Is 64 Too Old to Make Aliyah?

UPDATED below with more information for older immigrants.

Welcome to all of the new immigrants arriving today, including Raggedy Mom and Samanthat4d.

Can you help this reader? He writes:


I have been considering moving to Israel.  Life in the US is expensive and so is Israel.  I could live like a king in India I suppose, but I’m not interested.

I don’t speak Hebrew.  I’m 64.  I was in corporate sales for most of my life.  I also passed the exam to teach English in my state but I don’t have a teaching ‘credential’.  I have about $1450 in guaranteed income monthly.  If you don’t mind, is it possible to rent a little studio with a door and a roof and not in a slum and make a life?

On $600 a month, I only can afford a room in someone’s house.  It’s not glamorous!

I hope I haven’t intruded to much to ask your opinion.  I have no relatives or friends in Israel.  I do belong to a great little orthodox shul.

Thanks very much for any opinion you can offer, Miss K.

Warm regards,

PS.  Nefesh B’Nefesh was very encouraging but that’s their job, isn’t it.

By the way, I do speak Japanese, but I don’t have a credential.  Thanks again and I sincerely appreciate any opinion you can offer!

Update: A friend in a similar situation shared the following information:

I found that getting MEDICAL INSURANCE was a big problem especially in long-term nursing care BECAUSE the cut off was 65. I don’t know (because I was 67 when I came) if 64 is the terminal date or 65 is the terminal date but the regular options under Maccabi were not available to me.

I also came “a cropper” with Bituach Leumi but that, it turns out, had a cut-off date of 60.  I worked for five years (60 months) from age 67-72 and was not eligible, it turned out, for Bituach Leumi. Yes, I was covered for Bituach Refui and for all that that entailed but my paycheck did NOT have deductions for Bituach Leumi. What it means is that people holding jobs (even if they have their 40 quarters for Social Security in the US0 have to have begun their work here before the age of 60.

Then, there are the university ceilings and TAU, for example, will hire no staff (not academic) above the age of 68 and I don’t know if one has to terminate at that age or 70 when academics must “retire” although there are plenty of them who retain their offices by agreeing to teach one or two courses a semester, without pay.

There are probably cut-offs for mortgages also but I did not, at the time, have to inquire about this.  But the “seudit” (long-term care) and other considerations were not available under the regular medical plans to which we are all entitled over the age of 65.—meaning entry into them then.
I admit to not having read the brochures very very carefully when I was making aliya. As a matter of fact, even with what I thought was my vast knowledge of Israel, I had NO clue that there were OTHER health organizations other than Maccabi and so, on my “intake” interview on the first day, when I had to list my health organization, I wrote down MACCABI!! I also had not done a lot of homework on banks and remembered that LEUMI was across the street from where I would be staying for the first month or so and that became my designated bank even though for 30 years, my US bank in NY was BANK DISCOUNT!!!

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  1. Is she looking for a job? I don’t think you’re ever too old to make aliyah! NBN does lots of seminars for “pensioners.” I don’t know the details because I don’t fall into that category, but it seems to me that you could live better here. As you age, I think hiring help in Israel is also more affordable. I think there is more for a retired Jew to do here. Israel is also better equipped for independent or moderately assisted living. In the US people in wheel chairs get stuck in a “home.” Here, I see people who are disabled or elderly walking the streets, taking buses, and cruising in their motorized carts.

  2. This sounds like a very brave plan.

  3. At a conservative exchange rate of 3.3 shekels to the dollar, that’s 4785 shekels a month — about 20% more than minimum wage. You probably wouldn’t want to rent a studio in Tel Aviv, where tiny apartments start at NIS 3,000, but you should be able to find something in a less expensive city. Mind you, you wouldn’t have money for a car, so you’d be dependent on public transportation, and therefore you wouldn’t want to live anywhere too rural. Check the wanted notices at (in Hebrew) to get an idea of what things cost where.

    On the less-bright side, ageism is a problem and you may have trouble finding work. Though a lot probably depends on your attitude, creativity and willingness to persist.

