My Aliyah Story

I created this blog to share my Aliyah experience, which has proven quite eventful and unpredictable. It is my hope that other olim and potential olim can benefit from this website and together we can find some humor in our self-imposed trials and tribulations.

My blog will take you through my personal story of making Aliyah, with a bit of wit and cynicism. While the process of moving to Israel, dealing with bureaucracy, learning Hebrew, becoming absorbed into a new culture, joining the army and the many other steps can be difficult, they can also be comical. This blog will expose my comical, and sometimes embarrassing, transformation from being an American living in Israel to becoming an Israeli with an American accent.

Check out my recently published book – Chutzpah & High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in The Holy Land


Join the Aliyah Survival Group on Facebook!
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Check out my author website!



  1. Congrats on the new blog! I look forward to reading more about your Aliya experiences…

  2. Congratulations Jessica! Can’t wait to see more of it! I have the feeling I’ll loooove it…

  3. Young Zionists unite! Power to the olim…

  4. Good luck with the new blog. I already see at least one article that I’ll be referring to at some point…


  6. Wow, this blog is a great find! I’m a Hebrew student in college and I’ve taken a great interest in Israeli culture and am having all sorts of aliyah fantasies lately. Unfortunately though I’m not even technically Jewish so I guess my Israeli dream is a bit further than other candidates’…in any case it’s a lot of fun living it vicariously through you!

    P.S. I’m from Minneapolis!

  7. I am not sure what you meant by “technically” Jewish – by whose standards are you not technically Jewish? As far as the laws of Israel, there are two different “standards”. There is the Law of Immigration standard which says that if you have one grand parent that is/was Jewish, then you are considered Jewish and can make Aliyah. This standard was created as a reaction to the Holocaust because this is how the Nazis defined a Jew. If this is the case, then you can make Aliyah.

    Then there is the Rabinut standard. This means that you have to have a Jewish mother or Orthodox approved conversion. The Rabinut standard affects marriages, births, burial – basically any Jewish life cycle. For instance, if you meet the aliyah standard but not the Rabinut standard then you can become a citizen of Israel, but you can not marry in Israel – unless you “convert” by an Rabinut approved rabbi.

    This system was created during the birth of the State and was one of the concessions that Ben Gurion made to the religious and has continued to affect the country. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest mistakes Ben Gurion made – along with the concession he made regarding the religious exemption from the army. There are many people that continue to pay for this mistake today.

    This concession has basically made Israel, the only country in the world where you can’t practice Judaism the way that you want – i.e. as a conservative Jew, reform Jew, etc.

    Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness, especially among native Israelis about this situation, even though there are many immigrants that exist in this “purgatory” state.

    • 1) so you are saying that no christians or muslims can get married in Israel because they are not Jewish? – not true

      2) the concession that was made was making Israel a non religious state, not the other way around. The mistakes that Ben Gurion made are much broader than just his religious standpoint.

      3)Religious exemption from the army? – not true. Almost anyone can get an exemption from the army. Being in college, work, married, children etc etc. Besides that, would you care to explain what the hesder units are then?

      4)Reform and conservative Judaism are a concession in amongst ourselves. The ultra religious say one thing (that our families have done for thousands of years) and the reform and conservative rabbis “conceded” and decided to do what they wanted, how they wanted.

    • What you write is not accurate. Anyone in Israel can practice Judaism the way they want to. A different issue is whether they will receive recognition from the State.

      And as for that issue, Judaism with a label is a relatively new construct. The Judaism of two thousand years of pining for Tsion was not orthodox either, it was just Judaism. But nowadays with the plethora of label Judaisms, which ones should the State of Israel recognize? One which prayed for a return to Tsion three times a day or one, for example, which declared Berlin to be the new Jerusalem?

      Furthermore, if label Judaisms are recognised by the State regarding crucial issues, which ones should receive recognition? Reform? Conservative? Black Hebrews? Jews for Jesus? Anyone who feels Jewish?

      Personally, I am in favour of civil marriage for people who are unable to have a halachic wedding ceremony. Whatever other ceremony they have is their own business.

