When I am in Israel, I spend a large percentage of my stay assessing the real-estate market and trends going on there. I decided to devote a portion of my weekly articles to sharing with you some of the interesting aspects of Jerusalem real estate.
Since many of you visit Israel at least once a year, you might recognize some of the trends and say, “Yeah,I noticed that,too!” But for the rest, maybe you will hear something new or something nostalgic that will make Israel seem all that much closer.
I will start by going back a while — 30 years to be exact — to when the neighborhood everyone wanted to stay in when visiting Jerusalem was Rechavia. Rechavia, a central, well-to-do location, was THE PLACE to be for Americans traveling to or staying in Jerusalem. As the Great Synagogue was not yet built, Heichal Shlomo was the main shul where people gravitated. Of course there were other shuls as well: the Nasi shul, Yeshurin, Pinsker (which was in nearby Talbieh but very popular), to name a few.
Even when choosing a hotel, one within walking distance of Ben Yehuda, King George and Jaffa (back then they were two-way streets, not pedestrian malls), as well as the Kotel and the Old City, was an added incentive. Back then, only a lucky few could afford to buy that additional home in Rechavia, and most stayed in hotels nearby.
We now come to the present time, when it is not unusual to have many friends and family members already owning apartments in Jerusalem to use for the different trips they make over the course of the year. What has changed, though, are the neighborhoods where Americans are buying apartments in the Jerusalem area.
Years ago Rechavia was the place to buy, but now the popular neighborhoods for Americans have stretched to include Talbieh, the German Colony (alongside Talbieh), and Baka (next to the German Colony), and even parts of Talpiot (adjacent to Baka). These neighborhoods share the distinction of being within walking distance to the Old City (some closer than the others), and they are all in proximity of Emek Refaim Street in the German Colony, which has become the equivalent of Central Avenue in the Five Towns.
Although people still go to the Ben Yehuda mall, it has been eclipsed by Emek Refaim, perhaps because of the ease of getting there. (Transportation has become more problematic at Ben Yehuda Street, with the buses stopping at fewer bus stops than they didyears ago, and the train on Rechov Yaffo taking over as a primary means of transportation in the main part of town.)
It is not unusual to walk down Emek Refaim Street on chol ha’moed Sukkot and feel as though you never left town, since you are bumping into all your neighbors and friends from back home. Along this strip are many restaurants, cafés, artsy boutiques and interesting shops usually full of people, both American and Israeli.
There are many other beautiful neighborhoods in Jerusalem: Armon HaNetziv (off Derech Hebron Road), Arnona (above Talpiot), Kiryat Shmuel, and Rasco (behind Rechavia), to name but a few. These neighborhoods offer lots of good deals with great apartments, but because they are not typically neighborhoods where “Americans” are buying second homes, they can be had at a much lower price than those in the “belt” near the Old City and the Kotel.
The “belt” neighborhoods have one important quality the others do not — they are walking distance to the Old City and the Kotel on a Shabbos or yom tov. Some are a short walk, some a very long walk, but they’re walking distance nonetheless, a priority for Americans coming for a short visit during a yom tov and wanting to get the most they can out of their stay.
New construction is now going up right outside the Old City, offering luxury apartments for those who can afford them in the old Musrara and Mamilla neighborhoods abutting the Old City walls. I have already seen the specs for some of them and they are spectacular.
On the other side of Rechavia, going toward the older side of town, there are other very popular neighborhoods. Shaarei Chesed, which has been very popular with the chareidi community for many years, is consistently building addition upon addition to existing villas and townhouse-style old Arab homes. Some older structures that are not in good enough condition to be rehabilitated are being torn down and beautiful one-and two-family homes are being built in their place.
Lots of wonderful shopping and facilities are available in the Wolfson Towers in Shaarei Chesed, and there are loads of stores and restaurants as you walk up Keren Kayemet Street towards Keren Hayesod. Next to ShaareiChesed are the neighborhoods of Nachlaot, Mazkeret Moshe, Shivtei Yisrael, etc. — neighborhoods next to the Machane Yehuda shuk that go back to the end of the 19th century, underwritten at that time by Moses Montefiore who wanted housing for the Jews coming out of the Old City.
There are many interesting stories to be told about this area, but I will save them for my next article on Jerusalem real estate.
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com.