Neighborhood Watch: A study in purple

Ness Ziona offers apartments near the center at half the price of Tel Aviv.

Ness Ziona 521 (photo credit: Courtesy of Anglo-Saxon)
Ness Ziona 521
(photo credit: Courtesy of Anglo-Saxon)
In ancient times, purple was the color of royalty. In Ness Ziona, purple does not endow the city with royalty, but it is the name of a new upscale neighborhood in the western part of the city. Argaman is named after the purple iris, a protected wildflower that grows in the area.
Located between Rishon Lezion and Rehovot, Ness Ziona is a town of around 50,000 people, Because of its proximity to the rapidly expanding Rishon Lezion, Ness Ziona is undergoing a process of regulated development itself.
Ness Ziona is one of the many towns that developed from the agricultural colonies established in Ottoman Palestine in the last quarter of the 19th century. Others include large cities such as Petah Tikva and Hadera. When founded, Ness Ziona was one of a quintet in an area that included Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Mazkeret Batya and Gedera.
Ness Ziona had exotic beginnings. It owes its existence to a German named Reinhard Reisler, who belonged to the religious sect of the Templers, a movement with a Zionist, albeit Lutheran, philosophy. They believed that Palestine would hasten the second coming of the Messiah.
Reisler was something of a loner. Instead of settling in one of the Templer colonies, he chose to go it alone. He bought a plot of land in what is now the center of Ness Ziona, called Wadi Hunayn, and brought his wife and five children and started a farm.
When his wife and children all died of malaria, Reisler left Palestine and ended up in Odessa, which was part of Russia at the time. It was there that he met Reuven Lehrer, a Jew with Zionist tendencies who owned farmland in the vicinity of Odessa.
Reisler – who had had enough of Palestine – and Lehrer, who wanted to go there, soon came to an agreement. In 1882, Reisler became the proud owner of rich agricultural land in Odessa in return for his land in Palestine. By 1891, another Russian settler, Michael Halperin, bought additional tracts of land in Wadi Hunayn, gathered a group of people who had come from Europe, and Ness Ziona – the name based on Jeremiah 4:6, “Set up a standard toward Zion” – was born.
Up to the Israeli War of Independence, Ness Ziona was an agricultural village. In 1948 there were 4,446 inhabitants. By 1951, in the wake of the vast influx of immigrants after the establishment of the State of Israel, there were 9,000.
The town of Ness Ziona can be roughly divided into two parts, bisected by Highway 412 that connects Rishon Lezion to Rehovot. In Ness Ziona it is called Weizmann Street in honor of the first president of Israel.
The part of town west of Weizmann is called Western Ness Ziona. The western part is considered more upscale than its eastern counterpart. Real-estate prices there are about 10 percent higher than in the eastern part.
One of the reasons for the relative popularity of Western Ness Ziona is that there are modern apartment buildings. It is also within easy access of the metropolitan center of Tel Aviv. In general, the price of real estate falls in relation to the distance from Tel Aviv.
Consequently, the area is more expensive than Rehovot to the south, which is farther from Tel Aviv. But it is less expensive than Rishon Lezion to the north, which is closer to Tel Aviv. Its location is one of the area’s selling points.
The other selling point – at least for those with the technical qualifications suitable for employment – is the hi-tech industry. Ness Ziona is surrounded by hi-tech places of employment. The Weizmann Institute of Science in neighboring Rehovot is an institute of advanced biology, and there is a large industrial park adjacent to it.
Ness Ziona is popular with families living in Tel Aviv and the surrounding cities who want to upgrade their living standards but can’t afford to do so in Tel Aviv, Givatayim or Ramat Gan. Prices in Tel Aviv are about double those in Ness Ziona.
Another attraction is the fact that development in Ness Ziona in general and the western part in particular is strictly regulated. The municipality issues building permits only if the structures do not alter the rural character of the city. In the central areas, no highrise buildings are allowed, while in outlying areas such as Argaman, seven or eight stories are the limit.
In Argaman, the S.Y. Even development company is building a sevenstory, 12-unit apartment building of extra-large apartments with a price tag of approximately NIS 1.8 million per unit.
In Western Ness Ziona, a new fourroom apartment costs about NIS 1.6m. An average three-room apartment costs NIS 1.4m. A large five-room garden apartment can cost NIS 2.3m, while a penthouse costs about NIS 3m.