West of Jerusalem

Its location was once of strategic importance, but now Mevaseret Zion is popular for its proximity to the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway and its education system.

Mevaseret Zion (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mevaseret Zion
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Although Mevaseret Zion is generally known as a suburb of the capital, the Interior Ministry recognizes it as a local council, with its own council head and city administration. An amalgamation of two townships west of Jerusalem – Mevaseret Yerushalayim and Maoz Zion – it is today a well-to-do neighborhood.
However, both of its component townships started life as the abode of new immigrants from Middle Eastern and North African countries, who arrived with nothing except the clothes they wore.
Maoz Zion was built in 1951 to house new immigrants from Iraq and Kurdistan. It was built in the area called the Castel, the site of a Roman fort and later a Crusader stronghold, both built to protect the Jaffa-Jerusalem road. One of the most important battles in the 1948 War of Independence was over control of the Castel.
Mevaseret Yerushalayim was established east of Maoz Zion in 1956. That year, Morocco allowed its Jews to emigrate to Israel, and large numbers of them did so. Mevaseret Yerushalayim was one of the places where they were housed.
The area was chosen to house the new immigrants for two reasons. First of all, it was an area of great strategic importance, and housing newcomers in the area created an inhabited bloc of land near what was then the frontier with Jordan. Second, the area was close to places of employment, as manpower was necessary for fruit orchards in the Arazim valley and for the nearby quarry.
In 1963, Maoz Zion and Mevaseret Yerushalayim merged to create the joint local council of Mevaseret Zion (popularly known as Mevaseret).
Mevaseret Zion sits on a ridge 750 meters above sea level astride the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, 10 kilometers from Jerusalem proper. As with most locations of strategic importance, it has been inhabited since time immemorial.
The Romans built a fortress known as Castellum to control the coastal road from the seaport of Jaffa to Jerusalem. When the Crusaders conquered thhttp://newcms1.jpost.com/WebsiteContent/Pages/Articles/InsertArticle.aspxe country, they used the foundations of the old Roman fortress to build a castle of their own, which they called Castellum Belveer. As happens with military outposts that need civilian services, a local village soon sprang up. It was called Colonia, which probably means it had been around since Roman times.
Because of its position overlooking the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem highway – then the only road to Jerusalem, and therefore the lifeline of the capital – fierce battles took place for control of the Castel, particularly when Jerusalem came under siege in 1948. The Castel changed hands many times before the Palmah finally conquered it in the War of Independence. The exploits of the Palmah fighters are honored to this day: Two flags fly over the ramparts of the old Crusader castle – the Israeli flag and the Palmah flag.
TODAY MEVASERET Zion is a different place from the contested strategic asset it was in 1948, as well as from the immigrant settlement of the ’50s. In those times, it had the semblance of a working-class neighborhood at a distance from the city, when distance was a disadvantage. Now it is a garden neighborhood of mostly well-off families, for whom distance from the noise and bustle of the city is an advantage.
Demand for housing usually outstrips supply, and prices have risen accordingly.
This year, demand is weak, as it is all over the country, but the potential demand is high.
Mevaseret has the advantage of offering different types of dwellings – the old 1950s shikunim (lowincome housing projects), modern apartment buildings of up to five stories, semidetached dwellings, and single-family homes. It is a pleasant place to live, as it has clean mountain air and attractive views.
Local council head Yoram Shimon says his town has many advantages for families and individuals alike.
“We have an excellent education system, the population density is among the lowest in Israel, we are surrounded by national parks, the area is steeped in history, and the town’s location astride the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem highway makes it accessible to the national road grid – and as such makes it accessible to all parts of Israel,” he tells In Jerusalem.
He adds that English-speakers can “feel at home, because we have a very sizable English-speaking element of over 1,000 people.”
The general population stands at nearly 28,000, he says, “but we have plans to increase the population to some 40,000.”
Barbara Heller, the manager of the Anglo-Saxon realestate agency there, states that “demand for housing in Mevaseret is weak, but this is understandable, because the real-estate market is weak at these times.
But despite the fact that demand is weak compared with what it was in past years, demand for housing in Mevaseret is still comparatively strong. Many Jerusalemites are moving to Mevaseret because it has a rural setting. Others, who live in Jerusalem but work in Tel Aviv, prefer Mevaseret because it is more accessible to Tel Aviv. There is also demand from the medical staff at Hadassah [University Medical Center in Ein Kerem], which is relatively close to Mevaseret.”
The town also has attractive prices for those who live in the more affluent neighborhoods of the capital and are looking for comparative lodgings.
On average, a three-room, 60-square-meter apartment costs NIS 1.3 million; a four-room, 100- sq.m. apartment costs NIS 1.958m.; a five-room garden apartment can cost NIS 2.5m.; and a penthouse can cost anywhere from NIS 3m. to NIS 3.3m.
A semidetached dwelling can cost up to NIS 3.5m., while a single-family home can cost NIS 5m.
The price of apartments varies according to location and view. The price of the semi-detached and single-family homes, meanwhile, varies according to location, the size of the house and the size of the plot.
• A corner semidetached dwelling, wellmaintained and without any need for renovations, sold for NIS 3.3 million. The property has six rooms, a floor area of 200 square meters and a 150- sq.m. garden.
• A corner semidetached dwelling in the center of town but in need of renovation sold for NIS 3.2m. The property has a floor area of 240 sq.m., three rooms plus a two-room annex, and a 280- sq.m. garden.
• A semidetached home measuring 150 sq.m.
with a 200-sq.m. plot sold for NIS 2.9m. The property is not centrally located.
• A centrally located penthouse on the fifth floor sold for NIS 2.75m. The property, which was in dire need of redecoration, has a floor area of 140 sq.m., a 40-sq.m. terrace, four parking spaces and a storage room.
• A three-room, 65-sq.m. apartment on the second floor sold for NIS 1.25m. The apartment has no terrace and no parking.