some tips for the last few months before your aliyah flight
Preparing for aliyah is HARD WORK and the last few months before the flight can be very stressful. No matter how much you want to live in Israel, it’s important to remember that the final stretch is hard for everyone. Besides the innumerable details that need to be attended to, there is also the emotional reality of leaving family and friends behind.
Of course, it's important to realize that none of us are likely to have to ride a camel in the desert for 6 months, cross a hostile border with an armed guard or sail in steerage for 3 weeks to get to Israel. Considering to the price some Jewish people in history have paid for the privilege of making aliyah, we have it comparatively easy.
The following tips for managing the last few months before the aliyah flight have been culled from the recent experience of olim who have just been through the process of disengaging from their lives in America. Please email additional suggestions to make this list even more helpful for others.
ON THE COMPUTER
Make a master list of aliyah-related tasks. Download an Excel spreadsheet To-Do List template (try this one) or make a list with columns:
- Task (e.g., cancel, sell, change address, buy, shred, give away, etc.)
- Whose responsibility?
- Notes – phone numbers, who you spoke to,whether a refund is due, date of last payment, etc.
- Optional categories – priority, current status of each task, etc.
- Join the community list of the community to which you are moving or any communities to which you are considering moving. Jacob Richman of Ma'ale Adumim put together a great list of community mailing lists in English.
- Nefesh b'Nefesh has a very active advice-giving listserv which you can join as soon as you open your aliyah file.
- Use Facebook to connect with people who live in your future community. Ask people in your new community to help you friend others who live nearby.
- Facebook is an especially important tool for older children and teens to connect with friends before they even arrive.
- Send emails or Facebook messages to ask questions about how things are done in your new home, who to call for the sorts of things you’ll need (insurance, plumbing, computer set-up, etc.)
- Find an aliyah buddy – someone already in Israel who knows a lot of what you need to know and who will answer your endless questions and, most importantly, will encourage you when your energy flags.
- Ask, ask, ask.
Consider making digital copies of your family photos to save space.
If your current email address is associated with your Internet Service Provider (e.g. Comcast, Verizon, etc.), consider switching now to a free web-based email address like yahoo.com or gmail.com. Otherwise, your email address and all your contacts will disappear when you cancel your internet service.
Develop a sample budget. Nefesh b’Nefesh has sample budgets for families, singles and retirees. But remember, money is more fungible in Israel than anywhere else in the world.
AROUND THE HOUSE
Take out all cards in your wallet and make a list of what needs to be cancelled (e.g., store memberships, voter registration, library, frequent traveler programs, etc.) Add these tasks to your master list.
As early as possible, make a list based on every important piece of mail you receive. Add these vendors to the master list as a reminder to notify them, cancel them, and/or ask to be removed from their list, or whatever the appropriate action is.
Look through your checkbook and make a list of which bills are paid monthly and annually. Add to master list. Call each vendor (i.e., car and home owner’s insurance, utilities, credit cards, alarm system, mobile phone service, etc.) to arrange for cancellation of services and refund/final payment, including timing. Take notes as you are on each call because you will not be able to remember the details.
Make a list of which publications you receive. Decide whether to cancel subscription, submit a domestic address change or submit an international address change. Addresses for many national publications can be changed online. Some publications will not charge additional postage to mail to Israel for the duration of the subscription but will charge for a new subscription to an international address.
Go through the home room-by-room and make a list of items and what to do with them – send on lift, sell, give to family member, trash, donate/giveaway. Don’t forget small things like hampers, phones, hangers, surge protectors, small kitchen appliances. Add each item, or each category of items, to master list.
Consider prioritizing your list of items:
A - items definitely being taken
B - items definitely not being taken
C – items that might be taken if there is room
Sort household items by category (i.e., sheets, pillows, blankets, tablecloths, Kiddush cups, challah boards, pots, etc.) Decide how many of each category you will take and make a plan to get rid of the rest.
Decide what you need/want to buy in quantity to add to your lift (i.e., OTC medications, Q-tips, non-perishable food, etc.). Add to master list.
Watch the conversion rate and decide what money you can change to shekels now. The Bank of Israel publishes the exchange rate for common currencies. The dollar exchange rate has been hovering around 3.8 NIS.
Start by uncluttering the items that don’t hurt to part with. If you feel a twinge of reluctance over parting with an item and you have the time, set it aside for now. Uncluttering definitely gets easier as your aliyah date approaches.
There are three main ways to get rid of your unneeded household items: sell, throw away or give away.
The most important bit of advice about selling items is to reduce your expectation about what your used goods are worth. Most of us can’t maximize profit and also get rid of excess stuff on a tight timetable. Keep your eye on the goal – the date of your aliyah flight!
If you have time to photograph and list each item separately, you can make the most money.
Luach.com and craigslist.org are good sites for advertising household items for free.
