The British are coming!

'Anglo Saxon' olim, especially from the UK, are flocking to Netanya.

netanya metro 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy  )
netanya metro 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy )
The numbers of Jews from Great Britain buying property in Israel to be used as vacation/investment homes or as permanent dwellings has risen steadily over the past two years. More young families, as well as retirees and grandparents, are coming to Israel with typical British reserve and no great fanfare. According to the aliya organization Nefesh B'Nefesh, the number of British olim has almost doubled over the past five years, from 323 in 2002 to 612 in 2006. Of the projected 600 arrivals this year, over 400 are coming though Nefesh B'Nefesh. The Jewish population of Great Britain numbers between 350,000 to 450,000, comprising under 0.25 percent of the total population of the UK. Just as historians now concur that Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere did not shout the famous phrase "The British are coming!" while on his Midnight Ride, but rather spread the message quietly, the Jews from Great Britain are now calmly sending the message that "This is the time for British Jews to come, buy and live in Israel." "Israel is the only place for Jews," says Dr. Anthony Daulby, accountant and Manchester city councilor (Conservatives) who will be formally making aliya with his wife Louise when they arrive on a British Airways jet at Ben-Gurion airport on September 24. Currently, they are renting an apartment at the Sea Opera complex in Netanya, where almost all the apartments are owned by Anglo Saxons. The Daulby's are waiting to take possession of their home in the adjacent, second Sea Opera tower when it is completed in 2008. In Daulby's mind, there are two reasons why this is the best time for Brits to buy in Israel. "The rate of British sterling to the dollar (which apartments are priced in) is very good. One gets good value for money and the investment will increase in value." Second, in Daulby's words, anti-Semitism in England is as bad as can be. He points out that children attending Jewish schools in Manchester are surrounded by barbed wire, security lights and 24-hour guards. "The children are taught that Hashem wants a Jew's heart to be connected to the Land of Israel, and I believe this is the time to turn desire into reality," he says. The Daulby's have two children, one living in Ra'anana and the other in the haredi community of Ramat Beit Shemesh. They have made numerous trips to visit their offspring and, when they saw advertisements for the Netanya Sea Opera buildings, decided to investigate further. The owner and developer of the land on which Sea Opera is situated, Aharon Tavavian, decided to market the project in English through the printed media in Britain and the US, at aliya exhibitions and over the internet. This enabled him to sell almost all the 88 luxury apartments in the first tower before they were built. "We chose the builder, Danya Cebus, whose worldwide construction projects have an excellent reputation," explains Tavavian. "They signed a guarantee in front of the buyers that they assumed responsibility and would fix or replace problems with relation to quality of materials and labor. They have stood by their guarantee and even in some instances extended their guarantee." "Second, we established with Bank Mizrahi special accounts into which the buyers' monies are deposited," continues Tavavian. "It's a separate account - not the builders' account. The bank must issue a guarantee within two or three days. The bank guarantee is like a check and of the utmost importance - it's a vehicle by which the bank guarantees to finish the project and hand over the apartment to the buyer. If the buyer does not receive the bank guarantee two or three days after payment, he should ask 'why' immediately." "All builders in Israel," he explains, "sell homes and apartments on paper, meaning before they are actually built. Our intention was to sell in a way that would provide confidence in the project as it was going to buyers in the Diaspora, and to deliver an apartment building of the highest quality. We began constructing in 2001 and started selling in 2002." The Sea Opera project was initiated before the Knesset passed a law mandating that no new residential buildings be built less than 300 meters from the Mediterranean shoreline. The two towers are located between Rehov Shlomo Hamelech and Sderot Nitza, less than 300 meters from the sea. Tavavian says that this is a wonderful plus for the occupants. Furthermore, he decided to develop the 7,000 square meters of land in front of the project - on the Sderot Nitza side - as additional underground parking topped by a landscaped park for residents' pleasure. "We want to give apartment owners an unobstructed view of the sea - nothing will be built on this land," he promises. Prices for a three-room, 146-square-meter apartment begin at $540,000. Penthouses are priced between one to two million dollars. The first Sea Opera tower has multiple elevators that take