Betting on the Trans-Israel Highway

Ramat Yishai, some 25 kilometers northeast of Haifa, is not very well known. Indeed, many would have trouble placing it on the map – but not for long.

By JOHN BENZAQUEN
November 5, 2010 17:15
Ramat Yishai

Ramat Yishai 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Ramat Yishai is one of those rural communities that are attracting residents from the center of the country. In consequence, it is expanding, with real-estate prices prices tending to rise.

It has another attraction: the Trans-Israel Highway – or, as it is popularly called, Road No. 6. The highway, which reaches the town of Yokne’am, is a mere 10 minutes’ drive from Ramat Yishai, which means access to the industrial and hi-tech parks of Herzliya, Netanya and even the financial center in Tel Aviv.

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Residents of Ramat Yishai work in the Haifa metropolitan area, but many newcomers have found employment much farther afield.

The town was founded in the late 1940s to absorb new immigrants from Yemen, and later from Romania, creating an interesting ethnic mix. While the name Ramat Yishai dates from the beginning, the residents, especially those from the Yemen, called it Jedda, which was the name of an ancient Arab village of that name. (The only remains of that earlier settlement are a walled Turkish bath that is over 100 years old and a very tall, old palm tree adjacent to it.)

For 40 years, from the date of its foundation to the early ’90s, Ramat Yishai was “just a place” – a cluster of decrepit houses on the highway from Haifa to the Jezreel Valley.

In 1990, things started to change. The then mayor, Dror Fogel, realized that Ramat Yishai had potential, that a rural environment situated on high ground with panoramic views of the Jezreel Valley could potentially attract a different population – professional people with a higher educational and income level. He also realized that to attract these people, there was a need to upgrade the town’s social infrastructure, which up till then had been largely nonexistent.

He built a swimming pool and a community center and, in addition, land belonging to a long-since defunct organization called Kehilat Zionei America was made available for residential building.



Twenty years on, Ramat Yishai is a totally different place. From a run-down place with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants at the low end of the socioeconomic scale, it has become a small town of nearly 7,000 people, with 1,800 households at the high end of the socioeconomic scale.

The current mayor, Ofer Ben-Eliezer, has plans. He wants to increase Ramat Yishai’s population by more than 50 percent to 10,000 inhabitants and create a commercial and entertainment hub for the whole Jezreel Valley area.

Ben-Eliezer told Metro: “We have big plans for the city.

We intend, in a couple of years, to convert it from being a purely dormitory town into something quite different: the metropolitan center of a region inhabited by 75,000 people. They will be able to do their shopping and banking, have lunch. At night, an entertainment center with pubs, restaurants and so on will cater to the needs of the area.

“This new Ramat Yishai will have a completely different economic base. And it will be able to offer employment to part of its population.”

Metro: But how will this increase in population affect Ramat Yishai, and how will its future development affect the real estate scene? Ben-Eliezer: “We do intend to increase the population of Ramat Yishai and create jobs, but this will in no way affect the rural character of the town. We do not intend to build high-rise buildings, and the commercial and entertainment center will be on the outskirts of the town, far from the residential area.

“Ramat Yishai’s rural environment is its main attraction and our main advantage, and we do not intend to change it.”

Ramat Yishai is small, but as more building land from the Kehilat Zionei America becomes available, developers will build more housing. Land will also be made available to those who want to build their own houses.

The price for a 500-square-meter plot of land for that purpose costs from NIS 900,000 to NIS 1 million.

Israel Saider, the town’s most prominent real-estate operator, says: “Prices in Ramat Yishai are very reasonable compared to Haifa, and we are fast becoming – I won’t say the Herzliya Pituah of the north – but an attractive option for those Haifa residents who want a rural environment near the city.

Homes in Ramat Yishai can, according to Saider, be roughly divided into three main categories:

• Two-storied semi-town houses of four 100-sq.m.apartments, two on the ground floor and two on the second floor. Built on a 500-sq.m. plot of land, they sell for from NIS 1.05m. to NIS 1.1m.

• Semi-detached houses, two units built back-to-back on a 500-sq.m. plot. These houses have a built-up area of from 160 to 200 sq.m. and sell for from NIS 1.4m. to NIS1.6m.

• Single-family homes built on a 500-sq.-m. plot. These are houses built by the residents themselves and sell for from NIS 1.9m. to NIS 2.1m.

Kamal Shajrawi, chairman of SBI Shajrawi Bros. Ltd., an important development and construction company, told Metro: “I expect demand to rise more rapidly in the future from residents of Upper Nazareth. There is a continuing trend for professional, mainly Christian Arabs to live in Nazareth, and in consequence, prices there have risen by 100% in the last three years. As a result, many Upper Nazareth residents are selling their houses and, with what they are getting, buying much larger and more attractive homes in Ramat Yishai.”

Due to the expected rise in demand, experts believe housing prices are set to rise by from 8% to 12% in the coming 18 months.

Recent transactions in Ramat Yishai

• A single-family home on a 500-square-meter plot with a 200-sq.-m. built-up area with swimming pool sold for NIS 2.15 million.

• An apartment on the second floor of a four-apartment, two-story building sold for NIS 1.05m. The property has a floor area of 120 sq.m. divided into four rooms, plus kitchen and bath.

• A semi-detached dwelling on a 250-sq.-m. plot, four rooms and a floor area of 160 sq.m. sold for NIS 1.28m.

• A family in Ramat Yishai are selling their semidetached dwelling for NIS 1m. It has a floor area of 130 sq. m., is built on a 250-sq-m. plot, and is in dire need of renovation.

Information supplied by Israel Saider Real Estate Brokerage

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