Neighborhood Watch: Coasting along

Drawn by the city’s proximity to the railway, buyers are willing to pay more for apartments in Nahariya than in other Northern towns by the sea.

Nahariya 521 (photo credit: Sivan Farag)
Nahariya 521
(photo credit: Sivan Farag)
Nahariya is one of the country’s most northern cities, located just 9.5 kilometers from the Lebanese frontier. It was founded by a group of Jewish immigrants who fled Nazi Germany to what was then the British Mandate Palestine. On February 10, 1935, the first two families moved into their new homes, followed closely by others.
The city’s founding fathers wanted to create an agricultural settlement akin to similar settlements in Germany. But they soon realized that it would be better economically if they focused on tourism instead. So besides building farms, they built small German-type guest houses which were patronized by officials of the British administration serving in Palestine, and the affluent members of the Jewish population.
By 1948 when the state was founded, Nahariya had nearly 5,000 inhabitants, all of them German Jews, and the language of commerce and the municipal administration was German. Today, Nahariya has 55,000 inhabitants, and the German element has been very much diluted.
Because of its proximity to Lebanon, the town has been a frequent target for attack. During the 2006 Second Lebanon War, it sustained a barrage of several hundred Hezbollah-launched Katyusha rockets from southern Lebanon and suffered multiple civilian casualties, including five deaths. There was also significant damage to property and infrastructure, and the city suffered economically as two-thirds of its residents were evacuated and the rest spent most of their time in bomb shelters.
Since 2006, things have been quiet, and demand for real estate is brisk. In fact, real-estate prices there are higher than in the other coastal towns of the North, and there is a steady stream of professional middle-class families moving to Nahariya from as far south as Tel Aviv.
The explanation for this is mostly financial, but it is also linked to the transportation system.
Because Nahariya is considered a frontier region, it has a much lighter income tax regime. Individuals making an annual NIS 220,000 pay no income tax at all, and those with higher incomes pay 13 percent less.
This in itself is appealing to many prospective residents.
Further strengthening that appeal is the railway. With its northern terminal at Nahariya, the train to Tel Aviv takes around an hour and 40 minutes and stops at many of the country’s employment centers on the way.
Another of Nahariya’s selling points is that it’s a resort town on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
Eyal Ginat, the concessionary of the city’s Anglo-Saxon Real Estate Brokerage network says that “the combination of the fiscal benefits and easy access to the national railway and road grid make it a very attractive place to live in. There is constant demand from residents of the Haifa area and [its bayside suburbs] who want to upgrade [their] living standards. The fact that Nahariya is on average more expensive than other towns in the area does not deter buyers.”
According to Ginat, a new fourroom apartment in the center of town today costs NIS 1.05 million on average. An older apartment costs NIS 950,000, while old four-room apartments with large rooms and high ceilings can cost NIS 750,000.
Similar apartments in the surrounding neighborhoods cost less, he says.
In Nahariya, he continues, unlike in places like Tel Aviv or Haifa, “the center of town is the most desirable place to live – with the exception of... streets opposite the sea, such as Hama’apilim, Sokolow, Aliya and Balfour. An apartment [on those streets] can cost NIS 1.5m. if new, and a penthouse can cost NIS 2.5m.”
The center of the city is Ga’aton Boulevard, which runs parallel to a stream of the same name. In the winter, when it rains, the stream can become a torrent; in summer, it is merely a trickle.
Both street and stream run on an east-west axis, from the Coastal Highway junction to the seashore.
Shaded by the eucalyptus trees and lined with shops, boutiques, open-air cafes, restaurants and ice-cream parlors, Ga’aton Boulevard is the city’s main tourist district, as well as its main business and entertainment center. Many of the most expensive apartments are located on that street, which is similar to a main street in small rural towns in the US or Australia.
Mayor Jacky Sabag is upbeat about his city. In a talk with Metro, he calls it “the provincial capital of the Western Galilee. It is also one of the most beautiful and lively cities in the country.”
He adds that it offers excellent municipal services.