Retiring in Israel?

israelAbout a month or so ago, my wife surprised me again. She doesn’t do that very often. After all, we’ve been married for over 35 years, so we know each other pretty well by now. However, after the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting and several other antisemitic incidents that made the news, she said if it gets much worse, she’d consider having us move to Israel.

Yes, you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.

Her making aliyah and having us move to Israel used to be a dream of mine back in the day, but that was a day when our children were still young and we all would have moved together. My wife and I discussed it and I did a bit of research, but life went on and we never seriously pursued it. My passion for living in “the Land” faded over time, and well, that was that.

Until my wife made her rather earth shattering pronouncement.

She hasn’t mentioned it since, and I haven’t seen her do anything else about it, plus, as my mother ages and her memory continues to deteriorate, the missus has seriously discussed moving my Mom up here from southwestern Utah, and I can only imagine that precludes any further discussion of my wife making aliyah.

To be honest, in addition to my Mom, I don’t think I could make myself leave my grandkids. Oh sure, my son (their Dad) is Jewish and he could make aliyah as well, but I don’t see that in his future, and certainly his ex-wife would prevent their two children from leaving the country on a permanent basis because it would severely inhibit her visitation rights.

But retiring to Israel is an interesting thought. I wasn’t going to write about it, but then, I read an article titled Why We Left a Secure Life in the U.S. and Moved to Israel by Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, PhD. Of course, Rabbi Feldman is writing from a Jewish perspective, which doesn’t touch upon what it would be like for a non-Jewish spouse to go through the experience.

I found a news item from 2013 at Haaretz called Does Israel Hassle non-Jewish Spouses?, but it seems more directed at Israeli citizens who marry foreign non-Jews.

At a legal website, I found Aliyah for family members – immigration for non-Jewish nuclear family which was far more informative. The article states in part:

The Law of Return states that “a family member of a Jew” can mean a child or grandchild of a Jew, or the spouse of a Jew, or the child or grandchild to a Jew. The law does not provide for the immigration of other family members, such as siblings or half siblings and grand-grandchildren.

Therefore, if a non-Jewish member of another religion only has a Jewish father, or Jewish grandparents, and does not have a Jewish mother, he or she, would be entitled to immigrate to Israel legally, in accordance with the Law of Return allowing Aliyah for family members. It is important to note that hundreds of thousands of people have made Aliyah to Israel as family members of Jews, despite not being considered Jewish by the law of return, but were eligible for Aliyah as a family member of a Jew.

However, relative to some members of my readership, the article goes on to say:

In fact, in the Supreme Court verdict 2708/06 Steckback v. the Interior Ministry (Court ruling from the 16th of April 2008) it was clearly determined that a Messianic Jew would be entitled to immigrate to Israel, as a family member of a Jew, according to Section 4a(a) of the Law of Return, provided that he or she does not have a Jewish mother.

The same logic would seem to apply to a Messianic Jew/Christian, whose mother converted to Messianic Judaism, or Christianity, or any other religion, before the birth of the person in question. As the mother had converted before the birth of the Aliyah applicant, this individual was not born to a Jewish mother, and would therefore not be defined as a Jew, according to Section 4(b) of the Law of Return.

As I mentioned above, all of this is probably moot. However, my Mom turns 87 this year and although she’s in good physical condition for her age, at some point, she will pass. Also, the grandchildren will grow older, and although I will always love and adore them, they might not need Grandpa and Bubbe as much in ten years. Assuming my wife and I are still alive and healthy then, it’s possible that we may still choose to retire in Israel.

Again, the probability isn’t high, but it’s still non-trivial, so who knows?

But what is life like in Israel for the non-Jewish spouse of a Jew? At this point, I can only wonder.


11 thoughts on “Retiring in Israel?”

      1. It seemed to me the only practical response to your closing question: “But what is life like in Israel for the non-Jewish spouse of a Jew? At this point, I can only wonder.” Now, Pat Irving’s response could be seen as a bit more encouraging, though it must be considered hearsay rather than experiential testimony. Nonetheless, you can do more than wonder — you can actually do research. In fact, it would be only a matter of due diligence to do so — not only in this aspect, but in many more.

        Do I remember correctly that you have never yet even visited Israel? One recommendation offered by aliyah counselors is to make a “pilot trip” to look around and talk to folks who’ve already done what you are contemplating. The experience provides a meaningful basis for family discussions of pros and cons, and identification of issues to resolve beforehand, and even questions of what belongings you might find most practical to bring with you. My wife and I did so fully two years before we actually made aliyah back in 1982, though it was not retirement that we were contemplating at that time. Even before we returned here seven years ago after a long absence, we came briefly on a vacation in order to do house-hunting, because we knew that we would be buying a property to move into rather than renting or staying in some other temporary situation while trying to figure out how to settle in. However, at that time we had much more experience of what to look for and how to arrange for what we would need, based on prior experience in the land. In sum, a preliminary trip is worthwhile, regardless of the ultimate decisions. Perhaps only thus can it be determined just what may become a realistic possibility.

  1. Not sure this provides the response you are seeking…but…a good friend of mine from Sweden married an Israeli Jew years ago. The gentile wife has been treated wonderfully well! Her Jewish husband passed away three years ago….she continues to live in Israel, has many many Jewish friends who care for her deeply. It can work out!

  2. Hi James,
    A non-Jewish friend was considering a move to Israel when she retired. I don’t recall all the particulars, but she wrote to the government there and received a response that she would be welcome.
    Having been to the Land three times, my heart longs to have a home there in order to visit more often (much as the snowbirds do here in south Florida).
    Grandchildren, especially my granddaughter who lives with me part-time, keeps me here full-time. However, I am getting whispers of a move after she graduates high school in 4 years.

    1. My wife and daughter have been there twice and never reported an incident. I’ve got numerous friends, both face-to-face and online who’ve been there and none of them have been caught up in a terrorist incident. One Jewish fellow was out in the countryside at night and was approached by two or three Arab young men, but all they did was talk. If you went with a tour group, you’d probably be fine, and they’d make the arrangements for visiting the various holy sites.

    2. Visiting Israel is safer than visiting many cities elsewhere in the world, particularly large cities like Chicago or Boston; and Israel’s security forces, both military and civilian, keep a significant armed presence in the old city of Jerusalem to ensure the safety of tourists like yourself. We really don’t like it when they don’t feel safe; so we do our very best to provide to them the very best of care. Add to that the protection of a tour-group (safety in numbers, you know), and you really oughtn’t to worry.

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