Jerusalem's suburbs

For the price of a small apartment in the capital, one can buy a large home in Kochav Ya'acov.

Jerusalem's suburbs (photo credit: courtesy)
Jerusalem's suburbs
(photo credit: courtesy)
Living in Jerusalem is not cheap. From a real estate perspective, it is considered one of the most expensive cities in the country, particularly for those who prefer a suburban style of living. Single-family homes or even semidetached dwellings are prohibitively expensive, and they are also pricey in the suburban areas to the west of the city, such as Mevaseret Zion and Tzur Hadassah.
Not so in the settlements beyond the Green Line, in the West Bank. Among the “consensus” areas – which are expected to remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace agreement and include Gush Etzion and Ariel – are the twin settlements of Kochav Ya’acov and Tel Zion, with a combined population of over 6,000.
Kochav Ya’acov was founded in 1985 by Amana, the settlement movement of the Gush Emunim organization.
Amana was founded in 1978 to develop settlements primarily for the religious community, and its objective includes not only the establishment of communities and their supportive industries and social services, but their continued maintenance and development.
One of the reasons Kochav Ya’acov is in the “consensus” is its proximity to Jerusalem: 12 km. or 10 minutes by car. It is part of the Binyamin Regional Council between the biblical cities of Rama- and Beth-El, and its population is mainly national religious.
By contrast, Tel Zion, established in 1990, is a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhood.
The higher cost and smaller dimensions of homes within cities seem to be compelling factors for many families – especially large religious families – considering “moving out” and looking into a more suburban lifestyle. When buying real estate for investment purposes, location is the No. 1 consideration, because it is the prime price-determining factor. The investment factor is also important for those buying a property simply to have a roof over their heads, but it may be less important than other factors, such as the social or communal surroundings.
Community tends to matter less when one moves into a high-rise apartment building with over 50 “neighbors,” because then the “lonely crowds syndrome” sets in and there is little interaction even between neighbors on the same floor. However, in a small town, there is usually a sense of communal spirit, and one must fit in; there is little room for the odd man out. Kochav Ya’acov, for instance, is a nationalreligious settlement, and if one does not live a national- religious lifestyle, it may not be the best place for that person to live and raise a family.
For those who do enjoy that lifestyle, Kochav Ya’acov has much going for it. Its size lends it a comfortable small-town feel, and residents can conveniently commute to work in the capital. Other services the community offers include education, with kindergartens, elementary schools and day-care options available locally; many recreational parks; classes and extracurricular activities for both children and adults; opportunities for learning and growth; health clinics; and a local market to make food shopping easy.
Settlements in general make an effort to help with the absorption of new immigrants. Kochav Ya’acov is home to a large immigrant population, particularly from France and North America. Many Anglo olim these days are looking to join communities that are not necessarily English-speaking environments.
“These days, in spite and perhaps because of the current real estate in Jerusalem, where prices are creeping up, we see a constant trend of families who want to sell their apartments in Jerusalem proper and move to one of the surrounding settlements. This is especially true for new olim from North America, Australia and Europe, where families are accustomed to spacious homes,” Shlomo Benzaquen, a Re/Max real-estate agent working the Binyamin region beat, tells In Jerusalem.
“For the price of a small apartment in Jerusalem, one can buy a spacious home in Kochav Ya’acov,” he says.
In this settlement, there are three kinds of dwellings: what can be termed town houses, or duplex-type apartments with no garden; semidetached dwellings with relatively large plots; and single-family homes.
On average, a town house, usually known as a cottage in Israel, has an average floor area of 150 sq.m. and usually has a large porch or terrace. It can cost anywhere from NIS 1.1 million to NIS 1.2m. A semi-detached dwelling usually has two floors, a built-up area of 140 sq.m. and a plot of 400 sq.m. on average. The average price range is from NIS 1.3m. to NIS 1.4m.
A single-family home is more versatile: Plots range from 250 sq.m. to 600 sq.m., relatively large plots of land in a country where land is at a premium. Prices range from as little as NIS 1.3m. to NIS 2.2m. The price of single-family homes depends a lot on the size of the plot.
Tel Zion is different from its twin not only in population but in architecture. The dwellings are mostly apartment buildings, and the apartments do not have private gardens. A 120-sq.m. apartment costs NIS 800,000 on average.