      I also want to add that I have nothing against people who believe themselves to be Jewish only to find out later that this is not the case. In fact there are cases where one member of a couple discovered that they were not Jewish just weeks before their marriage, as their parents never told them. This is very sad and they have my sympathy. However, as integrated a person might be in Israeli life, and unfortunately as brave as they might be in their death, it does not turn one into a Jew if one is not.

      • Alice, you of course have the right to your opinion. But I completely disagree with you. I think it does Israel and the people of Israel an injustice when the State only recognizes one form of Judaism. In addition, you are wrong to say that people have the right to practice whatever form of Judaism they want. If someone wants to practice Judaism by getting married by a Reform or Conservative Rabbi, they can’t. In addition, Reform and Conservative synagogues, schools, mikvot, etc . . . do not get equal funding . . . or for that matter any funding from the government. This means that it becomes a lot less accessible to practice the type of Judaism that a citizen wants. The way the current system is set up is that the Orthodox own Judaism. While the Orthodox have control, there is not much they give back to the Country – army services, taxes, knowledge, etc. The unbalance of the religious system does do damage to the country’s security. And in addition, it is wrong that the Country should expect one person to have all of the responsibilities of a citizen, but not give all the rights – i.e. marriage. The Orthodox do NOT hold the authority on who is Jewish.

  8. Interesting reading. I never really gave much thought to the internal religious politics in Israel before. I loved the beautiful photos too.

  9. Hey there, This website is amazing! Keep up the amazing work. I just bookmarked it

  10. Hey very nice blog!! Man .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…

  11. Hi! Check out our blog at El Al to read about the latest Aliyah flight to arrive in Israel this summer.
    The link is:

    I hope you enjoy our blog!

  12. I love it! Hillarious… (looking back not going through it.) absolutely awesome photos!

  13. Greetings from Sydney. Thanks for the useful content. I’m doing a project at college and your content was quite useful. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. I think the photos are some of the funniest. Who doesn’t love loof?

  15. Aliya Magda al Mahdy. I would like to talk with you from Argentina. I{m journalist and I am interestred in your fight

  16. i would really like to hear from the woman that took all 9 of her kitties not only w/her but in the cabin

  17. My name is Sam Deehl,im a 22 year old American Jew.This year im moving to Israel and joining the hoping to serve in an infantry unit.i was just wondering how much combat do u think I will see and whats it like?I know this question maybe silly to a battle hardened warrior but im a little bit nervous about it,i have never seen combat and dont know what to expect

  18. Shalom!

    Does a person converting to become a Jew in the USA need to attend the local Jewish community for a certain period before making aliyah?

    I have read about a required period, but don’t know about if it is enforced. I understand that these regulations contradict the law of return; and are discriminating people who become Jews.

    • According to the laws, a convert does have to stay in the community in which her or she converted for usually about a year. And yes, this laws are discriminatory and against halacha . . .

    • David, judging from your blog you are a Messianic ‘Jew’ and therefore you are not eligible to make aliyah at all. “The Supreme Court of Israel ruled in 1989 that Messianic Judaism constituted another religion (it is considered by most Christians and Jews to be a form of Christianity), and that people who had become Messianic Jews were not therefore eligible for Aliyah under the law.”

  19. First of all, congrats on your blog. Do you know if there are usually enough places in Merkaz Klita for 45-year-old singles? Should I pass a psychological and medical test before doing Allyah? I live in Argentina, I am Jewish and speak Hebrew decently. Thanks in advance and regards, Malka

  20. In my opinion, all the religions lead to one single GOD. Its like different roads leading to the same destination.

  21. Do you know how long regular leave from the IDF is such as vacation time that both lone and regular soldiers have?

    • Lone soldiers get 1 month per year – it is called meuhedet, special. You can use this month to go visit your family. On top of that you get one day a month, yom sidurim. This is for getting all your errands done, paying bills, etc. On top of that you get what a normal soldier gets, which i believe is 5 days every 3 or 4 months.

  22. I’m trying to search for information on different kibbutz ulpan options and am finding it extremely difficult via the web to get even rudimentary info for any. Where/how can I find more extensive info in order to make an informed decision on which would be the best choice?

