Sunday, September 14, 2014 Elul 19, 5774

Retire to Israel?

May 22, 2014 By:
Deborah Fineblum Raub, JNS
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You’re no longer rushing off to your job, so morning just might find you hiking along the beach, a picnic lunch in your backpack. 

You can enjoy yourself, worry-free, knowing your new home is in a community with terrific public transportation and access to shopping, theaters, recreation, universities and synagogues of every stripe. What’s more, you have your health insurance squared away and your retirement income more than takes care of your expenses. 

And if you have questions about your new community, help is but a phone call or email away. You breathe in the sea air and text a friend back in your old hometown: “Wish you were here.”

Expecting those “early bird specials” and alligators lurking in the gutters? Nope. It’s not a Florida beach you’re strolling along. You’ve just retired to Israel.

For a growing number of baby boomers and older folks, too, Israel is the Promised Land for retirement. Whether they’ve got kids (and as often as not grandkids) already there, or they’re finally living out their own Israel dream deferred, they’re making plans and making their move.

Avigail Buiumsohn is a retirement expert for Nefesh B’Nefesh (www.nbn.org.il). Though based in Israel, she spends large chunks of her time presenting to groups of English-speaking prospective retirees. These seminars are popular. 

Arriving at one in Boston last winter a mere 10 minutes late, a friend and I were lucky to find seats. And the crowd was serious, judging by the 30 minutes of questions they lobbed at the end of Buiumsohn’s presentation.

“They are serious,” she agreed. “The children are grown and their careers are winding down, plus they’re still young enough to enjoy themselves, so now is their chance.”

What’s more, many of today’s seniors are still employed, either full- or part-time, and they arrange to telecommute after they make aliyah. This puts them in the enviable position of earning dollars but spending them in a shekel-based economy.

For every grandparent who joins the kids in Israel, another racks up the frequent flyer miles coming back to the States for school vacations, putting in plenty of Skype hours in between. Others pay to have the kids flown over in the summer, giving the grandkids the opportunity to live in Israel for weeks or months at a time and pick up the kind of real-live Hebrew they could never learn in religious or day school back home.

When Larry Woznica made aliyah from Toronto, he had every intention of retiring — until Nefesh B’Nefesh offered him a job he couldn’t refuse. “But whether or not you work, this is an amazing place for people our age,” he said. “There’s so much to do and the services are terrific.” 

A bonus for Woznica: He just became a grandfather for the first time, and the baby lives in Israel.  

Buiumsohn said Nefesh B’Nefesh works to make the transition and integration into Israeli society as painless as possible.

In fact, the most frequent comment Buiumsohn said he hears from the over-60 olim is “if I had known how good it was going to be, I would have come much earlier.”

This article originally appeared in The Good Life, a Jewish Exponent supplement.

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