The ‘wall mountain’

South Jerusalem’s Har Homa has evolved into one of the city’s most popular neighborhoods

A panoramic view of the Har Homa neighborhood in south Jerusalem. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
A panoramic view of the Har Homa neighborhood in south Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)
Recently Yad2, one of the country’s leading consumer-to-consumer Internet sites, published a survey showing that Homat Shmuel (Har Homa) was one of the three most popular neighborhoods in Jerusalem, along with Gilo and Pisgat Ze’ev. According to that survey, demand for real estate in the capital is very strong, and prices in 2013 rose by 5.5 percent.
Roi Segev, Yad2’s deputy general manager is not surprised.
“The continuing rise in real estate prices in Jerusalem is to be expected when demand outpaces supply,” he points out.
However, what was less expected was the popularity of Homat Shmuel, which not so long ago was a highly controversial area.
Har Homa – Hebrew for “wall mountain” – is the newest neighborhood in the capital, on land that Israel annexed after the Six Day War. According to land records, some of that land was purchased by a Jewish group in the mid-1940s for residential purposes.
At that time, it was called Jabal Abu Ghneim (the mountain of the father of Ghneim). During the War of Independence in 1948, forces that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood had sent to aid the Palestinian Arabs used the area as a base. After the cessation of hostilities, the Egyptians turned it over to the Jordanian Arab Legion, and the Jordanian authorities planted a pine forest, which still exists today.
Incidentally the name “wall mountain” was given by the Israeli forces stationed opposite the area, in Kibbutz Ramat Rahel, because of a wall the Arab Legion had built that was clearly visible from the kibbutz.
The Construction and Housing Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality started planning an urban expansion in the area in the early 1980s. The first opposition to the plan came from local environmental groups that wanted to maintain the forested hill as a green open area for the capital’s residents.
Most of the residents of the neighborhood today are young families who moved there in search of affordable housing. The controversy over the area, as well as its distance from the city center, deterred potential buyers at first. Demand was weak, and in the first years, a modern three-room, terraced apartment with parking and elevators sold for only NIS 700,000.
But the low prices attracted buyers; the semi-taboo was broken, and demand rose quickly.
Today the political difficulties are a thing of the past, and Homat Shmuel is just like any other outlying Jerusalem neighborhood. There are not many neighborhoods left in the capital where young families can afford to buy a home, even an apartment. Homat Shmuel, although off the beaten path, is attracting many such families, as well as investors who see the appreciation potential in the neighborhood.
Yechiel Shushan, one of the leading real estate agents with RE/MAX Vision, states that “many young families from East Talpiot and Gilo are finding that they can purchase larger and more spacious terraced apartments and even garden apartments in Homat Shmuel for less than the value of their current apartment. When they decide to upgrade to a larger home, they are willing to move out to Homat Shmuel to get more for their money and a better quality of life.”
He notes that moving to the suburbs is gradually becoming more fashionable and popular among the younger generation. “Living in Baka and German Colony, or even the Arnona neighborhood, is becoming less financially attractive to young families. They are [starting to give] up the convenience and centrality to get more for their money.”
The average price for a three-room apartment in Homat Shmuel today is NIS 1.1 million; for a four-room apartment, the average is NIS 1.45m., and for a five-room apartment, NIS 1.85m. A garden apartment can cost an extra 15%, a penthouse an extra 20%.
Recent Transactions
• A five-room, 109-square-meter apartment on the third floor sold for NIS 1.92 million. The apartment has a store room, a large terrace with fantastic views, and an elevator.
• A five-room apartment measuring 118 sq.m.
on the fifth floor sold for NIS 1.835m.
• A four-room, 96-sq.m. second-floor apartment sold for NIS 1.485m.
• A three-room, 88-sq.m. fourth-floor apartment sold for NIS 1.4m.
• A three-room, 66-sq.m. apartment on the third floor sold for NIS 1.24m.
• A three-room, 62-sq.m. apartment on the third floor sold for NIS 1.19m.