Neighborhood Watch: Fancy quarters

While Zahala had its beginnings as a rather modest community of IDF officers, it is now one of the poshest areas of Tel Aviv.

Zahala neighborhood 521 (photo credit: Courtesy/Naot Shiran)
Zahala neighborhood 521
(photo credit: Courtesy/Naot Shiran)
Zahala is one of the few garden neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. In Hebrew the word zahala means to “make merry,” but that is not the reason the neighborhood was given this name. The name comes from the word Zahal, the acronym in Hebrew for the Israel Defense Forces.
The neighborhood was built in 1952 as a residential area for IDF officers. At that time, most commanding officers had an agricultural background as members of kibbutzim or moshavim.
In 1951, the personnel branch of the IDF decided that it would be desirable to have a special quarter for IDF officers in Tel Aviv, since most had no dwelling they could call their own. They chose the location for Zahala because at the time it was a fairly distant outpost of Tel Aviv. The army came to an arrangement with the Israel Lands Authority. The area of Zahala was parceled out and the plots, which varied in size from 500 to 1,250 square meters, were then sold to IDF officers and officers of other branches of the defense establishment. In keeping with the modest salaries of those purchasing the land, the proprietors built simple, one-story single-family homes.
The area was walled and had its own municipal entity created especially for it. A special agreement was reached with the Tel Aviv Municipality and with the blessings of the Interior Ministry whereby the township was declared a special housing cooperative. It had, and still has, an elected committee in charge of the special relations with the municipality for the arrangements of services such as garbage disposal, water, gardening and street repair. The committee owns and administers property in Zahala, such as the commercial center and the sports center.
While Zahala had its beginnings as a rather modest community of IDF officers, it is now one of the poshest areas of Tel Aviv.
It is located in the northeast corner of the city, bordering Ramat Hasharon on its northern perimeter.
When it was built, it was very isolated, but new roads have made Zahala very accessible.
The change from a relatively modest residential military pavilion started in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it gathered momentum by the end of the century.
Zahala has around 500 dwellings. According to the census records of the Tel Aviv Municipality, it has a population of 1,700.
Oded Nachum, who is in charge of marketing properties in Zahala at the Naot Shiran real estate agency, told Metro, “Prices have gone through the roof in the past 10 years, with demand much higher than supply.”
The hefty real estate prices reflect the fact that Zahala is unique in the Tel Aviv municipal area. It is a self-contained neighborhood with its own commercial center and recreational facilities in what is now a very central location in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
Prices for modern luxury houses range from NIS 35,000 to NIS 40,000 per sq.m. Houses in Zahala are very large; consequently, a modern home can cost more than NIS 10 million. The price differential is based on location. Recently a 600-sq.m. single-family home built in 2004 on a 750-sq.m. plot was sold for NIS 22.5m, or NIS 38,000 per sq.m.
A much less upmarket property, a 200-sq.m. semidetached dwelling on the relatively noisy Zahal Street, was sold for NIS 7m., reflecting a sq.m. price tag of NIS 35,000. This property is located on an original 800-sq.m. plot that was subdivided into two equal plots.
The prices mentioned above are for properties with habitable houses, which means they are not meant to be torn down and have something new built in their place.
In contrast, the price for a plot – whether empty or with a building marked for demolition – is less than that but is still very expensive: NIS 8,000 to NIS 15,000 per sq.m. This means that a 1,000-sq.m. plot in one of the better areas of Zahala costs NIS 15m. compared to NIS 8m. in a less favorable area.
Zahala has become the byword for gracious living. Consequently, some developers have hijacked the name. Surrounding the original we find such places as Ganei Zahala and Ramot Zahala, despite the fact that the latter is not built on high ground. The original has a spacious, open rural ambience. The others are relatively crowded and relatively inexpensive compared to Zahala proper.