5766 was "one of the best years the city and City Hall have known for a long time," a spokesman for the Jerusalem Municipality said this week. His assessment has been echoed by various economic sectors throughout the capital. More tourists came, more fancy houses were bought and more businesses created more jobs. The effects of the war in the North are already diminishing ahead of the New Year. From October 2005 to the end of September, hotel stays by foreign tourists are up 16 percent and stays of Israelis visiting the city will have grown 23% in comparison with the previous Hebrew year, said Yonatan Harpaz, head of the Jerusalem chapter of the Israel Hotels Association. "If there hadn't been the war, the percentages [of growth] would be even higher," he said, but emphasized that "tourists came in any event" in July and August as well. Although there were cancellations into September, the trend was "not very massive" and was partially offset by reservations for hotel rooms made during the conflict, Harpaz added. In the past few days, there has been encouraging talk of "awakening demand," but not yet a return to pre-war levels, he concluded. In tandem with boosts in tourist arrivals, apartment sales in the central neighborhoods have also flourished. "It was a very good year for luxury real estate. We saw many investors coming to town and many new people that we had not seen previously," said Yossi Ben-Haim, deputy chairman of the Jerusalem Chamber of Real-Estate Agents. Sales in neighborhoods such as the German Colony, Talbiyeh, Bak'a, Rehavia and Katamon grew "at least" 20%, he estimated, but added that the effect was not felt in the more "Jerusalemite" parts of town further afield. Ben-Haim said that the war's effect was hard to gauge, since August is always the calmer month, sandwiched as it is between the waves of tourism arrivals coming in the summer and the Jewish holidays. A return to the norm has been felt over the past week, with more and more calls from prospective buyers, he said. With buyers bringing friends and relatives into the Jerusalem real estate market from abroad, real estate agents are anticipating at least three to five years of prosperity in the industry, barring some sort of geopolitical catastrophe, Ben-Haim said. The Chamber of Real Estate Agents saw its membership rise by about 15% over the past year, now totalling some 200 members in 130 offices, said chairperson Yael Blankstein, adding that "many real estate agents have popped up during the prosperity period [of the past couple years]." New immigrants figure prominently among the new entrants into the field, whether licensed members of the chamber or the several dozen mavericks who operate their own - but soon realize that it is not as easy a way to make a living as they may have expected, she said. "You need to be a professional in the current market," Blankstein observed, and added that the chamber will host an English-language professional workshop in November to help Anglo olim build the necessary skills. However, Ran Tuttenauer, chairman of the Jerusalem branch of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, stressed that the city's economy needs to concentrate on building a solid industrial foundation to grow sustainably. "What does real estate contribute to employment? Nothing," he said, unless it is more industrial land and more factories that are being built. In 5766, Jerusalem industry was bolstered by the opening of pharmaceutical giant Teva's second facility, which currently employs 150 people and will eventually create 500 jobs in total, said Tuttenauer. "This was a very important event for industry in Jerusalem," he said. Another key happening was the laying of the cornerstone of the biotech park being developed by the Hebrew University's Hadassah Medical Center and its technology transfer subsidiary Hadassit Ltd., he said. "It brings great potential to Jerusalem" as the "harbinger" of a boom in start-ups and businesses creating more jobs, as well as adding prestige to Jerusalem's technology scene. "Any city would want to boast that it has a biotechnological center," said Tuttenauer. Whether the economy will continue to flourish in 5767 is "entirely dependent on what place industry will be given in the priorities of the leaders in city hall," he observed. "If they don't help us keep the existing factories in the city and bring in new facilities, new factories won't come and the existing ones won't stay," he warned. "It depends on the City Hall, not on anyone else."

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

Think others should know about this? Please share