Americans seeking to purchase property in Israel – for residence, a vacation home or even just an investment – will be pleasantly surprised by the level of sophistication and modernity in Israel today. Many are unaware of the giant leap forward that Israel has taken in recent years, making the acclimation process even easier.
The burgeoning high-tech and innovation sectors have brought in their wake affluence that has trickled down in the form of higher standards and a wider selection of commercial goods and services. Moreover, the influx of new olim from developed countries over the decades has been steadily making an impact, contributing in a positive way to the fabric of Israeli society and making Israel an even more wonderful place to live, learn, earn and raise a family.
Nevertheless, when it comes to actually buying an asset, the process can be confounding. Where do you start? There are so many factors to consider; most primarily, the oft-cited “location, location, location” mantra,which embedded within it, includes all the major issues: community, lifestyle, education and employment (and not always in that order!)
The Israeli Real Estate Event, to be held November 14 in Brooklyn, seeks to address these issues and more. The public is invited to meet some of the top experts who have gathered all under one roof for a daylong expo. Choose the lectures that interest you the most and come prepared with all your questions! Pre-registration is required. For more information and to register, visit: realestateisrael.org.
The following is a brief overview of Israeli cities, highlighting a number of real estate options that we hope will be of assistance to Anglo investors and potential olim. Needless to say, this is just the tip of the iceberg (or as Israelis say, “al ktzeh hamazleg”!)
The capital of Israel and of the Jewish people has always been the No. 1 Aliyah destination, thanks to its religious and historical significance. Property prices are not cheap, but the quality of life is incomparable to any other place in Israel – or in the world, for that matter.
Those familiar with Israel’s majestic and bustling capital city might doubt the possibilities for much in the way of new construction projects, when, in fact, thanks to urban renewal and other city initiatives, there are a surprising number of options all around the city.
Strongly Anglo neighborhoods, such as Ramat Eshkol and French Hill, are seeing a spike in evacuation and construction (pinui-binui) projects as well as National Outline Plan (TAMA) 38/2 demolition and rebuilding projects. Those interested in a high-end, luxury project in the heart of Geulah will be able to find units in the Schneller compound, which straddles Malchei Yisrael and Yirmiyahu streets.
One of the biggest residential real estate developers in Israel since it went public in 2006, Africa Israel has projects just about anywhere in the country. In Jerusalem, they have over 1,000 units on offer in the Kidmat Gonen project in the Katamon neighborhood. Another exciting development is Africa Israel’s purchase of land for a rental housing project in Moradot Arnona, a new neighborhood planned to the east of Arnona, an area that is extremely popular among Anglos.
The Nof Zion New Phase Project, developed by Australian entrepreneur Kevin Bermeister and Israeli supermarket chain owner Rami Levi, is located in the south-east end of Jerusalem. Adjacent to the Armon Hanetziv Promenade, Nof Zion boasts a magnificent view of the Old City walls and Har Habayit. The project features spacious and accessorized 3-6 room apartments, some with private gardens and others with large balconies. Phase 1 already exists, comprising 7 buildings and 96 families, with a primarily young, religious demographic. The new phase will include an additional 360 units in 22 residential buildings. Also planned are a shopping center, public areas, coffee shops and two hotels, for a beautiful, self-contained community and a rich social life. The apartments are well-planned and meet high technical specs, with prices that are attractive for units of this caliber and location.
A trusted realtor is a must when seeking to purchase a property close to home, all the more so when you’re dealing with a different language, laws and culture. Tivuch Shelly, established in 1989 by native New Yorker Shelly Levine, is one of Israel’s most established real estate agencies, with offices in Jerusalem, Modiin and Ma’aleh Adumim.
Employing a full-service marketing approach, Tivuch Shelly services clients through all stages, finding the best location and community for them, to mortgage consulting and connecting with experienced real estate lawyers, to assisting with drafting floor plan modifications. The agency works exclusively with a select number of top-quality builders, serving as their exclusive representatives. For investors, Tivuch Shelly will take on the role of rental management.
“We don’t just sell a property and walk away,” says CEO Shelly Levine. “Our clients receive our complete dedication including finding a rental property – free of charge – while their home is under construction.”
This Year in Jerusalem!
