Living on the edge

Real-estate trade in East Talpiot is brisk.

East Talpiot (photo credit: Marc israel Sellem)
East Talpiot
(photo credit: Marc israel Sellem)
East Talpiot is located in southeastern Jerusalem.
Developed as a separate neighborhood in 1973, it forms part of the ring of neighborhoods planned and built around the capital in the aftermath of the Six Day War.
Today the area is completely urbanized, but over 80 years ago, it was agricultural land. In 1926, after living in a temporary camp in Jerusalem, a group of 10 G’dud Ha’avoda pioneers set up a kibbutz on a stony plot of land on an 803-meter-high hill – one of the highest hills in the area. The kibbutz, which had commanding views of Bethlehem and Rachel’s Tomb, was named Ramat Rahel in honor of the matriarch’s burial site. Two years later, Rahel Yana’it Ben-Zvi, the wife of the country’s second president and a member of the kibbutz, established an agricultural training farm for young women.
The kibbutz has a checkered history. In 1929, it was burned to the ground by Arab rioters protesting Jewish immigration to Palestine. The settlers returned in 1930.
In 1948, it was the southern line of defense of Jewish Jerusalem, and halted the advance of a column of the Egyptian Army, preventing a link-up with the Arab Legion. In 1967, the site came under intensive artillery fire from the Jordanian Army during the Six Day War.
The area has its share of historical sites. While clearing the land for a residential building project, a construction company discovered an ancient tomb that some archeologists believe is the tomb of Jesus and his family, based on the names inscribed on the ossuaries. Many more ossuaries have been found in that area, suggesting that it was a burial site at the time of the Second Temple. Also located in East Talpiot is an aqueduct that Herod the Great built, which brought water from springs to the south of Jerusalem – what is now the Gush Etzion area – to the Temple. The aqueduct, which was highly sophisticated, was in use up to the 19th century.
East Talpiot is also where one can find one of the grandest residences in the capital: the palace of the British high commissioner in Palestine – though today, that palatial residence is the headquarters of the United Nations, and its once-elegant public rooms have been converted into offices.
The entire neighborhood is built on a hill, in a horseshoe opening out toward the Judean Hills, the wilderness of Judea and the Kingdom of Jordan in the distance. It is surrounded by open vistas on two sides. The area’s topography and magnificent views are its major selling point; one of its prominent landmarks is the Haas and Sherover promenades, popularly known as the “Tayelet,” with its unobstructed, sweeping views of the Temple Mount, the Judean Hills and, on a clear day, the Dead Sea.
From a real-estate angle, the neighborhood is divided into two distinct parts: upper and lower. Upper East Talpiot is the more upscale of the two.
There is a marked difference in prices – less because of the difference in height than for historical reasons.
When planned in 1970, the area was intended for families living in Amidar-owned buildings, which meant families of a lower socioeconomic level, and the apartments were “basic.” Consequently the area developed negative connotations.
An average four-room apartment in the upper part of town costs from NIS 1.5 million to NIS 1.6m., while an average three-room apartment costs NIS 1.3m. to NIS 1.35m. A penthouse can cost NIS 2.3m. to NIS 2.4m.
on average.
In the lower part, an average four-room apartment costs NIS 1m., while a three-room apartment costs around NIS 850,000.
Anita Weizman, the Anglo-Saxon real-estate agent for the area, tells In Jerusalem that demand in the neighborhood is more marked than in other areas.
“There is a very active trade in the real-estate market.
Families who live in the lower part and can afford it are upgrading and buying in the upper part of the neighborhood.
The dwellings in the lower area are oldish and have no parking and no elevators. In contrast, the apartment buildings in the upper part have both,” she explains.
“There is brisk demand for accommodation from families who do not live in the area,” she continues. “The appeal for these is prices and location. The price is low compared to prices of housing in other parts of Jerusalem. Because it is distant from the center and not closed in, it has a rural look that is very appealing to citydwellers.
It is the demand from these last that is pushing prices up.”
Indeed, East Talpiot is an enigma: a quiet suburb on the outskirts of Jerusalem with views of the surrounding areas, yet inexpensive compared to other parts of town.
Why? Location. Real-estate-wise, its physical placement is excellent; its “social” location still needs to catch up.