A common, and justifiable concern for parents considering Aliyah with teen and preteen children, is wondering how the transition will impact them. While many find this as a deterrent for making Aliyah, Liora Jacob, a former resident of Thornhill, Canada says it was for her children’s sake, and future, that she and her husband, Jon, moved their family to Israel.
“For us, Aliyah wasn’t only about “living the dream”. It was about setting up our children and our future generations for a life in Israel.” Says Liora.
The Jacob family has always had a strong connection to Israel. They spent many summers, holidays and even celebrated their son’s bar mitzvah in the holy land. But it was only a year after sending their son, Avi, to high school in Israel that they found themselves in a position to make Aliyah.
“We heard about Naale’s free high school program in Israel from an Israeli friend. Avi, who was going into 10th grade at the time, was really excited about the opportunity to go to high school in Israel.
Naale Elite Academy’s program is fully subsidized including a full scholarship for tuition, free airfare to and from Israel, room and board, health insurance, trips and more. Since its inception more than 16,000 high school students have come to study on the Naale program, with 85% graduating with a full matriculation, an internationally recognized high school diploma. There are a variety of high schools in Naale network, ranging in academic and religious tracks.
“We got in touch with the Canadian Naale representative and started the process of applying for Shaalvim Elite Academy, a religious all boys’ high school in the Naale network.” Says, Liora.
Although even at the point when Avi was boarding the plane to Shaalvim, Liora says their Aliyah plans were more in the hope stage than the actualization stage. The latter formalized quickly from there and a year later the Jacob family was living in Beit Shemesh.
“It was as if all the ducks were lined up for the move, our oldest was graduating high school, our second to youngest was starting high school and our youngest was going into 7th grade, which is when middle school begins in Israel. Between Avi already being in the Israel high school system and our other kids being at stages in life that aligned with transitionary Israeli stages too, we jumped at the opportunity.”
Now, two and a half years later, all four of the Jacob kids are well adjusted to life in Israel. And although Liora confesses to enduring some of the typical Oleh struggles, she believes they are well worth it.
“For me, the language will always be difficult, and I know that. Culturally there are things that are so different from life in Canada and honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to some of them. But I didn’t make Aliyah for me. I did it for my kids, and their kids. So many Jews hold Aliyah as an ideal but for whatever reason they can’t make the move. Whether it’s financial or familial responsibilities or whatever. But at some point if you want your future generations to live an established life in land of their heritage, someone has to bite the bullet. I felt since I could handle it, it was my moral responsibility to do so.”
For anyone considering making Aliyah with adolescent children, Liora recommends setting yourself and your family up for the transition. Whether it’s investing in a piece of property in Israel, sending your teens to high school on a Naale program or learning the language. For the Jacob family, making Aliyah with teens was not only an attainable goal, it’s been a triumphant one.