Real estate in the Jezreel Valley Afula is developing as an attractive modern city

Ohad Kronenberg, the RE/MAX real estate agent in Afula, is very optimistic about the city’s real-estate potential.

bird eye afula 521 (photo credit: municipality)
bird eye afula 521
(photo credit: municipality)
Afula is a sleepy town of some 47,000 and something of a backwater. But despite its being somewhat unknown as a residential center, it is known by many Israelis. Well, not the city proper but the central bus station. Afula is an important junction in the middle of the Jezreel Valley, and from that point roads radiate to the Coastal Plain in the South to the Haifa area in the West and to Tiberias and the Upper and Lower Galilee in the North. For nearly 65 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, soldiers have been using the bus routes from the center of Israel to the North. The buses make a short stop, and the Afula bus station is what a large number of Israelis know of Afula.
Afula is not a historic city in the way that Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa or Tiberias are, but it has its historical antecedents.
The name Afula derives from the name of the small nearby Arab village Al-Fule, and some archeologists believe that the town may have its roots way back in antiquity. It may have been a stronghold during the Israelite period, and those who offer that hypothesis claim that the name Al-Fule originated in the Canaanite- Hebrew word ofel, meaning “fortress” or “tower.” The theory of a stronghold in antiquity is reinforced because in 1226, Syrian historian and geographer Yaqut al- Hamawi wrote about a town in the area of what is now Afula in what was then called Jund Filastin. He also wrote that a Crusader castle existed on the site, and archeological finds were discovered there. The first excavations at Tel Afula were carried out in 1948. Besides the Crusader fortress, they found proof that the area had been continuously inhabited from the Bronze Age to the Byzantine period. It was then resettled during the Ottoman period in the late 16th century to this day.
Afula was always important strategically because it linked the old Via Maris, connecting Jaffa to Lebanon and beyond to the road to Damascus. Its strategic importance was proven once again in 1799.
During Napoleon’s Syrian campaigns, he marched from Egypt to conquer Syria, won the Battle of Mount Tabor but could not follow through with his victory and march to conquer Damascus because his main force was bogged down opposite the walls of Acre.
Afula has great importance because the Jezreel Valley was one of the areas designated by the Zionist movement for Jewish settlement. In 1909 and 1910, Yehoshua Hankin, one of the major buyers of land in that period, completed his first major purchase in the Jezreel Valley. He bought a large tract of land of 10 square kilometers and founded the settlements of Tel Adashim and Merhavia.
The town of Afula itself was founded in 1925 and was planned as the market town for the Jewish settlements in the Jezreel Valley and the surrounding areas. It was built on agricultural land bought by the American Zionist Organization from the Sursuk family of Beirut. Of the 100 or so families of tenant farmers in the area, 25 accepted compensation, and the rest were evicted. The site of the town sat astride the Jezreel Valley Railway, built by the Ottomans from Haifa to Tzemah on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and from there to Damascus.
Afula was founded in the same way as Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, Petah Tikva, Hadera, etc. But while these settlements developed into very large towns, Afula did not. This is mainly due to the fact that most of Israel’s population was concentrated in the center of the country and not in the area around the Jezreel Valley.
Today, Afula is receiving the kiss of life.
Its excellent road connects to the soon-tobe reopened Jezreel Valley Railway, and the relatively low real estate prices are creating interest from potential buyers from as far as Tel Aviv and Nahariya. This trend has been going on for a few years.
In the past four or five years, the town has undergone an annual average growth of 1,500 families.
From a real estate perspective Afula, although a small town, is divided into four areas. There is the town of Afula, which can be called the historic area. Afula Illit and Givat Hamoreh were built three to four kilometers to the east of Afula proper to house new immigrants.
The fourth area is Rova Yizre’el, or “the Jezreel. Quarter” It is a new modern neighborhood. When completed, it will have 4,000 dwellings, or 16,000 inhabitants. It is being built in the area between Afula and the outlying suburbs of Givat Hamoreh and Afula Illit. When completed, the inhabited areas of the Afula Municipality will have continuous territory for the first time in more than 60 years.
Real-estate prices in Afula are relatively low, but there are big differences in price among the four neighborhoods.
An average three-room second-hand apartment of 75 square meters costs NIS 300,000 in Afula Illit; NIS 400,000 in Givat Hamoreh; and NIS 600,000 in Afula proper. In the new Rova Yizre’el, there are no three-room apartments. All the buildings are new, with four- or five-room apartments and penthouses. In Afula Illit and Givat Hamoreh, there are blocks of three- and four-story apartment buildings.
In Afula proper, the stock of housing is more varied. There are apartment buildings, semidetached dwellings and single-family homes, many of which were built during the 1930s and 1940s. When one of the latter comes onto the market and the plot is, say, 1,000 sq.m., the price can reach NIS 2 million.
Ohad Kronenberg, the RE/MAX real estate agent in Afula, is very optimistic about the city’s real-estate potential.
“Afula is expanding, and prices are rising,” he says. “For the first time in many years, real-estate developers are showing interest in the city. In fact, more than interest because they are building the new Rova Yizre’el. They would not do that unless they were confident about selling the apartments they are building because demand is growing. And with good reason.
A 190-sq.m. penthouse with an 80-sq.m.terrace in the Top Two project of Rova Yizre’el was sold for NIS 1.53 million. A similar penthouse in, say, Netanya, which is an hour’s drive away, costs over NIS 5 million – three times more. And for those who want to work in the vicinity, Afula is surrounded by employment centers such as Alon Tavor, Yokne’am and Migdal Ha’emek.”