Neighborhood Watch: Urban suburb

Apartments in Malha are lower priced than in more central middle-class neighborhoods, and the J'lem Technology Park offers nearby employment.

Malha neighborhood near Jerusalem 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Malha neighborhood near Jerusalem 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Malha is an upscale neighborhood in southwestern Jerusalem with a very long history.
During excavations carried out between 1987 and 1990, a team of archeologists discovered two settlements, one above the other, from the Bronze Age.
Like all settlements during that era, they were oriented toward agriculture. Some archeologists believe that these urban sites are the remains of Manahat, a Canaanite town on the northern border of the Tribe of Judah. The Biblical Zoo is located in the area believed to have been the town of Manahat, and the archeological remains have been preserved within the compound of the zoo.
Malha derives its name from an agricultural village that flourished during the 16th century called Al- Maliha. At that time, Jerusalem and its environs were part of the Ottoman Empire. Records kept by Ottoman officials in Jerusalem show that at the end of the 16th century Al-Maliha had a population of 286, who paid their taxes to the authorities in agricultural products, namely wheat, barley, olive, apricots, goats and beehives. By the late 19th century, the town had grown to a population of about 1,500 and was described as being of moderate size, located on a high, flat ridge.
By 1948, on the eve of the War of Independence, it had a population of 2,250. By the end of the war, the inhabitants found themselves, at least from their perspective, on the wrong side of the cease-fire line, and they fled to Jordanian-controlled Bethlehem.
The original inhabitants had left their homes, and these were used to house Jewish refugees from Middle Eastern countries, mainly Iraq.
In contrast to other parts of Jerusalem that had undergone a similar process, such as Baka and Talpiot, Malha was not a posh area of lovely stone houses inhabited by well-to-do middle-class families. It was an area inhabited by peasants; consequently, there were no palatial residences. In contrast to other Jerusalem neighborhoods whose original inhabitants fled at the end of the 1948 war and were transformed literally from one day to the next from affluent, prosperous middle-class neighborhoods to slums, Malha, while not a slum in the urban sense of the word, was a rather rundown village. The Jewish refugees who inhabited the area did not improve the urban scene, as they arrived with barely the clothes on their backs. It remained in its rundown condition until the aftermath of the Six Day War. It was then that the Housing Ministry and the Jerusalem Municipality decided to modernize the whole area, and a large residential development project was built on a hill opposite the old village. These were mostly low-rise apartment buildings and some semidetached residences. At the foot of the hill the municipality built Teddy Stadium, and in 1993 the Azrieli Group built the 37,000 square meter Malha shopping mall which, at the time, was the largest in the Middle East. Later, Jerusalem’s railway station was moved to Malha from Baka, where it had stood for more than a century.
The area has undergone substantial upgrading since 2000, and Malha is now considered an upscale neighborhood and growing in demand. Currently there is less demand for real estate in Malha than for properties in the more centrally located upscale neighborhoods such as Rehavia, the German Colony and Baka, since it is farther from the center of town.
Consequently, prices in Malha are about 15 to 25 percent lower than in Rehavia or Baka. While an average modern four-room, 100-sq.-m.-plus apartment in Rehavia may cost NIS 2.6 million and NIS 2.4m. in Baka, it may cost NIS 2m. in Malha But in the context of Jerusalem as a whole, Malha is considered upscale, and prices are expected to rise in the future. Consequently, many developers are building houses suitable for potential affluent middleclass clients. These include semidetached and single-family houses. And prosperous families are moving in.
The municipality is doing its part and is building the necessary public buildings such as schools and religious facilities.
One of the selling points of Malha is the Jerusalem Technology Park, a vast area of offices and facilities for “clean” industrial enterprises such as hi-tech companies, start-ups and media companies. There is a trend today for executives and senior staff to reside within working distance of their place of work. This concept exists in the Diamond Exchange compound in Ramat Gan, where there are office towers adjacent to high-end high-rise apartment buildings.
More or less the same is happening in Malha but with a difference. The office buildings in the Jerusalem Technology Park are not high-rises. They are, at most, eight stories. And there are no high-rise apartment buildings. But the concept is the same: high-class residences for senior executives.
According to real-estate expert Felicia Mizrachi of RE/MAX Vision, Jerusalem, “One of the attractions of Malha is the price differential between it and other high-end areas in the capital. A price differential that can amount to NIS 300,000 to NIS 500,000 for a four-room, 100 sq.m. apartment or as much as NIS 1m. for a semi-detached home. The area has another selling point – its suburban, even rural, ambience on the outskirts of the city. Consequently, it also attracts families looking for an escape from the tarmac of the city to more rural surroundings. In Malha they can find a more suburban lifestyle, a place where many of the properties have gardens, large terraces, beautiful views and private parking,” she says.