Part V: Why they say you need $100K in the bank

One of the things people say to you when you tell them you want to make aliya is “I hope you can afford it, you need at least $100K in the bank”. The answer of course, should always be “Hashem will provide”… right?

So here’s the thing, you can budget up the wazoo, and you’re still going to spend more money than you ever thought possible when it comes to making aliya.

You can spend months working on budget spreadsheets, calculating the cost of your lift, rent, cars, groceries, utilities, incidentals and more. And it will all go to pot once you arrive.

First: The lift. So you pick a 40ft container, you go with the company in your departure country that you feel happy with and you get a price. Everyone tells you don’t worry, you’ll get screwed somewhere. Believe them. You will. Thankfully, the moving company that we worked with were fine to deal with on the US side, and there haven’t really been too many issues on the Israel side, other than that extra two weeks added to the original shipping time… Our lift arrived in the port of Ashdod on Monday, was released from meches (customs) this morning, and God Willing, will be delivered to our apartment Sunday. Thank you God. By that time it will have been almost 5 weeks since we landed. I don’t actually remember what my dishes look like, or how many bottles of nail polish I boxed up (crikey, where on earth am I putting those?!). I don’t remember what it’s like to sleep on a bed, or to have a hamper for dirty laundry. I know I own more clothes than the ones I’ve been wearing for the last 7 weeks, but it will be like going on a big shopping spree when I unpack the wardrobe boxes.
Whatever they tell you that you’ll pay for the lift, you will pay more. There will be the charges on one side, and regardless, there will be charges on the Israel side, and they will be higher than you’re initially told. Deal with it and budget for it.

Second: Rent – presumably, like us, you have a budget for renting and you include utilities. Remember that in Israel you also pay Arnona (municipal taxes) and, if you’re in an apartment building, va’ad bayit (building maintenance). The price of these vary on city and location within the city. Olim Chadashim are entitled to an Arnona discount for one out of the first two years of making aliya – important to know, and must be taken care of at the Municipality of the city in which you live.

Third: Groceries. It’s not that groceries are more expensive in Israel, although some things are. It’s that you will be completely overwhelmed by the grocery stores, and will not know what to buy. You will be so overwhelmed trying to figure out what you are looking for and where to find it, that you are unlikely to remember to price check until you  get to the register and your bill is exorbitant. And allow yourselves at least 2 hours each time you shop at first, because it will take that long to find what you are looking for. Ask locals where they shop for what, and understand that it might be worth it to shop at multiple stores to get better prices.

Fourth: Schools. Yes there is public religious school in Israel. No, you do not pay tuition. However, you have to buy all the text books in addition to school supplies. Text books are expensive. Keep in mind that you can buy used, and it will save some money. By the way, shopping for school supplies was also completely overwhelming. I highly recommend going with a friend who speaks Hebrew, and/or finding a store where you can just hand them the list and ask them to put it all together for you.

Fifth: Transportation – there are many cities in Israel that make it easy to live without a car. Public transport here is fairly decent, and taxis are not outrageously expensive. However, keep in mind, that from time to time, you will need a car. Sometimes it just is not practical to get places without one. So far, we do not have a car, although we do plan to get one. We rely mostly on the local buses, and from time to time taxis. We rented a car for a week to enable us to get a little further and shop for some larger items, and we also rented a small car for a day when we needed to do them same thing a few weeks later. Most grocery stores will deliver – you can shop there, and tell them you want a “mishloach” and then you box it up and they deliver it to your home a few hours later for about the same cost as taking a taxi home, or you can shop online and have it delivered without ever setting foot in the store. The problem with that, is that until you are familiar with what you’re shopping for, it can be tricky to figure out in Hebrew.

I’ve outlined just a few things to consider financially, there are many, many more. If you are looking into purchasing appliances in Israel, do some research ahead of time, keep in mind that they use European sizing here for things such as fridges (measured in liters, not cubic feet), washers & dryers (measured based on weight they hold rather than volume). Also remember that delivery is rarely included in the price, and that Israeli law requires that appliances are installed by a certified technician or the warranty is invalidated. You have to schedule the technician to come out separately to the delivery. So, for example, if you purchase a washing machine and the store can deliver it the next day, keep in mind that the technician may not be able to come the same day, and you won’t be able to use your washer for another couple of days.

So, back to the first line. is $100K enough? There is no answer truthfully. if you have enough money to purchase things outright, good for you. If you don’t, and you need to purchase things in installments (very common in Israel, for everything from groceries to cars), remember that initially the bank will not want to give you a real credit card, and can take up to 3 months before they will issue it. The same goes for checks. They will not give you checks right away. In addition, some appliance stores will not accept foreign credit cards. So, just some more things to keep in mind.

Shabbat shalom from my still spacious apartment, that next week will feel a lot smaller!

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