  23. Awesome. A place I can come to when the (eventual) process begins to look like a giant puzzle seemingly impossible to piece together. I am looking foreward to becoming an Israeli more than life itself, if that makes sense. I have a giant mountain to climb, beginning in the spring. I welcome the massive task which lies before me. I will not fail! I LOVE ISRAEL!


  25. Hello there, I am a young woman 22 years old. I’m not Jewish but I would like to make Aliyah.. Would I have to be orthodox to do so, or will the rabbinate accept me if I convert to being conservative? I would also like to join the IDF as well. I am just lost on who I speak to about making aliyah…I know it would have to be AFTER I convert. And who where I go to convert, do I just walk into the synagogue or call? I heard that when you go to convert, they have the right to turn you away 3 this true? Is it extremely expensive to make aliyah?

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    • No, you don’t have to be orthodox. You have the right to make aliyah no matter which rabbi you convert with. However, you will have to saty in your community for a year before making aliyah. It is important to note that not all conversions are accepted by the rabbinute. So, that means you would not have the right to get married in Israel. Make sure you thoroughly research these options before making a decision. The 3 times thing really depends on the rabbi and the stream of Judaism. Living in Israel is hard – you make less and things cost more.

      • Hi, and the blog is very interesting. But I’m concerned thst there is a lot of mis information with regards to conversion and jewishmlaw and also I sense a lot of anger towards people who are observant. There’s only Judaism, which comes for the Ztorah, and cannot be disputed, the Jewish law is thst s person who will be accepted as a Jew, follow these laws. Over the centuries, Jews have fought to become less observant and have weakened the chain to the laws of Hashem. Some Jews are observant some less, but we are all Jews, if we have Jewish mothers, or converted by Jewish law. Anything other than proper Jewish law convertions are not valid. It’s like, would you drive with a learners permit alone, or would you consider a proper license to be legal? Please tell people the proper rule and leave out personal views as this is simply misleading. Chana Simcha

    • Chana, I’m concerned that you are a brainwashed zealot following a primitive, chauvinistic form of Judaism. Everything I write in this blog is accurate in terms of the law of return. This is a blog and therefore, yes, my opinions are expressed. If you don’t like my opinions, then don’t read my blog. All forms of Judaism are interpretations and one interpretation is not more valid than the other. Might I remind you that Orthodox Judaism was only created as a response to the evolution of Reform Judaism. Might I also remind you that Shulchan Aruch was only written in 1563 CE and had many critics at its time of publication. You and your rabbis don’t have any more claim to Judaism than the next person and their rabbi. I sense that you have a lot of anger towards people who don’t observe Judaism the way you do. I suggest you open up your mind and keep your personal views out of it. Ethiopian Jews, Sephardi Jews, Conservative Jews, and Reform Jews, all have beautiful connections to Judaism and traditions – too bad you can’t see this through your misguided fanaticism.

  26. I am Jewish American. I’d like to make Aliyah, but as I am a businessman that travels around the world, it would be impossible for me to live in Israel for more than a month. Is it possible to make Aliyah and have Israeli citizenship without living in Israel for an extended period of time?

    • That is possible; however, there will be a few months in the beginning where you will not be able to travel outside the country. It will take about 6 months until you get your Israel passport, but you will get a teudat ma’avar after a few months that you can use instead.

  27. I have to say I disagree with you on the who is a Jew issue but I would like some advice regarding Aliyah. I have found a job finally working at the Kotel finally, Baruch Hashem, but I am applying for citizenship within Israel. My interview with the Socnut is on Tuesday but it will take a long time before I obtain final clearance. My job requires me to have permission to work. I went to the Misrod Pninim on Tzion HaMalka but they are only able to give me an appointment for a work visa in October! I spoke to a manager and she told me to speak to some woman who works at the Socnut and report back to her if I have problems with the work visa. But I am still concerned as I have 0 money and I fear losing my job. What should I do to insure getting a work visa.? Thanks and all the best.

    • So you do believe that men who spit on girls (or the men who encourage such behavior) for not dressing modestly enough should represent Judaism and ultimately determine our religion?

      In regards to your question, you could either try being more demanding or prayer.

  28. Do you take questions/advice via email? I’m lost and am seriously considering doing my aliyah.

    • I prefer to answer here for multiple reasons. Many people have the same questions, so it helps other people to have the answers here. If it needs to be offlined we can do that. Hope I can help.