If your shul or local Jewish community has a list (e.g. BaltimoreAchdus), that is also a great place to advertise items for free.
If you have the time and skill, setting up a blog and promoting it on luach.com, on your local community list and with every craigslist.org posting can generate much more income from the sale of your goods than any other method.
Yard sales are a lot of work for relatively little yield. If you have the space, try a basement sale. At least you won’t have to schlep your stuff outside and back in.
eBay consultants will list and sell your items for a percentage of the selling price. This might be worth it for high value items, but not for ordinary stuff.
If you have a few quirky items that might need a national market to find the right buyer, eBay is the place to go if you have experience. If you are just a few months from your aliyah date, this might not be the best time to learn how to sell on eBay. There are more important things that need to get done on a deadline.
It hurts in the beginning, but the feeling of being free of so much excess stuff is very liberating. Consider hiring a local person with a truck or a national company like 1-800-GOT-JUNK or College Hunks Hauling Junk. Expect to pay between $150 and $550 depending on how much junk you have.
Considering combining a yard sale/basement sale with a giveaway. Designate categories of items as freebies and people who come might buy your better quality items if they are priced right.
Are there sentimental things that other people in your family might want to have?
See if there is a freecycle list for your community. Freecycle is “a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns.” If there is a local Freecycle list for your area, you join and send an email to the list with the item or items you want to give away and people respond by email if they are interested. You pick the person you want to get your item and make arrangements for them to pick up, generally at your home. For the most part, I left items outside my house, marked with the person's name. This has two advantages. First, you don't have to coordinate a time to be home. Also, it eliminates any worries you might have about letting strangers into your home.
The major potential glitch with giving things away is getting people to come when they say they will. It’s easy to send an email saying, “I want your item for free,” and another thing entirely to come and get it. Use email to gently nudge.
Some charities will pick up at used household items from your home. Try Purple Heart, Salvation Army, Goodwill, Vietnam Veterans Association, etc. If you’re not sure where to begin, Google “donation pickup [your city]”.
Try to find a newly married couple or someone who is new to your community, coming in as you are leaving. They will be your best “giveaway” customers, especially for little things like hangers, trash cans, wall clocks, etc.
If they are available in your local kosher grocery, buy Israeli food products before you come so you can become familiar with brands and differences in formulas. Ketchup, breakfast cereals, etc. are different enough for a sensitive palate to detect.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the great "Ship-vs-Buy-In-Israel" appliance debate. Ask, ask, ask and then do what feels right in your gut.
Cell phones bought through a carrier are generally locked and will only work with that specific company’s system. However, if you have a cell phone that uses a SIM card, ask your American cell phone provider if your phone is a multi-band phone capable of being used overseas. The two largest cell phone providers in Israel are Cellcom and Orange. 900Mhz frequency is used by Orange and 1800Mhz frequency is used by Cellcom, so those are the bands that the phone has to work with in order to work here. If your phone will work on those frequencies, ask your provider about getting the phone unlocked. T-Mobile was always very good about doing this for us. Many times, we used phones bought and unlocked in America with a local Israeli SIM card. Unlocked phones are also for sale on eBay and at tigerdirect.com.
PREPARING FOR THE LIFT
Separate and clearly mark all items not going on the lift. The packers will pack everything not nailed down and they are FAST!
Since not all moving crews speak English, color code or number each box according to the room it will ultimately belong in and then label each room the day the lift is delivered. It will make the distribution of boxes go more easily and you won't have to move boxes around your new home.
PREPARING FOR THE FLIGHT
On NBN charter flights where everyone on the flight is making aliyah, olim have historically had no trouble taking extra luggage without penalty. The same is not necessarily true of group flights.
Consider packing a few pots, can opener, reusable plastic dishes, silverware, and drink ware so you can have viable meal service before your kitchen gets set up.
Make sure your kids can carry whatever they take on board the flight.
Remember that you will have to learn aspects of how to do almost everything in your adult life all over. Here’s a partial, somewhat random list of the kinds of things I had to learn over again during my first weeks in Israel (but not all in one day!):
- What does it cost to mail a letter within Israel?
- What does an Israeli mailbox look like and where do I find them?
- Where can I get a calendar with local candlelighting times?
- How do I fill a prescription?
- What’s the conversion for anything I know in inches, ounces or Fahrenheit?
- How does the Israeli credit/debit card system work? (Hint: It’s a hybrid unlike anything Americans are used to.)
- Where can I buy [fill-in-the-blank]?
- What bus do I take to get to [fill-in-the-blank]?
- What’s the Israeli version of Lysol, Windex, Ajax, [fill-in-the-blank]?
- Is this a good price for [fill-in-the-blank]?
- How do I write a check in Israel?
- What’s the best cell phone, Internet, insurance, VOIP, [fill-in-the-blank] plan for me?