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Op-Ed: Review: A Financial Guide to Aliyah and Life in Israel

A new book really hits home with advice, information and humor. You can't make it in Israel if you can't laugh - and preferably, at yourself.
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 8:34 PM


As a person who considers himself somewhat obsessed with Aliyah (literally "ascending", used to describe moving to Israel, ed.) and all issues related to living in the Land of Israel, I had to make it my business to read the new book, “A Financial Guide to Aliyah and Life in Israel,” by Baruch (Brent) Labinsky.


The title alone drew me in, but given how much I already knew about Aliyah and the financial considerations, challenges and issues therein, I was skeptical about whether there would be enough in the 230-page book to keep me from rolling my eyes and putting it down – both literally and figuratively.


But Labinsky hits a home run with his Guide, and the positives for the reader happen almost from the very beginning. While many authors of such “How To” volumes insist on the importance of reading from cover-to-cover, Labinsky demonstrates the insight he has into the psyche of Olim (immigrants to Israel, ed.) soon-to-be-Olim, when he suggests, “While some readers may choose to read this book from cover to cover, in order to get a broad overview of the Israeli financial landscape, each chapter has been written as a self-contained unit that can easily be referenced when investigating or reviewing a specific issue.”


Translation: “I know you Olim have a lot going on, so don’t feel like this is an academic work. Use it to help your Aliyah be successful. For some of you, that means reading it completely; for others, it means looking closely as specific chapters.”


From that point, in the introductory chapter entitled, fittingly, “How to Use This Book,” I realized I had in my hands a book designed to help me. From the beginning, this book was not about the author (as many Aliyah-related books tend to be). It was about the reader.


The Guide is divided into 12 highly practical chapters, such as “Should You Sell Your (diaspora) Home?” and “Living on an Israel Salary,” plus a Frequently Asked Questions section and glossary of terms.


What is particularly striking about the book is that it bounces brilliantly between the practical and humorous sides of life in Israel. Labinsky – an Oleh himself – understands some of the truly ridiculous aspects of financial life in Israel, so while the narrative of the Guide is almost completely serious, woven throughout the book are cartoons designed to make it clear to the reader that – as practical as we must be, we also must keep our sense of humor. These cartoons, which address banking, housing, employment and other key financial issues, help the reader to smile his/her way through the often daunting elements contained in the Guide.


The Guide is written in a conversational tone, almost as if the reader is sitting down opposite Labinsky in a financial consultation, so it’s a quick read. But I found myself flipping back and forth throughout the Guide to remind myself of certain points Labinsky raised, while in the midst of other related issues.


"A Financial Guide to Aliyah and Life in Israel is" a fantastic book for Olim and those who want to be Olim. It is also a wonderful gift to give to those in the process of making the big move, and/or those who’ve thought about it in the past, but don’t seem to be “in the game” at this time.
 

I highly recommend it.