Planning the Return and Preparing the Family

It has been my privilege to establish the Israel National Brain Gain Program and to lecture, meet with, speak to and correspond with hundreds, or maybe more, academics in recent years. In addition, my deep-rooted scientific background has led me to conduct studies and surveys as an integral part of the program, to help us understand the reasons for leaving and returning to Israel and the needs of the professionals during the process of returning to Israel. These studies have assisted us in creating effective tools to guide the returning academics.

Id like to give you a little more preliminary background information, during my previous career in the biotechnology industry, I had the opportunity to develop products and launch them in the market. We learned the hard way that the technology we developed was ahead of its time and we had to bring the products back in for further development before their second, successful, launch. If only we had studied marketing at university .... I came to the government with this life experience to start up The Israel National Brain Gain Program, and therefore my first step was to hold home meetings with academics in overseasf communities and with those who had already returned to Israel, we also held numerous conversations with the consuls, representatives of the "Israeli houses" and representatives of the various groups that work in this field.  We learned one thing from all of them: "We only came here for two years....For the opportunity, the experience and to develop our careers.  Israel is our country and our home and we will return in a few years.

Planning the Return and Preparing the Family
Planning the Return and Preparing the Family Dreamstime

 The Israel National Brain Gain Program is essentially built on this information and its main concern is to provide assistance to all academics during the process of returning to Israel, when they decide to start the returning process and indeed, every year hundreds of academics return through the program.

But, as we all know, all transition processes, whether between jobs, residences, etc. are complex processes which are experienced differently by each family member, and all the more so when it is a move between countries, between jobs, changing educational institutions, languages, cultures, and more. The staff of the program for returning academics can tell you just how complex and difficult this process can be, since they meet each and every one of you during this significant stage and experience the difficulties together with you, with a sincere desire to help by utilizing the tools we have at our disposal.

For additional details about The Brain Gain program, and for registration, click here >>

In order to make the process a little easier and a lot more structured I saw fit to share with you these insights that we have accumulated over the years:

When should you start planning the return process?

• At departure • more than 2 years • between one to two years • between 6 months to a year • up to 6 months
Over 51% of the academics planned their return less than six months before the actual date of return

From the last survey we conducted among academics who returned to Israel we were amazed to discover that over 51% of the academics planned their return less than six months before the actual date of return. It seems to me that it is superfluous to mention that in order to plan the complex process of returning to Israel that usually affects the different family members with their different needs you need to approach the process in a different manner, perhaps in a way that is closer to the way that you plan your research and work at your workplaces.

When is a good time to return?

The question is of course individual for each person but studies show that the longer they stay overseas the less they occupy themselves with the return to Israel, up to a period of 10 years abroad. After this period we see an increase in the desire to return to Israel.  But, 10 years is a significant period of time for some of the family members and sometimes it's even a point of no return for some members of the family or for all of them, and therefore it is important to pay attention to the following phenomena, which we have come across in our work:

1.Some families acknowledge that they can't return to Israel because of a child or children who have started college. 

2.Families whose children have announced that they are not interested at all in returning to Israel and the parents remain in a dilemma as to whether they should return without them.

3.And on the other hand, there are families who gave their children an Israeli and Zionist education over the years, children who visited Israel in various frameworks such as Taglit, MASA and Tzabar and chose to remain in Israel and build their homes there.  During this period I have spoken to many couples who are proud that their children have returned to Israel, built homes and had their grandchildren, but and this is a big and sad but - the parents are unable to join their children in Israel at this time.  As we all know, we reach an age when it is difficult and even almost impossible to change workplaces, both in Israel or abroad, but we still need to work and earn a living. I admit that these conversations are the most painful conversations that I have to conduct.

4.Couples who would really like to return to Israel but only one spouse  has been able to find a job that is suitable to their expectations in Israel. Usually both partners are successful careerists and it is a difficult decision, even impossible, and sometimes it can even split them up. 

5.Couples who decide to to live together in two houses in two different continents.  Many times in these situations the children are also split and this takes a great toll on the entire family.

When is a good time to return?
When is a good time to return?

And what about the children?

Any move is difficult for the whole family and therefore also for the children, and of course the processes are even more difficult for children with special needs, so there is no need to expand on this subject. We have heard about many children who have returned and integrated well despite the language and culture barriers and they quickly become Israelis, and of course there are also those who don't fit in even years after their return. I saw fit to share with you the main systemic consequences which we encounter: 

  • Future studies in the educational system in Israeli universities 

To be admitted to a university in Israel the student must present the results of a psychometric test and a bagrut (matriculation) certificate. In countries where there is no national matriculation certificate, including the United States, a year's preparatory course must be done in Israeli universities, or grades from at least one academic year abroad must be presented. Both solutions are problematic for the younger generation. Returning overseas for a year increases the chances of staying overseas afterward and indubitably the costs are very high, and of course a yearlong preparatory course extends the length of studies in Israel.
Admission to academic studies of professions that are in demand is extremely competitive in Israel, as in the whole world, and therefore matriculation exam scores are very important. Returning to Israel after a long period of time overseas calls for an adjustment period and therefore returning near the beginning of exams could harm the student's chances of admission to higher studies later.

We have come across teenagers who entered the eleventh or twelfth grade when they returned, and who were not able to fit in and did not even complete 12 years of schooling. There is no need to mention, in such cases, the affect this had on the students' employment and academic future.
Integration into the army - like every young Israeli citizen, your children will also have to do their military service.  The distance from Israel and their not participating in preparatory and supportive frameworks prior to their military service can, many times, affect their service experience. Today there are supportive and preparatory frameworks such as pre-military service preparatory programs and Garin Tzabar frameworks that can bridge these difficulties.

In conclusion, it is very beneficial to plan for the move back to Israel and to take the needs of all members of the family into account. Leave enough time in advance to find a job, at least for one member of the family, and schedule the return according to the needs of the whole family. 

For additional details about The Brain Gain program, and for registration, click here >>