Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Teves 5762 - December 19, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Retirement in Israel: Is It For You?

by M. Samsonowitz

Advantages and Disadvantages

Part III


We continue with more of the positive things that those of retirement age have found in life in Israel today. Some of these are relevant to everyone, and others are just for those of retirement age.

The Spirituality is Tangible

The C.'s had lived in Lakewood and Rabbi C. had engaged in full-time Torah study before they moved to Israel, but Mrs. C. says the move has affected them in ways that were inconceivable to them before.

"My life would have been so different if I stayed in the States. I couldn't believe it the first time I went back. I didn't realize what a low spiritual level the States is on. Every time we go back, we say to each other, `Boruch Hashem, we didn't stay here.'

"Our goals and dreams would have been much lower. We see our friends still struggling with materialism and we are shocked at the torpid state of general morality. We have that problem here in Israel too, but it's not considered the norm and it's much easier to cut oneself off from it by simply not listening to the radio and not reading the secular newspapers. Materialism is a major ideal in the U.S., while here the ideal is to emulate and become close with those who lead truly spiritual lives.

"I felt so dragged down when I went back to the U.S. People there looked to me as if they're living in some unreal dream world -- and everyone I know who moved here had the same reaction when they went back. I couldn't wait to come back to Jerusalem."

Yom Tov Treats

Many of the retirees mentioned the special atmosphere of Jerusalem which one particularly feels in the air on erev Shabbos and holidays.

A congregant of Rabbi Gross's who made aliya, told him at the end of the first year, "Here you can really know what a yom tov is."

The universal preoccupation with succahs, schach and esrogim and everything else that has to do with an upcoming holy day, envelopes a person and heightens his Jewish identity. "Is it possible not to know when Shabbos is in Eretz Yisroel?" asks Rabbi Gross. "Even those who drive a car on Shabbos know they have to take a different route because it's Shabbos."

One retiree explains that if he would have retired in the U.S., he wouldn't have experienced the special atmosphere of Shabbos and Yom Tov tranquility that prevails in Jerusalem. "Walking to the Kosel on Shavuos night . . . going to the vosikin minyan at the Kosel -- it all boils down to the feeling that you're closer to Hashem and in His hands."

Another retiree explains, "One's opportunity to carry out mitzvos is far greater in Israel too. I just attended a pidyon petter chamor three weeks ago. I never saw it performed in the U.S., but here we saw it for the first time. In Jerusalem there are groups of people who together work on the logistics of fulfilling difficult mitzvos, such as giving the kohanim's presents to them, shiluach haken, and others. Where else does one have this?"

Mrs. C. mentions that she discovered how Jerusalem is filled with special people all over the city, "even in our corner.

"You just don't have the same concentration elsewhere of so many sincere and intensely religious tzadikim. When we moved to our neighborhood, we didn't expect to find anyone besides ordinary people, but I discovered a couple of doors down a woman who is an unqualified tzadeikes.

"Jerusalem is so full of kedushoh that it's got to rub off, even if you don't do anything."

Volunteering for Chesed Organizations

Studying is only one aspect of the spiritual life that Jerusalem has to offer. There is another aspect in which Jerusalem offers unparalleled opportunities -- the wide range of chesed activities.

There is a tremendous range of available activity for elderly people: in orphanages, hospitals, and charity organizations for the poor, soldiers, handicapped, and more.

Yad Sarah is one national organization that has 3,000 volunteers working for it in a range of activities. A large percentage of these are elderly. They need volunteers to: work directly with the handicapped or visit with the sick in their homes, work with the disabled in a rehabilitation center, man their emergency hotline, work with and repair the organization's large inventory of medical equipment, and to help the organization with public relations and its accounting.

Mr. David Rottner, the spokesman for Yad Sara (Tel. (02) 644- 4444), says that the organization's bookkeeper, its main accountant and comptroller, photographer and graphic artist are all volunteers. Many of the volunteers are retirees and immigrants from abroad. The organization just started a mobile dental clinic for the benefit of home-bound Jerusalemites -- which is manned by eleven dentists who have volunteered their services together with their assistants.

