In Jerusalem

Developing demographics

With 25,000 residents, Kiryat Hayovel is almost a city in itself.

kiryat hayovel
Photo by: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Kiryat Hayovel is one of the first neighborhoods built in Jerusalem after the War of Independence. Work on the area started in 1952 and was completed by early 1955. The first residents started moving into the neighborhood in 1953.

Kiryat Hayovel is located in southwestern Jerusalem. When it was first built, the area was considered outside Jerusalem. At present, Kiryat Hayovel is not in the center, but it is very much an organic part of the city.

Since then, the city has expanded tremendously.

In 1952 there were approximately 100,000 people living in the Israeli part of Jerusalem, and around 38,000 in the Jordanian part of the city.

Now there are more than 800,000, and the addition of these large numbers needed more space.

One of the distinctive features of the Kiryat Hayovel is “The Monster,” a playground sculpture in Rabinovich Park. Designed by French sculptor Niki de Saint-Phalle, the creature looks like a dragon and has three long red tongues that serve as slides for the children playing in the park.

In terms of real estate, the neighborhood has a distinction of its own. Up to the time that Kiryat Hayovel was built, a British Mandate ordinance was in force requiring that all Jerusalem buildings be made of stone. In the case of Kiryat Hayovel, the ordinance was suspended.

There was an urgent need to construct housing, and building in stone was more expensive, and the building process took longer. Consequently, functional architecture was the rule with flat roofs, stucco facades and no ornamentation.

After the construction of Kiryat Hayovel, the stone ordinance was waived in Jerusalem. Now buildings in Jerusalem are no longer built of stone, but the municipality encourages covering the facades with Jerusalem stone.

In the early 1950s there was a dire need to build housing quickly. In the wake of the 1948 war the country, which then had a population of 650,000, was flooded with more than a million new immigrants.

The population more than doubled, and there was nowhere to put the newcomers.

Tent cities went up all over the country, and one of these was located in Beit Mazmil, which was what the area of Kiryat Hayovel was called at that time. To the mandarins of the Construction and Housing Ministry, it seemed logical to build small basic residential units to house the residents of the tent cities, who were living in miserable conditions.

That was the beginnings of Kiryat Hayovel, which means “Jubilee Town.” It was so named because 1952 was the 50th anniversary of the Jewish National Fund, which was set up by Theodor Herzl in London in 1902 to finance Jewish settlement in Palestine.

The area quickly became something of a slum.

It was inhabited by immigrants from Arab countries who arrived with not much more than the clothes on their backs. Those who could find good jobs quickly left Kiryat Hayovel, and those that remained were, in a sense, at the bottom of the barrel.

But by the 1960s, things had started to change. New apartments were built for young couples, which were larger and of a better quality.

And the trend increased even more after the Six Day War.

Jerusalem was developing fast, and the adjacent neighbors of Kiryat Hayovel, whose residents were generally of a higher socioeconomic level, started to encroach on the area.

Young couples bought the small, 40-square meter apartments. The ground floor apartments were much in demand. They could be converted into attractive garden apartments. Later, entire buildings were rebuilt, and some of the facades were clad in stone.

Today, Kiryat Hayovel has a population of 25,000 and is a small city in itself. It has shed its proletarian origins, and the slummish aspects of the late 1950s and early 1960s have completely evaporated.

In the 1980s and ’90s, it was very popular with the medical staff of the Hadassah University Medical Center staff and others. Consequently, some private homes – both single-family homes and semidetached dwellings – were built mainly in the vicinity of Shmaryahu Levin Street.

Now Kiryat Hayovel is slowly changing its demographic character. The area was always secular in character, but now the areas bordering the religious neighborhood of Bayit Vegan are slowly being penetrated by haredi families.

The real-estate scene in Kiryat Hayovel is influenced in part by this trend. Emma Bulin, a real-estate agent with Anglo-Saxon Jerusalem who knows the area well, told In Jerusalem, “Demand for real estate is picking up. Reasonably priced properties are sold within a few months. There are still old properties built in the early 1950s that have not been enlarged, and these are snapped up quickly, especially if they are on the ground floor with an adjacent piece of land. Much in demand are properties in buildings with only four apartments.

In that case, the ground-floor apartments can be converted into spacious garden apartments and the topfloor apartments into penthouses.”

As Jerusalem prices go, real-estate prices in Kiryat Hayovel are not that expensive. A small older apartment costs NIS 800,000 on average, and NIS 900,000-plus if it is on the ground floor.

A three-room apartment can cost NIS 1.05m. on average, and a four-room apartment built in the 1990s can cost up to NIS 1.25m.


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