Looking up

New army bases in the Yeroham area are attracting a different population and shaking up real-estate prices.

Yeroham 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Yeroham 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
Yeroham is a desert town in the northeastern Negev, sitting at 520 meters above sea level.
Named after the biblical Yeroham – the grandfather of the prophet Samuel – it has a population of just over 10,000.
The city is on the site of Tel Rahma, an archeological mound dating back to the 10th century BCE, and on the town’s outskirts is an ancient well called Be’er Rahma, which some archeologists have identified as the well where the biblical Hagar drew water for her son Ishmael.
Modern Yeroham was founded on January 9, 1951, as Kfar Yeroham. One of the first development towns the country established to settle frontier areas and empty spaces, it was purposely located near the Large Machtesh because at the time, the crater was believed to have mineral deposits.
The first inhabitants were a handful of new immigrants from Romania. In the early 1950s, they were followed by a large number of new immigrants from North Africa, who came to constitute the bulk of the town’s population. The residents of Yeroham also many Indians, and after 1990, there was a large influx of Russians.
For these last – who currently make up around 25 percent of the population – new and more spacious accommodations were built, because it was thought that the basic style of housing that the government’s Amidar housing company provided was not to their standards.
For many years, the city was economically depressed and suffered from image problems. Things started to change in 2006, when the interior minister appointed Amram Mitzna to head the municipality because the elected mayor had made a mess of things. Mitzna remained in office until 2011, and in that time he achieved a turnaround. Among other things, he was instrumental in opening the the Ayalim Student Village in April 2008. The village supplies students in Negev institutes of higher education with accommodation in return for community volunteer work.
In recent years, young, mostly national- religious couples and families have arrived from other locales. They have bought apartments and land to build their own houses, and they have been heavily involved in community service.
The town is familiar to many because of its links to the IDF. Until a few years ago, the army had a large base and extended training facilities in the region, including a large firing range for infantry troops (some decades ago I used to go to that base frequently, and the Yeroham I remember was a dilapidated cluster of Amidar apartment buildings, a grayish township in the middle of nowhere with few amenities).
Since then, the base and training facilities have disappeared, having been moved elsewhere. The area is now covered by red-roofed single-family homes; the land was parceled out and the plots sold in the framework of Bnei Beit’cha.
The much improved situation is evident in the real-estate scene: Demand is brisk, and there has been a substantial rise in prices during the past two years.
According to Olga Ubarov, one of the leading real-estate brokers in town, prices have nearly doubled in that time. In part, this is because the town is attracting new residents, but the main reason is the Ir Habahadim, a vast complex of military training bases that are being transferred from the Center of the country to the Negev. Some other bases are being transferred to the area as well, and according to unconfirmed reports, some military research facilities are scheduled to be relocated to the vicinity of Yeroham.
“The plans to transfer the bases to the Negev has created a real-estate fervor,” Ubarov tells Metro. “Investor demand is driving up prices, and most dwellings offered for sale are snapped up by investors. They hope that some of the army personnel transferred to the area will decide to live in Yeroham at least temporarily, and this means rental demand is expected to increase dramatically.
Consequently, for the first time, private developers are building 200 new homes in town.”
She adds that until now, “all building activity was initiated by the governmentowned Amidar or by families who built their own homes.”
Michael Bitton, who succeeded Mitzna and was elected mayor in November 2010, calls the city “an amazing small town.”
“I strongly recommend that newcomers as well as veterans from Englishspeaking countries settle in our town,” he tells Metro. “There is a large Englishspeaking community, and we as a small town welcome newcomers with open arms.”
He notes that “the area is undergoing much development, and there are positions available in industry administrations services, and especially tourism.
The town enjoys a very good climate, located as it is in high desert country. We have a bird-watching station and an artificial lake with water collected from the local streams by a dam built some 30 years back. The lake is in a surrounding park called Lake Park, and within 10 minutes’ walk from the center of town.”
From a real-estate angle, Yeroham is divided into apartment buildings constructed at the government’s initiative in the ’50s and ’60s, which contain twoand three-room apartments; and the more spacious four-room apartments built in the ’90s.
The average price of the 50-squaremeter two-room apartments is NIS 250,000; the approximately 68-sq.m.
three-room apartments sell for NIS 350,000 on average, and the four-room, 90-sq.m. apartments sell for an average of NIS 475,000. The single-family homes can cost from NIS 500,000 to NIS 1.3 million depending on size, age and location.