Neighborhood Watch: Ringing the changes

Like many neighborhoods encircling the city, Ramot started out as mostly secular and is now predominantly haredi.

Properties in Ramot 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Properties in Ramot 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Like many other areas in the capital, Ramot is closely linked with the country’s wars. During the 1948 War of Independence, what is now Ramot was on the front lines. At the war’s end, it became part of Jordan.
The situation changed once more in the wake of the Six Day War. Israel now controlled all the Jordanian territory that had once formed the British Mandate of Palestine, and these included those eastern parts of Jerusalem that, after the 1948 war, were beyond the cease-fire lines.
Today Ramot, also known as Ramot Allon, is a large urban neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. It was founded in 1974 in what was perceived as the site of the ancient biblical city of Ramah – the city where the prophet Samuel lived, died and was buried, as I Samuel 25:1 states: “And Samuel died, and all Israel gathered together and mourned him, and they buried him near his home in Ramah.”
According to biblical hearsay, Ramah, which by today’s standards was probably no more than a village, was located in one of the most elevated spots in the Judean Hills. And that is where modern Ramot is, 885 meters above sea level.
The site, which has been constantly inhabited since biblical times, was a place of strategic importance because of its height and proximity to Jerusalem.
Antiquities Authority excavations have found the remains of household utensils dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, as well as remains of a Crusader stronghold, a small castle or fortified country residence. Archeologists have also unearthed potsherds, fragments of jars and cooking pots from the early Ottoman period.
In the center of today’s Ramot stands a mound that the local Arab inhabitants called Khirbat Tililiya, in which were found the remains of a ruined fortress. It is not linked to the later Crusader fortress, and the Antiquities Authority has dated it to the Hasmonean and Herodian period. On the outskirts of present-day Ramot is a tomb that is purportedly Samuel’s.
Ramot was built as part of a ring of neighborhoods encircling Jerusalem, and the hill on which it sits overlooks the historic lands allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. After the death of Yigal Allon, a former general and foreign minister, the neighborhood was renamed Ramot Allon in his honor because he had been a prime mover in creating that ring of neighborhoods.
LOCATED ON a northwestern axis from the historic center of Jerusalem, Ramot is built on two elongated ridges about 100 m. to 200 m. above the surrounding area; the Golda Meir Highway, which leads out to Tel Aviv, bisects the neighborhood. One of Ramot’s selling points is its accessibility due to its excellent road network. It is approximately a 50-minute drive from Tel Aviv and 10 to 15 minutes from the center of Jerusalem. It is also close to the hi-tech industrial park at Har Hotzvim, a seven-minute car ride.
Today, with a population of over 60,000, Ramot is one of the largest neighborhoods in the capital. It is also undergoing a demographic change common to some other Jerusalem neighborhoods. Like all of the ring-neighborhoods, its original inhabitants were secular with a sprinkling of religious Zionist residents.
But with time, in part because the prices were comparatively low, haredi (ultra-Orthodox) residents became the majority. Today, 75% of Ramot is haredi.
The neighborhood has diverse architectural styles.
The first buildings were built in the “patio style,” a cluster of buildings around a central courtyard; later ones were built separately. In the meantime, large private homes went up as Bnei Beitcha projects, in which prospective homeowners received land to build their own single-family homes or semidetached dwellings.
One of the landmarks that can be seen from the neighborhood is the 10-meter-high bronze sculpture depicting a waving American flag turning into a flame, unveiled as part of a 5-acre (2-hectare) memorial plaza for the September 11 terror attacks. Located in what is known as the Arazim Valley, it was the first memorial outside New York to list the names of the 2,974 people killed in the attack (Israeli sculptor Eliezer Weishoff said the memorial had to be moved 180 meters from the planned site to accommodate gazelle migration pathways). Part of the gray granite base, taken from the original Twin Towers, was donated by the New York Municipality. Among the US personalities who attended the monument’s unveiling ceremony was then-US ambassador James Cunningham.
Ramot is still expanding today and has a large English-speaking community.
According to real-estate broker Alyssa Friedland of RE/MAX Vision, real estate prices there, as in most Jerusalem neighborhoods, have risen dramatically over the past few years.
“The variety of building styles and the variation of apartment sizes gives buyers a large selection to choose from,” she says. “Small three-room apartments in large complexes are modestly priced and cater to the many young couples seeking first homes. Within the haredi community, these apartments are in high demand. Prices for these smaller properties range from NIS 1.2 million to NIS 1.35m. Four-room apartments can range from NIS 1.45m. to NIS 1.6m. Cottages, semidetached and single-family residences sell from NIS 2m. to NIS 3.5m. Some large well-appointed properties with large grounds have sold for as much as NIS 6m.”
Recent real-estate transactions in Ramot Allon
On Aliyat Hanoar Street, a five-room, 105- sq.m., ground-floor apartment sold for NIS 2.25 million.• On Zondek Street, a three-room, 75-sq.m., ground-floor apartment sold for NIS 1.15m.• On Reuven Mass Street, a two-room, 50-sq.m., ground-floor apartment sold for NIS 850,000.• On Ha’ahim Lehren Street, a five-room, first-floor, 180-sq.m. apartment sold for NIS 2.7m.• On Aharon Eshkoli Street, a 94-sq.m., third-floor apartment sold for NIS 1.385m.