So I am sure there is an actual name for it, people who make aliyah only to choose a couple of years later to return to their home country. The retention rates for those coming from western countries is awful. This is not to say that is cannot be done but rather it must be a whole lot harder than anyone lets on. I have often thought about it but I feel like I am watching a plague take place, where people just fall one by one.
When I did the kibbutz program, there were people from several countries, I think 14 in fact. But really it could be split into two groups, those from “Western” countries, that being the Americas, Western Europe, South Africa and the non-western countries, mostly former Soviet Union states, Poland, Russia , Belarus. And even on the kibbutz program it was clear, those from Western countries had a super hard time. I even had a harder time then this blog let on to. The kibbutz is a about the greater good, and that is not something many of us, Americans especially, understand or agree with. By the end of the program there was less than a fourth of the westerners who started. Those who did stay had made aliyah.
Yet, it is nearly three years later, and I see facebook postings and twitter feeds declaring they are going “home.” This is astounding to me, as I also considered those who made aliyah to be stronger or braver or simply to have a better reason to do it. It never occurred to me that it would be any other way. And here is the kicker, the non-westerners seem to be doing just fine. Settled in, learned the language and living life in Israel. The westerners are returning home. There are of course one or two exceptions but I would say 75%-85% didn’t make it. It is wrong to label it a failure, they clearly did better than I even dared to try. So what is the problem??
I am reading “My Promised Land” by Ari Shavit, and while I won’t give my review of this book right now, it is very clear that Israel was made out of necessity. A safe haven, and let be honest Westerners as a whole don’t need that. Not only are we safe but we are pretty darn comfortable. Those who were on the kibbutz with me who were from former Soviet Union states, were part of the last generation to be born under communism and old enough to remember it. A from what I read it wasn’t safe or comfortable. And from everything I have seen and heard aliyah is hard, maybe too hard for those used to comfort.
I don’t really know what to make of all this, it saddens me that so many are returning to their home countries. I don’t know how much time it takes to make Israel “home.” Maybe we aren’t all cut out for it but it makes you wonder what does this mean for the future, both Israel’s and that of Jews in the West…