  29. Your blog is very useful, thank you! How long does the conversion process take?

    • It depends on what type of conversion you are doing and where.

  30. Hi again! I have a question. I am going to be 22 this summer and planned on doing the Garin Tzabar Program but learned that it would be 2 years. I have Israeli Citizenship and have an apartment/family in Israel. I was wondering what some of my shorter options for IDF service could be. Going at it alone may be a little overwhelming, hence why I liked Garin Tzabar so much. I wish to go to Grad.School in the US after my time in the IDF. Thanks!!

  31. Hello again Miss Silverman. I have another question. I’ve spoken to my parents about it, and they will support me. Do you know of any Kibbutz which will accept a seventeen year old for a year or more with his parents consent but not with them joining him?

    • Try checking in with Garin Tzabar. Best of luck!

  32. Why is it that the IDF will only take women between the ages of 18 and, what is it, 21?
    I have a friend who says I should join (which is something that I have wanted to do for a while now) yet I from my research, I am too old..I’m 22 years old.
    Is there something I could do? could I possibly volunteer?

    • You won’t be automatically drafted, but you can still go to the drafting office and demand to be drafted. Other women have done it before.

  33. I just made aliyah and have a car that is 3 years old. Is it too old to ship?

    • I don’t know if there is a limit on the age of a car that can be shipped. But depending on what type of car it is, i might make sense to buy one in Israel. i.e. it might really expensive to replace parts in Israel, service, etc.

  34. Hey again. I was just curious from reading many comments here as to why your government does not like having soldiers over 25 joining. I understand you said before one reason is because most officer ranks are filled by women and men in there early 20’s. I understand the two military cultures are different but in Canada it’s respect the rank not the man or woman that wears it if you respect the person with it than that just makes it easier. It doesn’t matter if the person with it is 19 or 20 and you are 30 he or she is wearing the rank for a reason. I’m just more curious why your military enforces this when there are plenty of possible able bodied soldiers over 25. I also understand it’s because of your policies regarding service time like you can only be drafted for a certain amount of time. Has anyone ever tried to suggest the government to alter that in any way? Because it’s all possible right. Just a question more or less and am curious to know your answer because you obviously know more than I do about your own government and armed forces.

    • Sorry just to add I never seen any officers that where 19 in Canada that wasn’t an officer cadet still in training. But I had a captain that was younger than 3 quarters of his troops. I am just always curious to hear about the other side.

      • The fact that soldiers may be older than officers is not the reason that they do no accept older soldiers. It is simply something that I’ve stated happens that many new immigrants are not aware of. Being a 30 year old soldier, under a 19 year old commander can be challenging on many levels. The IDF also works as a leveling force in Israel. Meaning that at 18 years old, no matter what your background is, what your roots are, your socioeconomic standing is, you join the army and are introduced to all types of people. As a social force, it helps for people to be the same age. Another issue is pay. Soldiers receive a base salary of 400 NIS/month (about $100) – soldiers in fighting units receive a bit more. They are able to do this because they still live at home with their parents. Officers make more money as their rank increases. However, I don’t know many 25 year olds that can live on such salary.

  35. I am an American and I live in America. I have a Jewish last name but have not converted as of yet. I am getting really scared about all of this recent terrorism taking place in the West and am wondering if it would be safer these days living in Israel? I’m interested in your thoughts on this. I know there is terrorism in Israel too, but do you think it’s safer there or in the USA right now? Thank you.

    • That is a hard question to answer. There are always threats against Israel and we are situated in a bad neighborhood. I recently heard a quote that it starts with the Jews but it doesn’t end with the Jews – meaning terrorism was first directed at the Jews, but now it has spread to affect the entire rest of the world.

      • You are safer? Depends where in Israel. Tel Aviv very dangerous as there are high speed electric motorcycles on the sidewalk with any license plates. They do not stop if they hit you. I saw an old lady last week get slammed and she went down fast, looked like one leg was shorter then the other. Don’t even attempt Aliyah if you are not fluent in Hebrew. I am here 3 weeks, my medical is in Hebrew and I am unable to fuction not knowing how to speak, read and write. Learn Hebrew then make Aliyah. I was told I could learn it here and thats true but life is not good. Learn Hebrew!!!