Jerusalem has a wealth of medical volunteer organizations such as Yad Ezra, Ezer Mitzion, Kav Lechayim, Zichron Menachem, and dozens more, all of which are based primarily on volunteers.

A look at the Chareidi Directory published yearly in Hebrew shows about 340 charity organizations listed in Jerusalem alone, and many of these would be thrilled to get more volunteers. A Hebrew weekly runs an entire page on organizations that are seeking volunteers to help them with their charity activities.

Mrs. Citron volunteered to man the gift shop in the Bikur Cholim hospital. She also volunteered to run the Torah Tape library affiliated with Aish Hatorah in the Old City and today, she is one of the ranking workers there, who is urgently on call during the rush season in the summer. She works three days a week, between three and six hours each day.

Mrs. Sara Feige F. didn't join chesed organizations when she moved to Beitar in 1992 -- she became the moving force in creating many of them.

"When you come to a new community, you're able to do anything. So I started a Bikur Cholim society, and helped prepare the program for it. For instance, if a child is in the hospital and attended by his parents, we provide cleaning help for the family, and we have a catering place send in meals." She also co-founded the English-speaking Beitar Neshei. One of the programs she helped create was a "crisis committee" to help families who were under pressure because of serious illness. The Neshei also sends food to mothers who have given birth.

Hearing all of her creative ideas, it's impossible to believe that Mrs. F. is a retiree on a pension. Her latest project is a new committee which she calls the Hachnosas Kallah Information Service. Aware that immigrants from abroad often lack close family to provide them with advice, she compiled an information database which advises people who are marrying off their children how to put together a wedding. The group also makes bridal showers for kallahs. The group has entered into negotiations with certain companies to enable them to buy appliances and other important items wholesale for new couples.

Mrs. F. modestly adds that another Anglo-Saxon family in Beitar founded a "bris" organization for the English- speaking community. The inventive father of this family used to be a chef in a large Jerusalem institution, and now that he is retired, he undertakes to provide catering for a circumcision party at rock-bottom cost. Further savings are provided by the volunteers who serve the food.

Mrs. F. has other ideas up her sleeve besides chesed committees. Right now she started an innovative new project called "Daughters of the Baal Shem Tov" which had its kickoff meeting on 18 Elul, the yahrtzeit of the Baal Shem Tov. Organizing Anglo-Saxon women from 11 different chassidic groups, each chassidic group undertakes to provide formal entertainment and a program for the others one evening each month, with the stated goal to increase achdus between the participants. The first event was a Breslover evening and Mrs. F. hopes that 40-50 participants will continue to show up.

Private Chesed Initiatives

In addition to the many opportunities for volunteer work with organizations, because of Jerusalem's position as the world center for Jewish education, there are endless opportunities for private initiatives. Retirees often host yeshiva students and seminary girls from the dozens of institutions located in Jerusalem. The TLC which individuals shower on their young acquaintances sometimes leave an impact on them for the rest of their lives.

Mrs. C. says, "We have a sense of being grandparents to the boys who have come to learn in the yeshiva where my husband studies. It's like we get a new generation of bochurim to grandmother and grandfather every year. The mashgiach told us, `You cannot imagine how much Torah you are imbuing a bochur with, when you have him at your Shabbos tish. When you open your heart and home to a bochur, you're giving him a whole new impetus in life.' We feel as if we're making a real contribution, and it also keeps us young.

"In fact, my husband is so active with the bochurim and the avreichim in kollel, when he comes home and looks at the mirror, he can't believe it's he."

One lady who made aliya a few years ago lives on Sorotzkin Street. Every Shabbos, she has between 25 and 30 people, mostly yeshiva students, eating at her table. She works a whole week to prepare a delicious meal for her hungry students -- and she's the happiest person in the world. Although all her children live in the States, she's very content with her life.

Not all retirees are looking for a busy life where they are on the go for most of the day. Many find a quiet, home existence equally fulfilling.

