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American Jews Find Opportunity in Israel

Aug 6, 2012 at 04:45:22 AM

For years, Israel was looked upon as American Jewry's "poor sister," a backwater community in the turbulent Middle East, with a poor economy and tenuous connection to the modern world.

Now, with the American economy slumping and the Israeli economy growing steady, things have taken a dramatic about-face. Suddenly, young American Jews are moving to Israel for – believe it or not – economic opportunity. With an unemployment rate of just 6%, Israel is a sanctuary where engineers, medical professionals, writers and managers are all finding success in the fields of hi-tech, academia and business.

For those not bold enough to make the move independently, many are taking advantage of the Masa program, which offers career training along with free housing and Hebrew classes.

There's another reason young American Jews are coming to Israel: to join the Israeli army. This summer, 350 adventure seekers are "making aliyah," hoping to join one of the elite IDF air force, paratrooper or intelligence units.

The idea of Jews from around the world serving in the IDF is not a new one. The Machal volunteers of 1948, many of them World War II veterans, supplied much-needed combat expertise to the fledgling army. Mickey Marcus was a U.S. Army Colonel who stepped in to help Israel in 1947 and became its first "General"; the story was immortalized in the Kirk Douglas film, "Cast a Giant Shadow."

The notion of young men coming to serve is gaining traction. Over 3,000 "lone soldiers" (i.e. immigrants without family in Israel) currently serve in the IDF.

In terms of long-term stays in Israel, perhaps the biggest group of all are those American Jews who come to Israel each year for a year-long "post-high school" yeshiva experience. Thousands of young men and women come to study, tour and bond with the land. A large percentage stay afterwards, get married and settle permanently in Israel.

Aish Jerusalem offers a wide range of study-and-touring programs, for everyone from beginner to advanced.

This is the new Israel, where the stereotype of picking oranges on a kibbutz has given way to new options: sharpening one's hi-tech skills in Tel Aviv, pouring over the Talmud in Jerusalem, or toting an M-16 in the West Bank. The opportunities are varied and waiting to welcome you.

Published: August 6, 2012


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