Personal / Travel / Uncategorized

Struggles Of An Immigrant

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Dear Friend,

I don’t need to tell you how much I love Israel; you already know that. You know how deeply seeded my love is for my culture and religion, and to live in the country of my people brings me a sense of joy that is virtually unmatched. But my thoughts have been unsettled for a while, and recently I find my mind wandering back to the idea of living in the West, at least for some time.

I don’t want to leave, but at the same time I find myself asking if I can afford to stay. I miss home terribly but at the same time the thought of leaving Israel pains me to the core. I wish you were here to give me advice, or at least to let me talk through my feelings until the right answer magically presented itself…The more I think about it the more I’m not sure if a right answer even exists.

My unease is really attributed to two things, which are, unfortunately, too large and important to ignore: Education and Money…

I’ll begin with the more pressing of the two issues: Education. You of all people know how much I want to get my degree and become “Dr. Pepper”, but the more I try to make my educational endeavors fit within Israel, the more I feel that it is taking me farther away from my goals. Unfortunately, in this country, if you don’t have a very specific first degree in the field you want to go into, you can not advance to get a masters degree in that field, unlike in the United States. For example, I would like to go into the field of clinical psychology/psychotherapy but can not do that here unless I go all the way back to the beginning and get a first degree in Psychology… So what, my BA in Cognitive Sciences from Berkeley is worth nothing?!?! I wasted 4 years! I think not. This would never be a problem in America. In America there are people in Medical School who have first degrees in English Lit for goodness sake! I’m not getting any younger. I don’t have 5-7 more years to dedicate to education only to end up where I can get in 2 years or less if I return to the states.

Then there is the language issue. I am connected to people who have lived here in Israel for many, many years (10+ years) who look at me like I’m insane to think that I will be able to study and get any kind of degree in Hebrew. I think, unfortunately, they might be right. For example, Stephane, who studies in Hebrew, has been speaking the language his entire life and even he struggles at times. I only began my study of Hebrew 2 years ago, and though I am ambitious there are limits. Most of the immigrants I know who are studying here, at the very least, had continuous exposure to the language from a very young age, and even some of them choose to study in English instead. Unfortunately no degree that interests me is offered in my native tongue here. I may have learned the alphabet and how to read when I was little, but that was the extent of my Hebrew knowledge until I made Aliyah 2 years ago. Truthfully I think I’m doing REALLY well for being so new to the language, but it’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

Then there is money. Now, I have to begin by saying that I am very lucky to be earning the salary that I do, because the salaries, on average, in Israel are horrendous. On average, families in Israel (2 income homes) earn less than $3,500/month combined, and with rent, bills, HIGH taxes (we are a socialized country), expenses for children or pets, etc. you almost can’t survive. Many adults I know rely on parental help, and these are people in their late 30‘s and 40‘s with families of their own. Thankfully I don’t have children yet, and I happen to work for a wonderful company, but because they are so new on the market the salaries just aren’t there yet, and I’m finding myself struggling in the same boat that many new immigrants find themselves in financially. Though I do consider myself one of the lucky ones, is it enough? When I compare my salary with what others in Israel make I can’t, in all good conscience, complain too much, but when I look at what I could be making in a comparable position in America I want to fall on the floor crying. It’s really no surprise that so many new immigrants end up leaving when you see the salaries you can make in the States or Europe compared with Israel.

Based on some research, I found that a Social Media/Community manager + Content and Copywriter in a big city like New York, LA, or Chicago can make, on average, about $40-45,000 a year to start. That comes to about $22 dollars an hour, which is a very respectable salary for someone who is an integral part of a company’s marketing team. Here in Israel I make about $2,000 a month, and I work 45 hours a week (unlike the typical 40 hour work week in the USA). That comes out to about $11 an hour, which might not seem so bad if it weren’t for the fact that prices in Tel Aviv for things like rent, bills, and food rival that of New York City.

My rent alone is about $900/month (not including all bills), and then you have to figure about $400-500 a month goes towards food (this is based on my last month’s budget that I recorded, and those of you who know me know that I don’t eat very much), and then you have to figure another couple of hundred dollars for bills (internet, cable, electricity, wanter, city taxes). So, I am looking at earnings of $2,000 a month with expenses of about $1,600 a month. This now leaves me with about $400 or so for things like unexpected emergencies, clothes, and any extra things I might want to do for fun… And savings??? FORGET IT! Saving isn’t a word that is used much here… O, I also forgot to mention that I live with 2 other people, meaning that this is the cost of splitting expenses 3 ways… I’m not even able to afford the luxury of living alone unless I want to live in a box, or an area I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Of course I could move out of Tel Aviv, but expenses wouldn’t drop dramatically enough to make it worth the move, plus public transportation is awful, mostly unreliable, and I really don’t feel like adding a 3 hour commute each day on top of an already long 9 hour work day. A car is also out of the question. Not only can I not afford one, but even if I could I certainly wouldn’t want to drive it anywhere near Tel Aviv.

It’s very tough. On one hand I imagine a much easier life in the states, where with the snap of my fingers I can get the kind of education I want, and at least have a fighting chance of making the kind of salary that I feel is reasonable based on my experience and education, but on the other hand I love my life here even with the struggles. Israel is my home, and if I ever did go back to the states I don’t think it would be forever. The thought of never returning here causes me unimaginable pain, but at the same time there are certain luxuries I don’t know if I’m willing to sacrifice. I want to own a home, I want to have a car, I want to travel, and with all of that I still want to be able to save some money for things like my future children’s education. I wish you were here to tell me what to do, but I know this is another one of those “adult” decisions that I have to make on my own. Luckily Stephane has been a huge support in all of this, and has assured me that if it ever came to the point where I needed to leave, he would be there by my side, because no matter where I go, no place is home if he is not there.

On a happier note my boss just approved vacation time for Passover, and Stephane and I are finally going to go to Paris! My dream of seeing Europe is finally happening, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to spend 11 fantastic days in France. I know you would be so excited about this if you were here!

Eiffel-Tower-Paris-France

I miss you every second of every day and love you beyond measure

Until we meet again <3,

Jordana Simone

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