Burgeoning Bat Yam

This suburb of Tel Aviv boasts gorgeous sea-views, reminiscent of the French Riviera.

Bat Yam
Most Israelis would like to wake to the sound of the waves and have a home with a view of the azure Mediterranean. However, not many can. Housing on the seashore is limited. Supply is not plentiful; consequently, prices are high.
Bat Yam’s northern municipal boundary is the southern municipal boundary of Tel Aviv. Practically speaking, it is a suburb of Tel Aviv. But it is a suburb where real-estate prices are much lower than in Tel Aviv.
Many of those who could never dream of buying a home with a sea view in Tel Aviv can now afford to do so in Bat Yam. And many, including overseas buyers and new immigrants, are doing just that. The seashore promenade in Bat Yam reminds many of the French Riviera.
Bat Yam is Hebrew for “Daughter of the Sea,” as it is a seaside town. Yet the name of the town was not always so.
Bat Yam was established in 1926 and was called Bayit Vegan, Hebrew for “House and Garden.” The name evoked a garden urban suburb. The new settle - ment had strategic considerations – to sandwich the Arab town of Jaffa between Tel Aviv to the north and the Bayit Vegan to the south.
During the riots in 1929, the new settlement was attacked by Arabs from Jaffa. Consequently, the British authorities evacuated Bayit Vegan’s residents to Tel Aviv, allowing them to return only in 1930. In 1936 the settlement was granted local council status, after it had reached over 1,000 inhabitants, and was renamed Bat Yam.
Bat Yam started to grow fast after 1948 when it received large waves of immigrants from North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries.
When they first arrived – most of them from North Africa – the immigrants were housed in transit camps called ma’abarot, towns of small, temporary dwellings.
When the mass immigration ended in the ’50s, the population of Bat Yam stabilized. There were many fewer immigrants, but veteran locals were not keen to live in Bat Yam, because it was considered a backwater of Tel Aviv.
In the past decade, however, things have changed. Bat Yam had not realized its potential as a seaside town adjacent to Tel Aviv, but now it is doing this, and the seashore is one of the major real-estate selling points of the city.
Despite the fact that real estate prices are rising all over the country, they are rising less rapidly in Bat Yam. Among other reasons, this is because Bat Yam has large reserves of building land available, and also because some of the negative image still remains.
Bat Yam has been shedding its negative image for 10 years and more. The turn in its fortunes came when Shlomo Lahiani became mayor. In 2014 he was forced to resign following a corruption scandal in which he was heavily involved, but this does not take from him the honor of being the one who transformed Bat Yam from a town with a very deserved negative image to a city that is much in demand.
Lahiani cleaned up the town, which was considered one of the filthiest in Israel. Bat Yam was something of an urban concrete jungle; he beautified the town by creating green spots and developing the beach.
The municipality has built one of the most striking seafronts in the eastern Mediterranean: an esplanade with 3.5 kilometers of seafront and eight beaches with lifeguards – one of which, Shirat Hayam, has separate hours for men and women. The seafront is one of the major entertainment centers, serving not only local residents but also those of surrounding cities.
Bat Yam is now definitely in, with large amounts of housing in the process of construction; new residential tower blocks, especially on the seafront, are changing the skyline.
Consequently, new immigrants have rediscovered Bat Yam. This holds especially true for newcomers from France, who prefer living near the sea.
Ruti Ron, who runs the Anglo-Saxon agency in the city, told Metro that the part of Bat Yam where building activity is most marked is the southwest area bordering on the municipal boundary with Holon and Rishon Lezion. This new neighborhood, called Sea Park, will be a mixed residential, tourist, cultural, educational and entertainment area. It will include 10,000 dwellings in some 50 residential tower blocks 16 to 42 stories high. In addition, there will be apartment buildings of three to four stories and 32 single-family homes.
The area will also have six hotels, an academic and cultural center, one million square meters of commercial space and a large park extending to the waterfront.
The whole complex will be built ac - cording to stringent green building regulations. The philosophy behind this urban plan is to create a neighborhood that is as self-sustaining as possible. It will include housing as well as commercial enterprises of tourism and entertainment.
Mayor Yossi Bachar says, “Bat Yam is a communal city. By that I mean it is a city with a very cohesive society. We welcome all those who choose to make Bat Yam their home.
“We welcome longtime Israelis who are moving here from other locations because they want to enjoy everything that our city has to offer, and we especially welcome newcomers. We help them settle in and assist them with practical matters which can be so important for families moving to what for them is a foreign country.”