By Pini Glinkewitz, director of the Jerusalem Municipality Authority for Aliyah and Absorption
Jerusalem has traditionally been the primary destination for new immigrants, especially olim from North America. The fulfillment of the dream of living in Eretz Yisrael often means settling specifically in Yerushalayim, Ir Hakodesh.
Today’s Jerusalem is an international, cultural urban center, with unmatched residential, employment and educational opportunities.
Anglos have established footholds in various neighborhoods throughout the city – Baka, Arnona, Har Nof, Emek Refa’im, Ramot, Ramat Eshkol, Maalot Dafna, and more. Each neighborhood has public services, including transportation, shuls, sports and recreation centers, etc., that are tailored to meet the distinct needs of the individual community.
In order to meet the unprecedented demand for more housing, dozens of developers are building apartments in neighborhoods all over, including Bayit Vegan, Arnona, Talpiyot, Ramot and Kiryat Yovel.
Parents can choose from over 500 schools and an even greater number of kindergartens. Every type of stream and community is represented here so that anyone can find the exact type of education they seek. In terms of higher education, the capital is home to over 30 academic institutions that cater to the tens of thousands of students who fill the city with vibrancy and promise.
Jerusalem is Israel’s technology and high-tech capital. Hundreds of startups, specializing in innovation in every field, have mushroomed in recent years, and are concentrated in technological parks in Har Hotzvim, Malcha, Givat Ram etc. Moreover, Jerusalem is planning for the future and has already allocated 11 million square feet of office space, including in the commercial quarter currently under construction at the entrance to the city.
Every new immigrant in Jerusalem is entitled to receive assistance and support in order to facilitate their move and accelerate integration to the greatest degree possible. Our Aliyah Integration managers speak English fluently and are available to answer all questions and address any issues, even prior to Aliyah. Every neighborhood has its own Aliyah integration manager who will offer to accompany the family or individual oleh.
One of the main gateways to integration is learning Hebrew, and to this end, Jerusalem has over 10 ulpans.
Young people who choose to live in Jerusalem will be welcomed with open arms by the coordinators of the Jerusalem Young Adults Center. The center offers career development workshops, provides guidance and advice for academic study and a place where young people can meet Israelis like themselves.
Jerusalem schools offer extra Hebrew instruction as well as help with homework and tutoring, to help children of olim integrate into their new environment. The Oleh Service Center is located in a central accessible place in downtown Jerusalem, and helps with navigating bureaucracy, finding a job, and realizing rights. Municipal representatives at the center are there to answer any questions and to provide advice and guidance.
For olim involved in the arts, the city has opened a culture and arts center for the purpose of meeting other artists and to explore employment options.
The Jerusalem Municipality, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh, is currently advancing a comprehensive program to encourage Aliyah and integration of families from North America. This program will provide those interested in settling in Jerusalem with extra support and assistance in the areas of employment, opening a business, education, community and recreation.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion: “We see North American olim chadashim as an important, very beneficial addition to the city and we are committed to doing all in our power to ease integration and to make the Aliyah process as smooth and pain-free as possible for the individual and the family.”
The growth of the high-tech industry has made this bustling seaside metropolis a magnet for many single olim and young families who enjoy its fast pace, buzz and sunshine. It’s a super-expensive proposition to live here, but for those who can afford it, this is a city that exudes energy 24/7.
Africa Israel has concentrated much of its activity in the luxury housing market, specifically the Duo Tel Aviv project, located between Ibn Gabirol, Arlozorov and Ben Saruk streets. The company has also expanded into income-yielding properties, including commercial and office real estate in the city center as well as nearby Givat Shmuel.
This picturesque city by the bay is Israel’s third-largest city and a high-tech and academic hub. For some two decades, the Haifa Municipality has been working to facilitate Aliyah and integration for new immigrants through a designated department, currently directed by Smadar Stoller Porat.
“Haifa certainly has a lot of offer Anglos, including the Technion, the Rambam Medical Center, and a huge high-tech zone, where global companies such as Google, Microsoft, Intel, Yahoo and Amazon have offices. Across the road we have the Life Sciences Park, featuring cutting-edge companies like Sonova and HealthO2.