  4. BookishIma says

    First of all, I think outlook is such an important part of aliyah, and this reader’s obvious desire and intent is a great asset. In no way do I mean to discourage it. But I did want to share, though this is a somewhat different situation, a little of my mom’s experiences in planning to return to Israel (she is Israeli but has been living in the States for many years). It was a hard decision but in the end she realized that waiting a few more years to retire and then making the move would be much more financially feasible. Some of the bituach leumi issues might be different for an oleh chadash, but the issue of finding a job, unfortunately, is not. From what friends, professionals, and officials told her, it would be very unlikely for her to find a job. For a non-Hebrew-speaker so close to retirement age, I honestly think it would extremely unlikely to find a job. Private English lessons might be a possibility for side income. Teachers of English in the Israeli school system must be certified EFL (English as a Foreign Language), which involves a year of coursework and a year of supervised teaching (at least the people I know). Having said that, I think that quality of life issues are about the same as they would be in expensive parts of the States, such as the NYC metro area. I do not think they would be discouraging to someone wishing to make aliyah, as long as they’re aware of Israeli apartment style/size, costs of owning a car, and so on. Be-hatzlacha!

  5. Funny, I was just wondering the same regarding my own parents after seeing off the Raggedys and SaraK – if they wanted to make aliyah, could they make if off Soc.Security and small bits of income? Curious what people respond here.

    I’m thinking that ultimately they’d need a bit of income if they wanted to actually get around and do anything, but perhaps not…

  6. I’ve updated the post with new information for older immigrants, from a friend who did it.

  7. Israel is not a cheap place to live. If you are coming to Israel because you can’t live on your income where you are, you probably won’t be able to do it here.
    Most places don’t hire 64 year olds for full-time regular employment. But there are opportunities in sales where you can work on commission and from what I’ve seen age might be less of a barrier there. You just have to be able to sell. I don’t think there would be much security in this kind of work but it is income.
    I’m wondering where this person lives today on $1.500 a month?

  8. i know you can’t live on that amount of money in australia,

  9. My parents are in their mid to late 50’s and though they desperately want to be here, they aren’t even considering moving here until they are ready to retire (ie: have enough money to retire comfortably.).

    The update you posted should be a big flashing warning sign to the original writer to research VERY carefully all of the issues surrounding health insurance, banking, and jobs in general. Wishing him the best of luck. I think contacting AACI would be a good idea, I think they will give him the most accurate information regarding all of these issues:

  10. I just want to say that NBN are not encouraging to everyone. I know some middle-aged people with no savings who NBN very actively discouraged from making Aliyah. So if they are encouraging this person, maybe there is hope. I agree that getting a steady job might be difficult but as to Aliyah I think it really depends on your attitude. Would you rather live off $1,500 in the US or in Israel? In other words, would you rather be poor here or there? In my opinion it’s easier to be poor in Israel because you can find a community of good Jewish people who are also on a tight budget and who will share what they have with you. No one looks at you funny if your clothes are not the latest style. A small rented apartment on a yeshuv might be good because it is cheap and community oriented. You’ll get lots of Shabbos invitations. That said: you will have to prepared for the reality of life in Israel – it’s VERY different from the US. do you really know enough about Israeli society to make an informed choice? Maybe you can come try out your plan for 6 months?
    Behatzlacha rabba!

  11. If depends on your personality. You’ll only get continued invitations if you are good company, show appreciation, and preferably reciprocate in some way. You’ll only make friends in a new community if you contribute your skills, knowledge and time. You’ll only manage on little money if you adopt a “can-do” approach and are willing to give up on luxuries. Etc.

  12. Maybe missing something here. Regular health care coverage is open to everyone (as far as I know), as long as you’re willing to pay the NIS 130 per month (and in reality, even if you’re not).

    If you’re in the US and retired from a company with a pension and health care and then add in Medicare, great. But if not, Medicare alone isn’t enough for most US elderly and the care they need. Add in medication costs and many elderly in the US are spending $500 or $750 per month in med costs.