One retiree says that she spends almost all of her time at home reading, learning, writing, and thinking. She and her husband study together a lot, and they relish the peace of mind and time which they've achieved at this period in their life. "Rabbi Miller told us: If you really want to do chesed, it will come to you. That's what happens now. Things do come my way. But I feel very productive just at home."

Mrs. S. says, "Since I married, I always did the housekeeping, and it's no different now. I'm not a modern woman with ideas of outside activities. I do shopping and cleaning. I attend no courses and have no social life. My family keeps me busy. As we're getting older and the children's families are growing larger, we have them over less. But this is what I want. I live a very contented life."

Disadvantages Of Moving To Israel

Odds and Ends

Despite the fact that most of the seniors we interviewed were satisfied with their life in Israel, we tried to find out those things which they found difficult, and which burdened their adaptation to Israel.

These were the items we heard:

The Lack of Politeness

Everyone "knows" how brash and insensitive some Israelis are. People raised in Western society where an external veneer of etiquette is expected, find the discourteousness very annoying. Nonetheless it is certainly true that there are unmannered people outside of Israel and extremely well- mannered people in Israel.

Some immigrants say that they found that, especially in chareidi neighborhoods of Israel, the level of courtesy and consideration is at least as high as anywhere else.

One person mentioned that despite being rude, Israelis are at the same time very caring.

Mrs. F. says that people claim that Israelis are ill- mannered, but she'd rather live among rude Jews than among polite antisemites. She claims that her husband knows how to soften even rude government officials.

Poor Service

If one expects things to run like clockwork, or that he'll get the full range of services that a city is supposed to provide, he may be in for some disappointment. But this is often true all over the world.

Mr. R., who lives in Kiryat Sefer, says, "I'm a little activist here, but it's like banging your head against the wall. We're here six years during which time they have not done a thing for our street: no benches, no shrubbery, no shade from the sun in the park, no parking, no curb paintings, no crosswalks! I wrote letters to the council, and I even spent my own money to send them letters in Hebrew. It's like talking to the wall.

"Frankly, the whole mentality is difficult for me. I have a love-hate relationship with the country. Being in management all my life, it's hard to see things not get done."

Inadequate Customer Service

Mr. R. has something to say about this too. "Being an American, I naturally don't stand for it. I have not once bought an item without problems. We bought furniture in three different places and every furniture place gave us problems. They misrepresented what they were selling us and their support service was very bad. Neither are they respectful when you try to speak to them about a problem.

"Here's a story which happened to me which shows you the Israeli frame of mind: The washing machine service told us the technician would come at 2, and when he hadn't come by 3, I called them up and asked why he isn't here. They told me, `Ask him when he comes.'"

Cold in the Winter

As we wrote above, to a large degree this depends on how well your apartment is heated. You can always buy supplemental heating appliances.

Specialty Goods

"I miss getting a good suit. Every suit I have bought here falls apart in no time."

"I miss a good corned beef sandwich."

Litter All Over

Israelis tend to have spotless homes inside but don't mind dirty sidewalks and streets. Chutznikim are often the opposite. Chutznikim are very bothered by the paper wrappers, cigarette butts, and other litter which Israelis casually drop on the sidewalk or the street as they walk by. Neighborhoods with a large number of children tend to be the worst offenders, and neighborhoods with a large percentage of Anglo-Saxons are better. The rare exception is Beitar, whose council head has an obsession for cleanliness. It is meticulously clean.

Periodically, the municipal sanitation men strike for pay hikes, and then Jerusalemites discover how much worse it can get. It is not a heartwarming sight.

One retiree said he was constantly fighting with his neighbors over the dirty halls in their apartment building.


Noise is ubiquitous in Jerusalem. Buses are rumbling by at all hours, planes are in the air, construction is going on somewhere nearby, drivers are always honking their horns, and people shout at all hours of night and day. This cacophony is particularly felt when you step out of your home, but you may have the bad luck of living near a school, shopping area, or construction area. Communities in other countries are also noisy.

Seeing Jews who Transgress Judaism

Mrs. C. says, "We were warned that seeing chilul Shabbos by non-frum people would be painful, but we weren't prepared for how painful it really is."

