Going the scenic route

One of Jerusalem’s few satellite towns, Motza offers a rural setting near the cityץ

Azorim is building apartments in the sprawling Motza Illit. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Azorim is building apartments in the sprawling Motza Illit.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem is in many ways hemmed in. Due to political constraints, the city’s geographical growth is stifled, and unlike Tel Aviv, it does not have a host of satellite towns. Consequently the few surrounding suburbs it does have are much in demand. One of these is Motza.
Municipal publications describe Motza, which lies on the western edge of the city, as the capital’s most westerly neighborhood. But this description is not entirely accurate.
Motza, from a municipal perspective, is divided into two parts, each belonging to a different local authority. Historic Motza, now called Ramat Motza, is the eastern half and is part of the Jerusalem Municipality, while the western half, known as Motza Illit, is part of the Mateh Yehuda regional council.
The two Motzas are located in the wooded Judean hills, 600 meters above sea level. Although Ramat Motza is a statutory neighborhood of Jerusalem, it is relatively isolated, as is Motza Illit; connecting them to the capital are Highway 1 and a winding two-lane mountain road to Har Nof.
What is now Ramat Motza was the first Jewish agricultural village built outside Jerusalem. Modern Motza was founded in the late 1880s on the site of the biblical village of the same name mentioned in Joshua 18:26.
Motza has a strong connection to the Zionist ethos. When Theodor Herzl visited Palestine in 1898, he passed through Motza, which had a population of 200 at the time. Inspired by the lovely hilly landscapes, he planted a cypress tree on one of the hills. After he died in 1904, it became an annual pilgrimage site for Zionist youth, who planted more trees around Herzl’s.
During World War I, Herzl’s tree was cut down by the Turks, who were leveling forests for firewood for railway locomotives.
Up to 1948, Motza was the only Jewish settlement in the area, as the other Jewish villages of Kfar Uriya and Hartuv were much further to the west.
That year, the United Nations recognized the link between Motza and Jerusalem, with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 recommending in December 1948 that “the built-up area of Motza” be included in the Jerusalem “corpus separatum,” which was to be detached from “the rest of Palestine” and “placed under effective United Nations control.” However, this was never put into practice, and Motza became part of the State of Israel.
Today Motza is much in demand as a place of residence for those Jerusalemites and others who like a rural environment offering peace and quiet.
Barbara Heller, manager of Anglo-Saxon Real Estate in Motza and the surrounding areas, tells In Jerusalem that “demand for real estate in Motza is influenced by developments in the real-estate market in Israel as a whole and in Jerusalem in particular, but the real estate market in Motza is generally strong because it is a pleasant place to live with greenery all around, rural living in a hilly environment, which means a lot of scenery and a lot of healthy, dry, cool air.”
Many of those who want to live there are residents of the capital who crave open spaces and a rural atmosphere, but the neighborhood’s attributes act as a magnet for those further afield, including those with employment in the coastal plain.
Many are attracted by the climate, the relatively cool summers and the fact that Motza sits astride the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem highway. For people working in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, driving to Motza is both easy and fast. At peak hours, getting from Motza to Jerusalem does not take much less time than driving from Tel Aviv to Motza.
Nonetheless, the neighborhood is expensive, and real-estate prices are steep. In addition, there are no shops, grocery stores or vegetable stores, no schools beyond the kindergarten level, and little public transportation. This means that residents need a car for their most basic commercial needs, and for those with teenage children, some kind of vehicle for them as well.
Motza is an upper-middle-class area, and as such, the vast majority of housing there consists of single-family homes. In Ramat Motza, one can find semi-detached residences and some apartment buildings, but in Motza Illit nearly all residences are single-family homes.
“As can be expected, prices in Motza are high,” says Heller.
“To give you some examples of some homes on the market, a new single-family, 350-square-meter house on an 850-sq.m.
plot is on offer for NIS 6.5 million, while a single-family home in need of restoration on a 700-sq.m. plot is being offered for NIS 4m. Semidetached residences are on offer for around NIS 3m., and four-room apartments are on offer for over NIS 2m.”
While all the dwellings in Motza Illit are single-family homes with a sprinkling of semidetached residences, this is set to change. The Azorim development company has an ongoing project there called Arza Motza Illit, which incorporates 14 three-story buildings. In most buildings, there will be six apartments at the most, with 91 residential units in total.
The developers have designed what can be described as rural apartments, because the apartments are large and spacious and set in green woodlands. There are three kinds of apartments: garden apartments on the ground floor, standard apartments with large open terraces on the second floor, and penthouses on the third floor.