There has been a lot of talk recently in the JBlogosphere on the topic of aliyah. Along with that talk, naturally, has come a lot of advice. Even off the JBlogosphere (actually, mostly off the JBlogosphere), I've heard a lot of advice from different people about how to go about making aliyah and, at a certain point, it can get very confusing. Everyone seems to be saying different things. And some of it isn't just advice. Sometimes, these are outright declarations (this happens often when you do Bnei Akiva, go to Moshava, go to Harova, etc). There are a lot of different people exclaiming different variations of, "the best time to make aliyah is ___ (fill in the blank)." Usually, because that's what worked for them. Makes sense, no?
Just the fact that, over the years, I've heard such different variations of "the best time to make aliyah" statement proves that there is no one best time. Every person is different. Every person has different struggles, different challenges, and different needs. Every person is looking for something different. Every person can cope with different things at different levels and at different times.
I've had friends who stayed in Israel after our shana b'aretz and made aliyah then. And they're doing great. I have friends who left college in the middle to make aliyah. They're also doing great. I have friends with plans to make aliyah right after they graduate college (real plans, not up-in-the-air plans). And I have friends who plan on making aliyah sometime in the (hopefully) near future but don't know when yet. I also know families from my community who we are very good friends with who are trying out aliyah right now. They have older kids but they're all into it and excited by it.
When I was little, my best friend moved to Israel with her family. We were both six and her older brother was seven. And they are in love with Israel. It worked out so wonderfully for them, and for all the families from my community who moved during those years (there are a whole bunch).
I've had (and have) friends in Bar Ilan, in other smaller colleges, in the army, doing Sheirut Le'umi...
I have friends who made aliyah and who have family living in Israel and I have friends who don't have as many friends and family in Israel, but things are still working out for them. And they're not just squeaking by. They are all ecstatic over having made aliyah and are waiting for me to join them.
My own grandfather made aliyah only a little over ten years ago (11 year ago this summer, I think).
Of course, it was challenging for all these people. Every single one of them had to go through times that were difficult - but that doesn't mean it was the "wrong" time for them to go. They worked through those times (or are still working through them) because their drive for living in the land of Israel, in our homeland, is strong enough to see them through. They embrace each challenge with the confidence, love, and dedication needed to succeed.
There is never going to be a time during our galus when it will be easy to make aliyah. It's always going to be hard. We just can't be afraid of it being hard. Yes, there are times that are better than other times, but that depends on each person. Any time to make aliyah is the "right" time as long as it is right for the person actually making aliyah.
I'm not trying to be overly idealistic, by the way. I am well aware that there are plenty of people who try to make aliyah and end up having to come back. But just because something didn't work out for one person at a particular time or in a particular situation doesn't mean it can't work out for a different person. The wrong time for one person is not necessarily the wrong time for you. And, on the flip side, the right time for one person is not necessarily the right time for you, either. Believe me, I've felt plenty of pressure to move to Israel once all my friends started doing it on their own (as in, not with their families). It was something I had to overcome (and sometimes I still struggle with it). It was the right time for them and they're doing well, but as for me - I needed to come back to New York for a few more years. And I'm glad I did. But they didn't have to (clearly) and they're glad they didn't.
I haven't made aliyah yet, but I know enough people who have to know this: although, in many respects, moving to Israel is a shared experience among all olim, there is also a huge element of aliyah that is personal, individual, and unique.
I think the best advice I've gotten so far about aliyah (it's actually a compilation of advice from a whole bunch of different people) is to make sure that you are ready. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but so many people get sucked into, "everyone is making aliyah now, I should, too" or "I was told this is the best time to make aliyah so that's when I'm going - I don't want to go at the wrong time!" etc. etc. etc.
I know, it isn't all idealism and sunshine and Kotel visits. You have to be ready in all different aspects - financially, mentally, emotionally, with a plan of some sort...but again, each of these things is so individual. No one can really say when the best time in any of these aspects is except you and what you feel comfortable with.
I hope we all make it there at the right time and with much success.
Am Yisrael b'Eretz Yisrael al pi Torat Yisrael.