Finding your castle south of Haifa

Tirat Carmel has become a modern industrial town of science-oriented enterprises and logistical centers.

Tirat Carmel house 521 (photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
Tirat Carmel house 521
(photo credit: Adi Benzaken)
The town of Tirat Carmel lies south of Haifa, on the western slopes of the Carmel mountain range. It is built on the ruins of A-Tira, an ancient Arab agricultural market town that, like many other such townships, was destroyed in the War of Independence. In this case, most of the inhabitants fled by sea to Lebanon. Today, none of the original buildings remain.
A-Tira/Tirat Carmel has a long history. It probably derived its name from a castle in the vicinity, as “tira” means castle in both Arabic and Hebrew.
Inhabited as far back as Roman times, it was taken over by the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, which renamed it St. Johan de Tire. Even during the Crusades, most of its inhabitants were Muslims, with a small minority of local Christians.
With the fall of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the town’s name reverted to A-Tira, remaining that way during the Ottoman period and up to 1948.
During that time, it was famous for its agricultural produce. It grew wheat and raised livestock, but was especially famous for its olives and almonds.
All this changed abruptly in 1948, and today nothing remains of its agricultural heritage.
Instead, it has become a modern industrial town of science-oriented enterprises and logistical centers.
Modern Tirat Carmel had its beginnings in 1949, when the government set up two ma’abarot, or immigrant transit camps, consisting of tents and corrugated iron huts next to the ruins of A-Tira. By the early ’50s, the government had built apartment blocks of small, simple, cramped units. For the tentand hut-dwellers, though, they were a quantum leap in residential standards. These old buildings are still around today and make up part of the local real-estate scene.
Since then, the town has been undergoing a constant process of development. It has 20,000 inhabitants, and demand for housing within its municipal boundaries is constantly growing. With a number of residential development plans in the process of implementation, the city’s population is expected to reach 50,000 before long.
One of the selling points of Tirat Carmel is its proximity to Haifa. The distance between some of the town’s neighborhoods and Haifa’s posh Denia area is a mere 100 meters.
From a real-estate perspective, Tirat Carmel is divided into four areas.
The first is the old apartment blocks built in the ’50s, consisting of 48-square-meter apartments that today cost NIS 480,000 on average. Then, in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the government built a series of much larger apartment blocks with the aim of providing more feasible accommodations for large families living in the small apartments.
These new units were over 80 sq.m. on average, in four-story apartment buildings with terraces, and now sell for an average of NIS 740,000.
The next building stage occurred in the late ’90s.
Private developers became aware of the area’s real estate potential and built large residential terraced units on the southeastern slopes of Mount Carmel.
These included penthouses and garden apartments.
A standard 105-sq.m. dwelling sells for just under NIS 1 million, while a penthouse with a sea view in the distance recently sold for NIS 1.6m.
Today the city is spreading eastward toward the Mediterranean shore. The municipality has made available a large tract of land east of the Haifa-Tel Aviv road (Highway 4), measuring 2 km. by 400m. The municipality has planned up to 7,000 residential units, which means nearly 30,000 new Tirat Carmel residents.
One of the real estate development companies that has picked up the gauntlet is Ashdar. In one part of the new area, which is called Galei Carmel and will have 2,000 residential units when complete, the company will be building a complex of three 12-story residential tower blocks – a total of 138 apartments. These large apartments will have four or five rooms, as well as terraces and storage rooms, and will include garden apartments and penthouses.
Racheli Brizel, VP marketing at Ashdar, tells Metro that the company is “very interested in building apartments for young couples, and Tirat Carmel is very suitable for such apartments. The land is relatively inexpensive, and we are able to offer spacious apartments for around NIS 1m.”
According to Brizel, a four-room, second-floor, 105-sq.m. apartment with a 12-sq.m terrace recently sold for NIS 1.05m., while a five room apartment measuring 126 sq.m. with a 14-sq.m. terrace sold for NIS 1.16 million.
She notes that “Tirat Carmel is adjacent to Haifa, a metropolitan center, which is not offering residential solutions for this market segment. Galei Carmel is very centrally located, with excellent road links to both the South and the North, and demand is above our expectations.”
But why come to live in Tirat Carmel? What are the advantages of such a move? According to Deputy Mayor Moris Asayag, the city “is an urban entity in its own right, yet its proximity to Haifa is very, very important to its development both as a residential center and as a center of industry. In the ’80s, Haifa developed the Matam [Scientific Industries Center]... one of the country’s major centers of science-oriented industries. Our municipal boundaries are adjacent to Matam, and we have ourselves developed a science- and logistics-oriented industrial park.”
In addition, he continues, his city is “a relatively inexpensive alternative to Haifa, with prices at times less than half of real-estate prices in Haifa.”
Residents of Tirat Carmel can thus have the best of both worlds: They can live in the quality housing soon to be available in the new areas parallel to the Haifa-Tel Aviv highway, and they can partake of the commercial and entertainment possibilities on offer in the neighboring metropolis.
Tirat Carmel residents also have broad employment opportunities. Besides their own industrial park and Matam, they can get to the Haifa Bay industrial complex through the Carmel Tunnel in a matter of minutes. The same holds true for the industrial complexes to the south of Haifa.
With their easy access to Highway 4, residents can get to the vast Caesarea industrial park in less than 20 minutes, as well as to the Netanya industrial park.
Furthermore, real-estate prices in Tirat Carmel are, in my opinion, undervalued and can be expected to go up in the future.