“The atmosphere here is highly intellectual and ambitious, as illustrated by the fact that Haifa is the sister city of Boston and San Francisco, due to their similarity in the academic and high-tech spheres,” explained Stoller Porat.
Housing in Haifa is significantly cheaper as compared to other centers, with Anglos concentrated mainly in three main neighborhoods: Kiryat Shmuel, Neve Shaanan and Hadar. Stoller Porat mentions the relatively new community in Kiryat Eliezer, whose driving force is a high-tech scientist who organizes various trailblazing communal activities.
Holding Their Hand
A significant advantage for new olim moving to Haifa is the very department that Stoller Porat heads. From housing and employment to education and health care, the municipal Aliyah counselors are there to assist, advocate, facilitate and support, she says, conveying an understanding into the upheaval that the Aliyah process can be for families and individuals.
“We accompany each family and provide them with what is necessary. For those who are overwhelmed with all the bureaucracy, we will assist them with all the nitty gritty details involved in moving and settling in Israel. That could mean giving advice about the different health providers, helping to navigate proceedings at the National Insurance Institute, etc. Some people manage better than others. We provide a helping hand in the areas where we are needed,” she said.
Programs and Activities
Various types and frameworks for ulpan are available for learning Hebrew, both on a basic and academic level, with subsidies available up to 10 years since the date of Aliyah. Additionally, there are special programs, such as one that aims to assist teachers to become accredited in Israel and integrate into the educational system.
Children of olim benefit from Haifa’s unique “olim-friendly” schools, although all schools have coordinators who provide tutoring and extra help for children of olim.
The department organizes periodic activities and trips all over the country, including an introductory tour of Haifa, which teaches newcomers how to navigate this amazing city that incorporates both mountains and sea.
On November 25, together with Nefesh B’Nefesh, the department will treat Haifa’s Anglo community to a festive Thanksgiving dinner. “People have told us that Thanksgiving is one of the things they really miss, and we were happy to give them this opportunity,” said Stoller Porat.
Beit Shemesh has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a transit camp for newcomers to the fledgling state of Israel.
Some two decades ago, the religious and chareidi public began purchasing homes for young couples in what was seen as a relatively nondescript town. And why not? The price was right, and the location – halfway between the two main centers of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak – meant that the young families wouldn’t be too far away from their parents.
Fast-forward and today Beit Shemesh is Israel’s fastest-growing city, with a population projected to continue to spike throughout the next decade. The municipality is not sitting on its hands in the face of such accelerated growth, and has already approved plans for large-scale employment housed in massive office towers.
For the sake of perspective, a whopping 11,000 new housing units are currently in various stages of planning and construction in the new neighborhoods of Dalet, Hei, Neve Shamir and Ramatayim (at the entrance to Aleph, toward the west). The vast majority of those units have already been sold, with virtually every stripe of Jew represented.
What this means for the religious/chareidi family is that they will be able to find virtually every type of community here with their accompanying chinuch institutions. Chassidic, Litvish, Sephardic, modern Orthodox, American, national religious, etc. – it’s all here.
Meir Dombey of Yigal Realty was there when Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph was first built, and he was also instrumental in the neighborhood’s “takeover” by Anglos from all over the world. “It didn’t take much to convince families to move to a place with such beauty, tranquility and privacy,” he says. “We helped them through every stage, from the purchase and until they received the keys. Then, as now, we do everything to help them overcome the challenges of investing in a foreign country.”
Dombey reveals that several new neighborhoods are now being built to especially high standards to meet the needs of American immigrants who are leaving behind spacious homes and seek a higher quality of life. “Rotshtein Heights, for example, will feature apartment buildings more reminiscent of the luxury towers of Tel Aviv.”
Unlike typical Israeli walk-ups, these glittering high-rises will have elegant lobbies and landscaping and will be administrated by a management company at a monthly fee, explains Dombey.
Meir Dombey’s tip to investors: “Try to purchase at the very beginning stages of a building project. Usually, developers give presale benefits and easier terms. Everyone who listened to me a year and a half ago and registered for an apartment even though the licensing hadn’t yet come through ended up saving some NIS 350,000 compared to the current price!”
Gush Etzion is located to the south of Jerusalem, comprising a couple dozen small towns in addition to Efrat and Beitar Ilit. Today, with the expansion of the Tunnel Road, the commute to Jerusalem has been significantly reduced, bringing relief to the many who are employed in the capital.
