Binyomin Biron, Kiryat Sefer, Modi'in Illit
I first came to Eretz Yisroel as a bochur. I had previously been involved in kiruv activities in Kiev. At the end of the school year, my brother-in-law who was living in Eretz Yisroel suggested that I continue on to yeshiva here, being that I was already so much closer in Kiev to Eretz Yisroel than from back home in the US. With my parents' approval, I came to learn in the Ponevezh yeshiva. Once here, my brother-in-law suggested that I try to just imitate the Israeli dialect of speech (including resorting to the guttural “reish”), as this would help me acclimate myself to speaking Hebrew and make me comfortable while doing so. I also practiced my Hebrew by speaking to Israeli kids who were happy to be of help with my Hebrew vocabulary.
While I was here in Eretz Yisroel, it was eventually time to start shidduchim. I fortunately found someone who was also interested in living here, and although we went back to the US to get married, we came back to Eretz Yisroel shortly thereafter. Although we had both come to Eretz Yisroel before, this time it was more significant because we were now establishing a home here.
After we had done our own “aliyah,” establishing ourselves here in Eretz Yisroel, we decided to go through the process of what the Israeli government calls “aliyah”—as in obtaining Israeli citizenship. This would allow us to work here legally, get some benefits, and save a bit of money (e.g. cheaper health insurance, possibly lower home purchase tax, etc.). We know people who choose to live here without becoming Israeli citizens, but we didn't want to have to renew our visas and be subject to the whims of the Interior Ministry clerks, or have it easier to decide to move back. Though, for some people that works better.
When we went to the Interior Ministry with all of our documents to process our citizenship request, there was a minor issue with one of my documents which prevented my request from immediately being processed. I was going to fix the issue, but a friend, who b'siyata d'Shmaya “happened” to be there just then, alerted me to the fact that as a male Israeli citizen eligible for the draft, I would be subject to some restrictions regarding the length of time I may be out of the country. This held true even though I was a full-time learner and would not be drafted. Because this friend knew about my kiruv activities, he advised me not to apply for aliyah so I could travel if necessary. I decided I would push off the process for myself, and at that time only my wife obtained citizenship,
I was eventually offered a job in a kiruv kollel in Moscow. They wanted a commitment of at least two years, but we ended up staying there slightly more than three. I would not have taken up such an offer from a kollelin the US, because there would be a risk of finding ourselves stuck there—after all, we were both originally from the US and had family there. As for Russia, there really wasn't anything that would keep us there for the long term and prevent us from fulfilling our goal of settling in Eretz Yisroel.
When our oldest child was going to enter kita aleph [first grade], we decided, with guidance from gedolim, that it was time to reestablish ourselves in Eretz Yisroel, this time as a small family. We weren't going to wait until the kids got older when the adjustment would be more difficult. We really wanted the chinuch available in Eretz Yisroel, especially in a place like Kiryat Sefer. The chinuch here is on a very high level—there is more yiddishkeit, more kedusha, less gashmiyus, and less exposure to tum'ah. Here, learning Torah is most valued, tzaddikimare the role models, and there is a general atmosphere of yir'as shomayim. Although earning money, having a car, and similar materialistic items might be important, it's not the focus.
We are privileged to raise our children in a place that is more closed and protected. Such communities exist back in the US, but they're still more vulnerable to the influences and social pressures of their country and general society.
Several years after we were back in Eretz Yisroel, I completed the process of citizenship, further strengthening my connection to the Land, at least in a technical way.
Here’s an observation of mine: Among the American bochurim who are here learning in Eretz Yisroel, there are at least some who would also like to establish themselves here. Many are unaware that they don't have to go back to the US for potential shidduchim. There are many regular Beis Yaakov girls from America who are already here that also want to live here and who have already started shidduchim. Some of them are here in post-seminary programs and others have immigrated with their families. Although the boys are primarily here to learn, I don't see why those interested shouldn't try shidduchimhere.
While there is a possibility of finding a shidduch in chutz laAretzwho would also tentatively agree to come to live in Eretz Yisroel, even with all the goodwill it doesn't mean it's going to happen. Good intentions aside, there are differences one would have to adjust to over here—not having two cars, getting along with Jews from "arba kanfos ha'aretz" – i.e. many different cultures, and many other things—someone who's not wholeheartedly committed to living here might just not get over any real or perceived difficulties. As for the pool of potential shidduchim for Americans being smaller here, well, the bottom line is you only need one...
I came as a bochur, came again with my wife, came a third time as a small family, and have gone through the citizenship process twice—once for my wife, and once for myself. But, as Rav Zev Leff, shlit”a, says (I learn in the yeshiva in his Moshav Matityahu in the mornings), aliyah doesn't end at the airport (or in the Interior Ministry). It's really two stages—the first step is leaving America behind, and the next step is to keep shteiging here.