you to the 26th floor in less than a minute, a Shabbat elevator service and health clubs. The second tower will have two swimming pools. An approximately equal number of residents from the UK and US live in the first building. The second tower - of which 75 percent is already sold - has 60% British owners and 40% Americans. No native-born Israelis have bought into the complex. Tavavian points out that 30% of the second tower buyers are family or close friends of residents of the first tower. "Anglo Saxons, the British especially, like to live near one another," he remarks. "This makes the building like a big, cohesive neighborhood and minimizes cultural conflicts." He points out that family togetherness is important to these British buyers. Quite a few have bought double apartments so that they and their children can be together for the holidays and vacations. There is also a trend that their children are buying apartments, villas and cottages in the nearby new developments surrounding the Netanya College. Through the years, Netanya has had a reputation as a city with a large, strong and active English-speaking community, becoming a magnet for British and American immigrants in particular. Helen Kohn and her late husband Haim Yaakov made aliya from Hendon, London in 1983. "I have to admit it was my husband's idea," recalls Mrs. Kohn. "He was all set to come on aliya as early as our engagement, but my mother was an invalid and I could not leave her. Then I negotiated and said 'after our daughters are married.' After our third daughter was married, he woke up one morning and said, "We are going NOW. I want to live in Israel and not be carried there in a box." In the early 1980s they began the process of visiting Israel in search of an apartment. "We decided on an apartment in a new block in Netanya, and had confidence in the contractor, Shaked, a well-known and respected builder. He guaranteed that it would be ready by Pessah and if not, would pay for our accommodation in a hotel. True to his word, the apartment was ready and we moved in. One of our daughters lives in the Jerusalem area, but we chose Netanya because it is flat and more manageable for my husband who had a heart problem. He saw aliya through rose-colored glasses, and nothing was too big an obstacle. Unfortunately, he died after three years, but I chose to remain," she says. "My home is here. I have been active in and the treasurer of the local Emunah chapter for 22 years. I find the social life stimulating, and the game of bridge is my passion for keeping my brain active. Netanya is a city where everything is accessible by foot or a short car ride, and my children from overseas or Jerusalem visit me or I go to them. Thank God for everything." Socially, the British are active. The HOB (Hitachdut Olei Britannia) is one of the organizations specifically devoted to helping people from Britain with their aliya questions, car or apartment purchases, in addition to its community service and social programs in Netanya. HOB membership in Netanya currently stands at about 600 persons. HOB President Pearl Zilka points out that the Sderot Nitza area has many British residents because of its close proximity to synagogues. "Living close to a synagogue was always a factor for British Jews, and it's a deciding factor when they come to Israel," she says. Nevertheless, Jews from Britain are taking a great interest and buying into the new buildings on the South Beach of Netanya near the Carmel Hotel. "The British have been major players in every upscale real estate market in Israel," says Barry Shaw of Netanya Real Estate. "They have outstripped the French in the more expensive locations in the country, and this is most evident in the South Beach area between Herzliya Pituah and Netanya where every apartment in the best projects is British-owned." Shaw points to three regal-sounding luxury apartment buildings in various stages of construction - the Royal Residence, the Presidential Palace and the Duet - as representative of what the British want, noting that they have larger rooms, a sea view, Shabbat elevators, beautiful lobbies, swimming pools and gyms. The apartments were sold before the buildings went up, based on their plans and high quality. One-and-a-half years ago, they were sold at $300,000 for a three-room apartment, a price that Shaw believes will double when they are finished in 2008. The South Beach is the newest development area of Netanya, and has a synagogue close by in the Carmel Hotel. The municipal policy plans foresee the South Beach as an area into which the city will be moving, and have zoned for more synagogues, restaurants, shops, cafes and tourism. Shaw sees more British families and couples in their 40s buying these apartments for permanent residences, future aliya, vacation dwellings and investments. In Britain, property is selling at a high, the pound is strong and people like Dr. Daulby think that coming to Israel should be viewed by more British as an opportunity and not only a challenge. With more Brits joining those already here, it appears that Paul Revere was right, regarding Netanya.