  36. hi, i’m from the us and a us military veteran… does that matter for idf draft if i go through aliyah?

    • Age, profile, and marriage status are going to the most relevant.

  37. Hi there. Most probably stupid question. But I have to ask. I am 52 years old. teacher and I seriously think about Aliyah. Maybe that is stupid. Just tell me.

    • Not stupid. There are people that make Aliyah at your age. I suggest talking to Nefesh B’Nefesh regarding possible work options, pension, etc. Just realize it is quite a change on many levels.

  38. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  39. Hello.

    I was born in Turkey. Ode to my mother I’m also Israeli.

    Me, my family and my fiance are planning to make aliyah.

    In June 2016 I will graduate from a University and come to Israel. I will be 23 years old and my fiance will be 25.

    My Fiance is not Israeli. We are planning to get married but we know, we have to serve in the Idf. So I have some questions.

    How soon can we start to serve in the idf?

    How long should we serve?

    Is there any chance for us to stay at home or together?

    Waiting for your answers. Thanks a lot.

    • Neither of you will be drafted to serve in the IDF.

  40. If you are old, 65, have not much money and don’t have family or friends in Israel, Don’t do it! Worst mistake of my life. Death to me now is very possible.

  41. Hello I am a 26 year old Jew, I want to make Aliyah. I have a letter from a rabbi confirming my Judaism The misrad hapnim told me I also need a letter of police clearance from the US. I did some dumb things as a kid and have a couple of non violent misdemeanor convictions on my record , NO felonies though. I also have not been in any trouble with the law in over 5 years. Will these minor transgressions prevent me from making Aliyah?

    • I don’t know. I’ve never encountered this before. Best to talk with an immigration lawyer.

  42. Hello I am a 26 year old Jew . I want to make Aliyah. I have a letter from a rabbi confirming my Judaism . The misrad hapnim told me I need police clearance. I did some dumb things as a kid and have a couple of non violent misdemeanor convictions on my record but NO felonies . I have not been in trouble with law in over 5 years. would these minor transgressions keep me from making Aliyah?

  43. Why does the army say no if u want to join passed the joining age? What is the reason?

    • Multiple reasons. Many are financial, some psychological, etc

  44. Hi,
    Would I get to choose which infantry brigade I want to be in? I know that Tzanchanim recruits members who volunteer, but if I wanted to be in Golani instead, could I “volunteer” for this?

    • You could make a request, but ultimately the army decides.

  45. The whole process of joining the army without going through Garin Tzabar or Taglit Birthright seems really confusing. Are there any organizations that could provide a step by step walkthrough for people not going to the army through any program?

    • Nefesh B’nefesh

  46. How is one recruited into the newly established Oz brigade?

    • I don’t know. You have to meet their requirements I assume.

      • Yes, but seeing as it is a commando brigade, would the gibbush be similar to to special forces gibbush? Or will it be a more vigorous type of infantry brigade gibbush? Because technically it’s an official infantry brigade now.

  47. Hi
    i just wanted to ask something, Mahal is just a way into the idf but many jews go through mahal and do different service times depending on their age do you perhaps know how long the service is for a 21 year old male?

    also, i was told i do not have to do army and that it is my choice at the end of the day if i want or not want to join the idf i have this on paper from the lishkat giyus in Ber sheba

    what i wanted to ask is if i can join The idf through Mahal or garin sabar
    and not have any problems later about someone telling me to do 3 years while i have a paper saying i dont even have to serve at all ?

    • I’m sorry, but I don’t know the answer to this question

  48. How hard is it to become a career soldier in the IDF?

    • It depends on a lot of things – where you are, if there is budget for it, etc. It is not something that I would rely on as a career.

  49. I’m an American Catholic and I recently came back from fighting as a combat soldier in Afghanistan against the Taliban. My wife is Jewish and we’re making aliyah next year. Would I still be able to join the IDF. I have a lot of experience with counter insurgency and I’m a quick learner. Once I learn the language I’m good to go. I’m 26 years old today BTW.

    • Thank you for your service. You would not be drafted into the IDF due to you age.

