I have been encouraging Aliyah a lot lately, but when it comes to the elderly, I recommend that they take my encouragement with a grain of salt. In many cases, I would not advise them to make Aliyah.
For Jews who have lived in exile all their lives, who had a desire to make Aliyah but who put it off indefinitely, for various reasons, until retirement, I regret to say it, but they made a mistake. Unless they are like Abraham (Aliyah at 75) or Moses (attempted Aliyah at over 80), that is not the best time to lead a new life.
Elderly Jews with Israeli children and grandchildren who can look after them in Israel, should certainly come to be with their family. Those who have enough money to live comfortably, and enough Israeli friends and family to provide a support system for them in Israel, should come here if they are adventurous enough. Others should probably stay put and come to visit Israel whenever possible as tourists.
There is little benefit in having elderly Jews burden themselves and the State of Israel with their presence, for them to leave their friends and family, to struggle with the language and social barriers, and to harm themselves economically, all for the sake of Aliyah.
I question whether it is wise for an elderly man or woman to have to retrain themselves and to relearn how to cope with the basic hurdles of life, at a stage in their lives when they are probably in need of extra help, and when they would probably live longer and happier in their countries of origin. In all sincerity, Aliyah might not be the best option for them.
Which is not to say that I would discourage Aliyah, or tell any Jew to give up on his dream of making it to Israel, definitely not. All Jews should live in Israel, in my opinion, particularly those who want to of their own accord, but don’t interpret my encouragement as being directed towards the elderly. They have an exemption from me.
Focus on the Future
All people are tourists on this earth, our presence here is rather temporary. We don’t think of it that way because our children lend us a sense of permanence. We picked up where others left off, and life goes on after us.
You should view my Aliyah encouragement in this context. I am focused on the permanence of Israel. Individually we will all die eventually, wherever we may be. Living in Israel won’t change that for us. What matters is where our children will be after us, for our future to be in Israel.
Our elders do not need to personally make Aliyah to achieve this. As long as their children make Aliyah, it may be counted towards them. They planted their seeds in Israel, in the Land of the living, so their future is in Israel.
This is my expectation of all elderly Jews, that they encourage, help, and send their children and grandchildren to Israel, to ensure their future here and the future of our nation. I make no exceptions in this regard. I pray for all Jews to have a future in Israel.
I venture further to say that our elders have a heightened responsibility in this regard. They are the heads of our families and the ones we look up to. They need to offer us the most encouragement and help, to make sure we have a solid future in Israel.
Once our elderly parents and grandparents achieve this paramount goal, of sending their progeny to Israel and helping ensure their success here, they should naturally want to come and join them as well—a reward well deserved.
May God Give all elderly Jews the strength and vitality to achieve this goal: To merit seeing themselves with their children and grandchildren, and the future generations of their offspring, in Israel. May God grant permanence in the Promised Land to all of Israel.
Yshai Amichai made Aliyah from Los Angeles in 2001, settling in Israel, where he met his wife and where they raise their six children. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org