I assume I’ll still be miserable during our second summer.
But three years: that’s enough time for it to get good and BORING, which is what you really want. It’s enough time for Hebrew to stop sounding new and strange everywhere you turn and just sound… normal. It’s enough time for the kids to not only know other kids but to have good friends; friends they can’t remember not having.
Three years is enough time to put down roots and hopefully, start sending out tentative little shoots.
And for Israel in particular, two or three years also seems like the time that it’s generally quiet between Situations. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but there are rarely four quiet years in a row.
So that’s how long we’re going for: Forever, of course. And three years.