Real estate construction and development in the region is carried out chiefly by the Gush Etzion Development Company. Established in 1984, this veteran company is owned by the towns that it services, meaning that all profits are siphoned back into the region.
Gush Etzion offers high quality of life, mind-expanding views, excellent education options, and a variety of thriving communities for families who prefer a rural environment with a warm social network. “Prices are naturally considerably lower than those in the cities, allowing families to get a lot more for their money,” Lilach Weinstock, deputy marketing manager for the company, points out.
“The company has big plans for the area in the coming decade, with approved projects for thousands of new units, in various stages of planning and construction. The entire region will undergo a metamorphosis,” she adds, “with populations growing considerably.”
Weinstock also reveals a proposal to transform the charming community of Maale Amos, currently numbering just 150 families, by expanding it ten times its present size. “The goal is to merge with the adjacent town of Meitzad, becoming a new chareidi city,” she says, adding that Maale Amos is a viable solution to transplant an entire community that comes on aliyah. “As long as we know in advance what their distinct needs are, we can accommodate them in a very short time.”
Time for Gush Etzion
Gush Etzion, a combination of opportunities and Zionism
When looking for a location to build your home in Israel, Gush Etzion is clearly one of your leading options.
In the last year alone, Gush Etzion received two national awards for its accomplishments.
Firstly, the Educational Award for having one of the best and most uncompromising education systems. This system contains a variety of educational institutions that are tailored to different needs, and many different educational approaches.
Secondly, Gush Etzion received the Absorption and Aliyah Promotion Award, for the personal attention and accompaniment it provides Olim during their acclimation process, and the assistance it gives Olim in their integration into Israeli society.
This is precisely what makes Gush Etzion a unique and attractive destination for Olim.
The Gush Etzion Development Company is devoted to continuing development of the thriving economy of Gush Etzion. With over 550 workers, it is considered the largest private transportation company in the country, while holding the status as one of the most experienced and largest companies in the Gush Etzion region, committed to developing Gush Etzion with reliability, determination and consistency.
In recent years, the Gush Etzion Development Company has multiplied its real estate projects. The company is currently one of the leaders in the region, with the most housing units and real estate projects, in all the different planning stages.
One of the most lucrative projects is the Neve Daniel Project N, which is being built at the moment. This project is already considered an overwhelming success, with over 120 units sold over the past year, and only 35 premium units remaining.
Aharoni Neubauer, the CEO of the Gush Etzion Development Company and a known figure amongst the leading developers in Israel, said that “[our] top initiative is to continue to develop projects, such as Project N, in order to strengthen the settlements in Gush Etzion. This is accompanied by a consistent aspiration to be the primary company to develop the economic and business aspects of the Gush Etzion region. Furthermore, our goal is to establish a strong economic infrastructure for the residents of the region, and to preserve as many economic assets as possible at home – in Gush Etzion.”
The British and French communities of olim have done an excellent job selling Netanya to relatives and friends back home, urging them to join them on the “Mediterranean Riviera,” where one can enjoy the sea and sun, as well as full community services and a selection of shuls.
Founded by Americans on former farmland, and today the home of one of the country’s high-tech hubs, Ra’anana is a bustling Tel Aviv suburb, where English-speakers from all over the world have put down roots.
Conceived as a secular suburban city for young Israeli couples, Modi’in has become an attractive destination for Anglo immigrants looking for “a city in the country.” Now over 20 years old, Modi’in consistently appears near or at the top of many national lists of achievement, from school rankings (secular and religious) to numbers enrolling in IDF units.
Check out Tivuch Shelly’s Modiin office for personalized help finding a home in this modern center.
This has always been an Anglo hub, especially for older couples with children and for retirees. The dynamics have changed in recent years, as singles and young couples have been attracted to upmarket Herzliya Pituach, home to global high-tech companies such as Facebook and Google, as well as hundreds of startups.
One of the surprise entries on this list, Ashdod has recently become the south-central version of Netanya. French families who could not afford the soaring real estate prices in Netanya have flocked to Ashdod, where new projects along the beachfront have provided an affordable alternative. Now the English-speakers are following suit.