Mr. R. mentioned, "When I first came here and saw girls in army uniform, I was bothered. I felt as bad as if I saw my daughter."


Bituach Leumi is a very important subject for all olim, and we would recommend that the following paragraphs be read carefully.

Bituach Leumi starts out as the Israeli equivalent of the Social Security Administration, but it gives far more comprehensive services than does the U.S. Social Security. Bituach Leumi allocates the funding for all the benefits which the State allocates to its citizens, and not just job- related pensions and benefits.

Because huge sums go through its hands every month, Bituach Leumi is run very efficiently, and its rules and regulations are carefully implemented. Here are some of the benefits which every oleh gets according to the law:

Retirement Pension and Guaranteed Income -- Who is Eligible

Mr. Shlomo Ashkenazy (Tel. (02)670-9278) of the Insurance Dept. of Bituach Leumi provided the following information.

* When an Israeli woman reaches 60 and an Israeli man 65, they become eligible to receive a monthly retirement pension irrespective of their financial status.

* Olim who arrive before the age of 60 are also eligible to receive this retirement pension, even though they have not paid into the system during the previous years as have Israelis.

* Olim over the age of 60 are not automatically given this right. If they became Israeli citizens based on the criteria of the Law of Return however, they may be granted this pension (which will be called instead Kitzvas Zikna Meyuchedet -- a special retirement pension) depending on if their monthly income and pension from abroad is sufficient.

If their pension from abroad is higher than the Israeli retirement pension, they will not be eligible for an Israeli retirement pension or health coverage by Bituach Leumi and will have to pay for their own medical insurance at a rate similar to what other Israelis pay. The cost they will have to pay the State for medical coverage is still significantly lower than private health insurance abroad. One retiree told us he pays a little over $1,000 a year for full health services.

* Even if one didn't become an oleh, he can still obtain certain Bituach Leumi benefits. However, his benefits will be substantially limited and will not include nursing benefits, stipend for family members after he passes away, and others.

* Returning Israelis are considered like Israelis regarding Bituach Leumi, and they receive the same allocations that Israelis get irrespective of their income or their payment into the system.

Retirement Pension and Guaranteed Income Payments

Although there are of course many details involved in determining whether and how much of an Israeli retirement pension one is eligible for, we are bringing here the broad outlines. Readers should be advised that this is not an official publication of Bituach Leumi and also that the rules and regulations are subject to change. They should seek guidance from a knowledgeable counselor before making important commitments.

Every Israeli retiree or oleh who came before the age of 60 will get the Retirement Pension no matter what his income is. Where the wife was under 60 and the husband was over 60, the woman will be fully insured by Bituach Leumi like every other Israeli, and after 60 she gets a Retirement Pension regardless of whatever other income she has.

Whether a couple gets Guaranteed Minimum Income payments depends on what other sources of income they have. The following information was provided by Mrs. Ruth Pinto, of the Retirement Department of Bituach Leumi.

The Israeli retirement pension for A COUPLE is 1,671 new shekels ($390) and the Guaranteed Income is another 1,184 ($275) for a total of 2,795 new shekels ($665). A retirement- age couple who has no other pension or income will be eligible to receive these two sums from Bituach Leumi monthly to live on. They can receive an additional 1,184 new shekels ($275) per month from other sources without having their Retirement Pension and Guaranteed Income payments deducted, to reach a total of 3,979 shekels a month ($940).

However, if they have an income of MORE than an additional 1,184 NIS per month, the amount of 1,184 NIS is subtracted from that amount, and they are paid only the Retirement Pension (1,671 NIS) plus the amount left over after the NIS 1,184 was deducted. For example, if a couple has NIS 2,000 income, Bituach Leumi will deduct 1,184 from that amount (= NIS 816), and then subtract the NIS 816 from 2,795 = NIS 1,979. The retirees will then have their NIS 2,000 income plus NIS 1,979 coming in from Bituach Leumi.

