Why immigrants who don’t learn Hebrew end up leaving
How you can avoid becoming a statistic - and it's easier than you think.
Since before its independence, Israel is a country built by (and for) Jewish immigration, with Hebrew serving as a uniting language for Jews who had arrived from all corners of the world. Fast forward over 70 years and new immigrants are still arriving (20,000 in 2021!). However, these immigrants are landing in a very different Israel - an Israel where everyone speaks English.
It’s pretty easy to get away without learning Hebrew if you’re a young, new immigrant living in Tel Aviv and its surroundings or Jerusalem, or learning some basic phrases to help you ‘get by’ - ordering food at a restaurant or doing your grocery shopping.
Yet when it comes to speaking with someone from the bank, understanding and paying bills, applying for university, job hunting and other important life tasks - such as ordering an air conditioning technician (critical in Israeli summer), getting your way with difficult customer service representatives, or paying your Arnona - a lack of Hebrew can be a huge obstacle.
Furthermore, data and studies show that if you want a ‘successful’ Aliyah with ample job opportunities, a solid friendship circle and integration into the wider society, learning written and spoken Hebrew is essential.
The Center for Aliyah Studies at Ariel University studied the journey of over 100 families making Aliyah from America. Something that kept coming up was the need to speak fluent Hebrew for a successful integration.
“As the majority of the participants in the current study noted, the value of learning Hebrew in preparation or upon arrival in Israel cannot be overstated for academics and social adjustment,” the researchers found.
And what happens if you don’t know Hebrew?
“More than half of the Americans go back, more than half of the Canadians go back. Forty percent of the French go back, and one-third of the Russians and Ukrainians go back,” Liami Larence, the founder of Keep Olim, said in an interview.
By no means is this article meant to scare or intimidate you into knowing Hebrew perfectly or fluently. Moving countries is inherently scary - something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Despite all this, we believe all you need to do is start! Take the first step and enrol in an ulpan that teaches speaking, listening, reading and writing. Do your homework, get out of your comfort zone to practice, and the rest will come.
Once you start, and get a feel for the language, ease into it and enjoy it. Hebrew is a beautiful language and learning it from teachers who love it will give you the knowledge and confidence to build the life you want here in Israel.