I pointed out that there were a lot of programs run by the Jewish Agency or funded by various ministries of the Israeli government, to encourage young people to come to Israel. What’s lacking, I said, was assistance from the organized Jewish community, to help finance these young people to get to Israel, or help for those who really fall in love with Israel, and decide to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel), with the aliyah process.
Unlike younger people just starting out in life, most older adults have worked for many years. They’ve raised families; many own homes, have investments, businesses and property. They won’t come to Israel as financial burdens, but as assets.
Israel has a modern, developed economy, and the white-collar and entrepreneurial skills of Jews from America, Europe, Australia and South Africa fit nicely into that. Older people can make great contributions to Israel’s economy and to Israeli society.
It was always thought in professional Zionist circles that young people settling down in Israel would act as a magnet to attract their families. It was hoped that parents, brothers and sisters would follow and move there too.
Their grown children, who also have more wealth and resources than those just starting out in life, will come out for visits. Who doesn't fly across America to visit their elderly parents? They’ll send their kids on vacation to see Savta and Saba, or Bubby and Zaidie – their grandparents, only now the grandchildren will be taking a trip to Israel. Since people are living much longer these days, someone who “retires” out to Israel at 66, might just see their children “retire” out there as well.
The baby boom generation must be tapped for the next big wave of aliyah.
It makes sense to reach out to these people. When Grandma and Grandpa move to Israel, they'll be setting an example that will have lasting impact on the family.
Since grandparents tend to be the links to Jewish tradition, it will teach everyone in the family how important being Jewish and living in Israel are. If they open a new business, well, they'll be able to invite someone (their grandson or granddaughter?) from the “old country” to help run it. And although it's not pleasant to talk about, when they die, family members will want to go out to Israel to acquire their inheritances. How many will decide to move to Israel permanently when they already own factories, stores and real estate there?
With all the elderly moving to Israel, whole new industries will pop-up; remember, they're elderly with some money. Geriatric medicine will blossom (aging Israelis will benefit too); adult education will expand; new entertainment places will open. Why can't retirement communities be built, just as in Florida? They can be.
G-d would never have told Abraham to pick himself up and go to Israel if it wouldn't have been good for him. There is a Torah concept, “Ma’ase avot siman l’banim,” (the actions of our forefathers are guides to what we should do).
Rather than just encourage aliyah for the young, Israel and professional Zionists in the exile, must make a concerted effort to encourage aliyah for the elderly. It will be the renewal of their lives, and that will be good for them, and for the Jewish people.
Just as for Abraham and Sara, who started their lives anew, elder aliyah makes sense!