A person whose monthly income is NIS 2,308 ($543) OR MORE, will only receive a Retirement Pension of NIS 1,671. Bituach Leumi deducts NIS 1,184 from the NIS 2,308 income, which leaves NIS 1,124. The NIS 1,124 is then deducted from NIS 2,795, leaving NIS 1,671, which is the Retirement Pension guaranteed to every Israeli irrespective of his income. A person with a higher monthly income than NIS 2,308 is thus ineligible for the Guaranteed Income, and is only eligible for the Retirement Pension.

For olim who arrived AFTER the age of 60 (for women) or 65 (for men):

If their monthly income equals up to NIS 2,795 ($660), they are still eligible for the NIS 1,671 Retirement Pension. But if their monthly income is even more, the amount above NIS 2,795 will have the Retirement Pension sum of NIS 1,671 deducted from it and the amount left is the amount of Retirement Pension they will receive.

For instance, if a couple has NIS 3,795 monthly income, the NIS 1,000 above NIS 2,795 will be deducted from NIS 1,671, equaling NIS 671. They will only receive NIS 671 from Bituach Leumi. If the couple have a monthly income above NIS 4,400 ($1,023), they will not be eligible to receive the Retirement Pension.

It's almost impossible for American retirees to get the Guaranteed Minimum Income because the lowest Social Security payment is already above the NIS 2,308 threshold. Most Americans who make aliya over the retirement age of 60 for women or 65 for men would probably not be eligible for the Retirement Pension either, since most couples receive more than $1,023 from their combined private pensions and Social Security payments. Next week we plan to print general information about income and expenses for retirement living in Israel.

Medical Insurance Payments (Demai Bituach Briyut)

The cost for receiving medical insurance and belonging to one of the HMOs is paid to Bituach Leumi. For a couple who gets both the Retirement Pension and the Guaranteed Income, the cost is only NIS 84 per couple ($20). If the couple are only eligible for the Retirement Pension, their cost is even higher: NIS 227 ($53). If the couple are not eligible for either the Retirement Pension or the Guaranteed Income, their cost is generally 4.8 percent of their monthly income. However, olim are exempt from payment for the first year after they made aliya, irrespective of their age.

Registering for Bituach Leumi

A person can register with Bituach Leumi to get these benefits only after he has settled in Israel and can prove that Israel is now his main residence. It is not enough to own or rent an apartment. He must furnish proof that he is living in Israel, i.e. by showing that he is working here, has an active bank account, has sent his furniture in a shipment to Israel, utilities bills, etc. When he comes to register at a Bituach Leumi office, he must bring his oleh identity card.

If one leaves Israel, he loses all his Bituach Leumi rights.

Israel's International Treaties Affecting Bituach Leumi Payments

EUROPE: Israel has a treaty with England, France and other selected countries in Europe concerning the pension rights of citizens who leave these countries for Israel. Whatever pension a person would have been eligible for in England or France, will be paid to him by Israel. (For French olim, this only applies to salaried workers.)

Thus, if an English Jew makes aliya at the age of 61, he will receive the same pension from Israel when he reaches the age of 65 as he would have received from England.

U.S.: Israel does not have an official agreement of this kind with the U.S. However, they do have an agreement that the U.S. will continue to pay Social Security payments to Americans who settle in Israel. (In contrast, Israelis who settle in the U.S. forfeit their Bituach Leumi payments.)

CANADA: Israel has no treaty with Canada. A Canadian Jew who settles in Israel at 61, will not be eligible for any Retirement Pension if his monthly income is above the minimum threshold, nor will he receive Canadian retirement payments that he would have been eligible for.

Other Bituach Leumi Benefits for Retirees

Relative's Allowance

If one's husband or wife passed away and he/she made aliya before the age of 60, the surviving mate is eligible for the Relative's Allowance, which is a minimum NIS 1,114.

If the husband or wife made aliya over the age of 60, Bituach Leumi checks the remaining mate's income according to 2/3 of the criteria for couples which was mentioned above. If the remaining mate has as income of at least 2/3 of $1,023, he is ineligible for this benefit.

If the wife was under 60 when the couple became olim, the husband can get the Relative's Allowance if he has a low income.

