Pisgat Ze’ev: The ghosts of the past

Because of its relatively low prices, the neighborhood is home to many young families.

Light rail in Pisgat Ze'ev 521 (photo credit: Wikipedia)
Light rail in Pisgat Ze'ev 521
(photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pisgat Ze’ev is a large, bustling neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. It is a relatively new and popular destination for families and young couples looking to escape the skyrocketing property prices elsewhere in the capital; consequently, area housing is adapted to the needs of young families.
The history of Pisgat Ze’ev goes back 46 years, to the end of the Six Day War. At the war’s end Israel had conquered all of the West Bank, including the eastern part of Jerusalem, which had remained in Jordanian hands in the aftermath of the 1948 War of Independence.
In those days, the Israeli, western part of Jerusalem had barely 200,000 people. After Israel annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem, its top priority was to increase the Jewish population; it planned to attract new Jewish residents by constructing a ring of neighborhoods around the entire city.
Pisgat Ze’ev was part of this program. It was not the first neighborhood to be built according to that master plan – rather the last. Planning work first started in Ramat Eshkol, East Talpiot and Ramot Allon; afterward, it was the turn of Gilo and Neveh Ya’acov. Pisgat Ze’ev came last.
Despite being the youngest, it is the biggest. With a population of over 50,000, it is a small town in itself – making it not only the largest neighborhood of those built after the Six Day War, but the largest neighborhood in all of Jerusalem.
Pisgat Ze’ev was created as part of plans for a continuous built-up area from French Hill to Neveh Ya’acov. It was located on a high hill called Ras a-Tawil, 772 meters above sea level. When developed it was named Pisgat Tal, the Hebrew rendering of the its Arab name, “dew heights.” It was subsequently changed to Pisgat Ze’ev in honor of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder and leader of the Betar Revisionist movement until his death in 1940.
Pisgat Ze’ev is comprised of an extensive spread of territory that is divided into four units: central, which is the original and oldest part of the neighborhood; west, which borders on the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina; east, opposite the Judean Desert; and north, adjacent to Neveh Ya’acov and the latest addition to Pisgat Ze’ev.
The location of Pisgat Ze’ev is steeped in history, siting astride the ancient road from Jerusalem to the north to Nablus, and from there to the Galilee and Damascus. It is rich in historical and archeological sites.
Because of its relatively low prices in comparison to other parts of Jerusalem, the neighborhood is home to many young families with children, and therefore has many kindergartens and schools.
The population is a mix of religious and secular Jews, with a significant number of synagogues throughout. Forty percent of residents are under the age of 21.
Pisgat Ze’ev is one of the most far-flung of the many neighborhoods of Jerusalem, and this was reflected in the demand for its real estate. But since the city’s light rail became operational, Pisgat Ze’ev has become much more accessible. As a result, the demand for real estate has increased, and prices have risen accordingly.
Residents are very civic-minded. Recently and with the help of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, they created a two-hectare (fiveacre) wildlife sanctuary, with over 55 species of trees and plants out of what was once an illegal dumping ground.
Compared to prices in other parts of the capital, Pisgat Ze’ev’s real-estate prices are moderate. An average three-room, 67-sq.m. apartment costs between NIS 1.2 million and NIS 1.4m.; a four-room, 100-sq.m. apartment is NIS 1.55m.; a five-room, 120-sq.m. apartment is NIS 2m.; and a single-family home averages NIS 3m.
From an investment perspective, Pisgat Ze’ev attracts many bargain hunters, who recognize the neighborhood’s future appreciation value. Due to its proximity to the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University, there is also constant demand for student rentals.
Alyssa Friedland, owner of Re/max Vision real estate in Jerusalem, has three agents currently servicing the neighborhood due to the high turnover and constant demand for reasonably priced housing.
She states: “In today’s global economy, where many countries surrounding us are experiencing financial crisis, real estate is the one solid investment that people can count on. Many of our investors have become more conservative and are looking at 4% to 5% returns, as long as they have solid appreciation expectations for the future. Pisgat Ze’ev offers both, and therefore we are suggesting this neighborhood as an excellent investment option.
“Those who invested in Pisgat Ze’ev real estate five years ago are seeing appreciation of over 75% over that period, at approximately 15% per year.”