Neighborhood Watch: A house in the country

A moshav offers only practical way to acquire a home with spacious grounds at what can be described as affordable price. Otherwise such residences are the preserve of the very, very rich.

311_moshave home (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_moshave home
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the small and crowded country that is Israel, land is at a premium. And the kind of dwellings on offer here can give claustrophobia to those who come from big countries where land is plentiful. But that’s what there is.
Forget spacious dwellings with large, multi-acre gardens. They are just not available here.
Israel does have spacious dwellings, but their gardens tend to be small. A 500-square-meter plot of land is considered large. Plots of from 250 to 350 sq.m. are considered the norm.
Those who persist in dreaming of a suburban house with a oneacre garden must move to a moshav, which is the only practical way to acquire a home with spacious grounds at what can be described as an affordable price. Otherwise such residences are the preserve of the very, very rich because such a property in a suburban area can cost well over $10 million – not something the average person can lay his hands on.
So if you are considering moving to a moshav, what does it entail, and – first of all – what exactly is a moshav? It is not a village, rather a compromise between the communal kibbutz and the European village of free peasants. That concept was adapted to accommodate new immigrants.
To the founding fathers of the State of Israel, the communal kibbutz was the ideal. But they realized that not everyone, especially new immigrants from Middle Eastern and North African countries, could adapt to the kibbutz’s idealistic communal life.
The result was the moshav, where the residents raised crops according to the specifications of a central committee, after which the produce was marketed communally.
For this each resident received from 25 to 30 dunams – 25,000-30,000 sq.m. of land. Of this, up to 3,000 sq.m. – called “Zone A” – was the private plot, where food was grown for consumption by the family. The moshav’s residents came from many different countries and had different dietary needs and preferences. The remaining land, “Zone B,” was used to raise the crops which were then marketed communally.
In some instances, the two zones were adjacent to each other; sometimes they were separated.
The moshav was originally viewed as a “halfway house” to the kibbutz lifestyle. But things didn’t turn out that way: The kibbutz decayed and is now in a fast process of privatization, while the moshav has remained.
Many of the original moshav residents or their heirs, who are now either too old to work the land or want to move on, are selling their plots or, as they are called in Hebrew, nahalot (singular: nahala). For the elderly sellers, the proceeds of the sale constitute their pensions.
This is one of the few ways anyone wishing to build a spacious residence with a very large garden at a reasonable price can do so.
Michael Israelstam, CEO of Shibumi Quality Real Estate, specializes in marketing such plots.
“The demand for nahalot is strong,” he said, “but the supply is limited. Nevertheless, prices can be regarded as reasonable.
“Judge for yourself: The price of a spacious single-family home in Ra’anana on a 500-sq.m. plot can cost over NIS 10m. – the price of a nahala on a moshav 10 minutes’ drive from Ra’anana.
The price of nahalot has held more or less steady because there are no overseas buyers in this market. The vast majority are locals and, as a consequence, the price fluctuation is moderate.”
Today, a nahala of 25 to 30 dunams can cost from NIS 7m. to NIS 12m. The price depends on location; the closer to the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv it is, the more expensive it is; another factor is whether the two zones A and B are adjacent to each other, or separate.
According to current zoning laws, the nahalot are agricultural land and can be used for residential and agricultural purposes only, but entrepreneurial buyers can derive income from the property. The 2,500 to 3,000 sq.m. of Zone A can be used to build a spacious residence with a large adjoining garden, while the remaining 25,000 sq.m. can be used for a variety of purposes.
Very few buyers use all the land they have acquired to plant a pleasure garden. Most are more practical: The land can be left fallow, which means it does not consume water or need labor, or it can be leased to people specializing in growing crops. Orchards can be planted, and the fruit sold. Building greenhouses for growing exotic vegetables, fruits and flowers is another option, and some landlords have converted most or all of their Zone B land into stables, where they either breed horses or rent out to horse owners.