Nursing Care

In keeping with the Community Long-Term Care Insurance Law, one who needs help in caring for his everyday needs such as feeding, washing, and dressing is provided with a home aide for a fixed number of hours per week. If the person needs to be hospitalized in a nursing home, Bituach Leumi will also provide him with this care. However, Bituach Leumi will require that he share in the expenses according to his means.


Bituach Leumi pays the full burial expenses for Israelis, olim and even tourists who die in Israel. If the family is willing to take whatever plot that the Chevra Kadisha gives the niftar, they don't have to pay a cent.

However, if one wants to buy a special cemetery plot while he is still alive, or if his relatives want to buy a special cemetery plot for him, or if a surviving spouse wants to buy the place right next to the deceased mate, they have to pay a fee which was just recently fixed in law (about NIS 11,000 ($2588) in Jerusalem, and less in other cities). If he or his relatives want a monument erected over his grave, that is a separate cost.


The abundance of gemachs and the wide range of services which are run by worthy individuals in the religious community in many cases free of cost, further reduces the cost of living and provides important needs.

Here is just a short list of such services with many, many more available. Putting one on the list or leaving it off is not a statement of special approval or disapproval.

1. Ezras Torah of America helps all bnei Torah including needy retirees. They give loans to past and present yeshivaleit to cover their yom tov needs or to marry off their children. Applicants have to bring a recommendation from a rabbi and collateral. They also have a regular gemach. Tel. (02)581-0714

2. Misgav Lekashish -- a commercial, agency that provides home care, foreign workers, rehabilitative equipment for the elderly and sick. (02) 537-7774

3. Mishan Lecholeh -- arrangements for placement in senior citizen homes, home meals, many other activities. (02) 537-7711, (02) 500-3508

4. Simchat Netzurim -- (02) 538-4154, (02) 537-7108 -- entertainers and musicians who visit the sick in hospitals.

5. Yad Sara -- all the help and equipment that an elderly or sick person may need. A very large, national Israeli organization. (02) 644-4430

6. Magen LeCholeh -- medical consultation for all kinds of conditions. Rabbi Benny Fisher. (02) 643-3474. (Also: Ezra Umarpeh - 03-577-7000, Refuah VeChaim Vizhnitz -- 03-674-1122, Kav Lechayim for cancer patients and CF patients -- (02) 643-2333)

7. Simcha Umazor -- reduced dental care. (02) 571- 5515.

8. Chevrat Mitzvos Nadiros -- helps every Jew to perform rare mitzvos like petter chamor, shiluach haken, certain matanos kehuna, etc. (02) 581- 0185

9. Hachnosas Orchim Rashbi - free food provided when visiting the grave site of Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) in Meiron. (02) 571-3820, (04) 698-0797.

10. Committee to Observe Shabbos -- promotes observance of Shabbos privately and publicly. (03) 538- 4948.

Gemachs of every imaginable kind are available throughout Jerusalem. Medical equipment gemachs are located in every neighborhood and are too numerous to mention by name. Other gemachs: low chairs and other necessities for mourning, food for simchas, food for the needy, food for hospital visitors, moving boxes, used clothes, English and American stamps, Dead Sea mud, sewing patterns, hosting guests, hosting guests near hospitals, transporting invalids, wedding needs, health food and vitamins, talleisim, telephone cards, cell phones, form letters, burners, tools, banquet dishes, tables and chairs, playpens, fans, loudspeakers, baby paraphernalia, suitcases, mezuzas, mattresses, partitions, computers, water urns, folding beds, microwaves, haircutting equipment, inhalers, sewing machines, tablecloths, cameras, blankets, projectors, fridges and freezers, toys, glasses, candles, segulot, ladders, pots, sifrei Torah, books, cribs, film, Shabbos hot plates, Shabbos candlesticks, furniture, vacuum cleaners, American stamps, work tools and more.

There is so much more available. One can find many more organizations and nonprofits of every kind by looking into the Hebrew-language Chareidi Directory (published in Jerusalem - (02) 532-6789) under the section "Associations and Organizations" and "Gemachs".

NEXT WEEK: How much does it cost to live retired in Israel?


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