  50. I’m an American Catholic and I recently came back from fighting in Afghanistan against the Taliban. My wife is Jewish and we’re making aliyah to Israel next year. Would I still be able to join the IDF. I have a lot of experience with counter insurgency and I’m a quick learner. Once I learn the language I’m good. I’m 26 BTW.

    • It is unlikely that you will be able to join the IDF, first and foremost because of your age.

  51. Hello,
    I am making Aliyah in a few months, but I’ve recently met a friend who is a convert to reform Judaism, can she make Aliyah with me? Or does she require orthodox conversion?

    • Yes, she can make aliyah after she has lived in her community for a year. However, I highly suggest that she read my book about this very topic:

      • I want to convert to Judaism. I don’t know if I should choose Conservative or Orthodox? Can I make aliyah years later if I convert to Conservative?. Thank you.

      • Hi Melissa, Yes, you can convert to Judaism in a Conservative ceremony and make aliyah to Israel. Just make sure you are aware of the laws. Israel is unfortunately very discriminatory towards Jews who did not convert with a Rabbi approved by the Rabbinute. For instance, I live in Israel, I am a citizen, and I served in the army, but since the Rabbinute doesn’t recognize my mom’s conversion to Judaism, I don’t have the right to be married in this country. It i a very unfortunate situation that doesn’t reflect Jewish values.

  52. Hi i want to know if you can join în idf with a tattoo on The right hand it îs big. Please answer me.

    • Yes, you can.

  53. So much to say but I can only share a thought for now. I just read your book. A GREAT ONE !! But you are making a big mistake. At the end of the book, you say you moved back to Israel. OMG – that is a huge story that you whittled down to one sentence. YOU HAVE TO WRITE PART 2 !!!!! WE NEED THE REST OF THE STORY !!!

    • Hi Keven! Thanks so much for writing! I really appreciate your kind words and I’m so glad to hear that you liked the book! If you feel like giving a review on Amazon or Goodreads that would mean a lot to me. So, technically, at the end of the book, I did not say I moved back, but I think Uri Regev mentioned it in his afterword. I moved back right as the book was being signed with a publisher so, the book was already complete. I will certainly keep in mind a part 2! 🙂 Thank you again for writing!

  54. Do they polygraph and if so what do they ask?

    • Not that I know of. But the army often does polygraph. Why? What are you planning on lying about?

  55. Shalom. I’m a Philippine resident, 21, male. I’m not Israeli citizen nor Jewish. I consulted this to the IDF spokesperson and it seems they approved me of my interest of becoming an IDF soldier, he sent me links on how I can join. However, the Israel 411 community page also messaged me and it said : ‘you don’t have to be Jewish or Israeli citizen. Do you think the IDF will recruit me easily when I come to Israel?

    • My understanding is that you you either need to be an Israeli citizen or Jewish.

  56. Its a wonderful blog when my Aliyah got declined made me so sad on dec.2017. Every Jewish has right to make Aliyah, is that right? I say no. I have a question here— – Misrad Hapnim declined my Mikvah certificate for a final decision to make Aliyah to Israel then 3 rabbi co-sign on my Mikvah from reform congregration. I wrote a letter to Afula office with my valid Mikvah certificate but they never reply me. What can do now? Is there any posibilities or any way i have to. Make an Aliyah in 2018?

    • Yes, get in touch with IRAC:

      • Agency says contact with Misrad Hapnim then i tried to contact them but nobody response me even i wrote a letter to Afula office 2 months ago to re-consider or re-open my Aliyah case. I believe that everyone of that office should reply me yes or no?

      • Get in touch with IRAC

  57. Are you familiar with Modern orthodox Rabbi Seth Farber? He is involved with an organization that is an alternative to the current Chief Rabbinate conversion process in Israel, complete with their own beit din. I believe they are doing 18 % of conversions now. And the numbers are growing. Sooner or later they will soon win the numbers game and will be the main process for conversions in Israel.

    • Seth Farber may be more progressive than a bunch of 18th century throwbacks on power trips and misogynist tendencies, but he is definitely not progressive. He won’t fight for gay rights. He does not accept or support reform or conservative streams. He is basically theocracy-light.

      • Thank you for giving me more info on Seth – that I had yet to discover. I am with you on this.

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