    Health care costs in Israel, especially specialists which are often needed by the elderly with some regularity (such as a dermatologist), are much lower than the US. (Basically) no deductibles for either visits or hospitalizations. (Take that 80 or 90% coverage in the US, then play games with ‘reasonable and customary’, and my bills for minor surgery or ER visits often came to $1,000’s out of pocket. Not in Israel.)

    Medication costs are a completely different story in Israel. Average meds and chronic condition meds here in Israel are 1/2 to 1/10th the cost in the US. Some of this is due to an exclusive use of generics, some is just purchasing at the national level (and some is limiting med choices in certain areas to only things that have been shown to be significantly more effective than an older medication – no doctors pushing the pharm industry’s drug of choice this month – no prescription drug advertising in Israel).

    In moving to Israel some of my family members saw chronic condition medication costs fall 75% (from say $300 per month in the US to NIS 200 per month in Israel).

    For someone living on an Israeli salary, that may net out the same as a percentage of income. But for someone with an American pension, that’s a straight decrease in cost.

    As medical and medication costs tend to increase with age, there’s a major advantage in Israel in that area.

  13. Do you have the time and money to live in Israel for a 5 or 6 month trial period before you make your final decision?
    I can’t tell from your letter how often you have visited Israel. I’m sure you already know that there are many cultural differences between American and Israeli society.
    I think it’s a fabulous idea — but I would recommend trying it out first. If possible, include an ulpan. You will be able to get along without Hebrew, but knowing ivrit will REALLY enhance your experience.

  14. Hadassah says

    Everyone, especially, the elderly, work in Israel. Unless they can retire from their retirement benefits from the Diaspora, there is little to apply for in Israel that will be approved. For an elderly, You have to earn less than US $1K/month in order to qualify for anything — Bituach Leumi services.

    For those 60 and older, who leave Israel after making aliyah, will no longer qualify for Bituach Leumi. Israel, being a socialist country, “worships” the young and able-worker, and not the elderly and wise. It’s against Torah completely. They would gladly admit any non-Jew to be part of their IDF.

    This is the Israel English version of their Bituach Leumi (National Institute).

    Read up all you can about what you are entitled to and not.

  15. I am interested in being in contact because you say you speak Japanese. Do you read Japanese? Can you translate to English? If so I might be able to offer you a part-time job.
    I also have something to say about my experiences living in the rural south of Israel as a way of living cheaply. It’s wonderful! But you have to adjust quite a bit to the culture. I pay NIS 1200 a month for a three-bedroom house with outbuildings on one acre of land. Very nice.
    Please contact me at the e-mail address I gave to the blog owner here if you are interested in discussing work possibilities.

  16. My parents made Aliya 6 years ago, at the ages of 66 and 61. They were not expecting to get an Israeli pension / money from Bituach Leumi, and are indeed not eligible. They had no problem getting medical coverage from kupat cholim (and my Dad’s diabetic…)

    I think the most important thing is finding a good community, with lots to do and friends to make, and activities/lectures/concerts/whatever. Which my parents have been very fortunate to do.

    The point has already been made that a person making aliya at this age should not expect to find employment, as it will be impossible. However, private lessons, in English, Japanese, or anything else, is certainly a possible way of earning a little extra unofficial income.

    My parents are also extremely welcoming people and would ask me to give their contact information to this person if she’d like to be in touch and learn about their community. Hannah, you can contact me privately and I’ll give you the info to pass on.

  17. A little bit late to the discussion, but just in case it’s helpful to anyone:

    Two possible forms of employment:
    English teaching via the internet, there are sites for this where you join up, or you can make your own site, and especially if the writer speaks Japanese. He can specialise in teaching English to the Japanese. I don’t think that you need a teaching credential, but in any case you can always do a TOFL course. I think that there’s even a course geared to online teaching.
    Many elderly people require some kind of assistance in daily life. There is also being a nurse’s assistant which requires doing a one month course.

    I’ll just add that anyone who can learn Japanese can learn Hebrew. Japanese is just about a million times harder (from personal experience).


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