The sleeping beauty: Be'er Ya'acov

Be'er Ya'akov's survival in its present form is something of a miracle.

beer yakov 88 224 (photo credit: )
beer yakov 88 224
(photo credit: )
Not many people know where Be'er Ya'acov is located, and that is an asset of sorts at least for its 9,600 residents, because they can live their lives in relative peace and quite. But this idyllic existence is quickly coming to an end because a process akin to the "Scramble for Africa" in the 1880s is under way in a very small and localized way. This process started two or three years ago, and much of the available land zoned for residential purposes has been bought up by land developers. Be'er Ya'acov is not well known to the general public; it is located between Ness Ziona and Rishon Lezion, where land for building purposes has been practically used up. As such, available land in the Rishon-Ness Ziona area is concentrated within Be'er Ya'acov's municipal boundaries. This area has traditionally supplied the housing requirements of those who want to live in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area but cannot afford the real estate prices of Tel Aviv or the adjacent middle-class towns of Givatayim and Ramat Gan. The real estate price binge in Tel Aviv, where prices have reached record highs, has spurred real estate business opportunities in Be'er Ya'acov and entrepreneurs are grabbing it with both hands. Be'er Ya'acov was founded in 1907. A group of religious Jews from the Caucasus (then part of the czarist empire) led by Rabbi Ya'acov Yitzhaki bought land and founded an agricultural settlement. Since it had a well - not a common site in the Palestine of those days - and the leader of the group was called Ya'acov, they called the settlement Be'er Ya'acov. The government settled a few thousand new immigrants there in the 1950s, and much of the housing is either old houses built by the original settlers or apartment blocks built for the olim. "On average, real estate prices are some 25 percent to 30% cheaper than in neighboring Rishon Lezion or Ness Ziona, at least for the time being," real estate broker Moshe Feldman told The Jerusalem Post. "The average price of a three-room apartment is around NIS 600,000," compared to NIS 750,000 to NIS 800,000 in neighboring cities. Besides these apartments built in the 50s and 60s by the government, there are numerous single-family homes on plots of between 1,000 square meters to 1,500 sq. m., he said Anglo Saxon Be'er Ya'acov is offering such houses for $280,000 to $400,000, Feldman said. But most buyers demolish them and build new ones, he said, adding, "So in essence what they are buying is a plot of land with a building license." But while there is demand and supply for existing housing, most real estate transactions in the future will be for the planned 3,500 apartments in high-rise buildings. Six building companies are operating in Be'er Ya'acov. Mishael Yitzhaki, general manager and proprietor of the Daniel Yitzhaki Group of companies and the great-great-grandson of the town's founder, told the Post: "Much of the available land earmarked for building purposes has already been acquired by various development companies. But there are further large reserves of land because the Be'er Ya'acov Municipality encompasses an area of 9,000 dunams [2,250 acres]. "In addition, a large part of the Tzrifin Army Base, which is within Be'er Ya'acov's municipal boundaries, has been relocated to the Negev and more large tracts of land will become available. "In the meantime, demand is brisk. We are in the process of building 500 apartments in 10 towers of from 10 to 15 stories with residential units of four- and five-room apartments and penthouses. "Be'er Ya'acov has gained recognition and demand is brisk and it is driving prices up. We are marketing our four-room apartments at NIS 900,000 and our five-room apartments at NIS 1,200,000. Last year they were being sold for NIS 750,000 and NIS 950,000. Two years ago similar apartments were been sold for NIS 600,000 and NIS 800,000. "I believe real estate in Be'er Ya'acov is a great investment opportunity because the town is adjacent to Rishon Lezion and Ness Ziona, and eventually prices will rise to price levels in these two cities, which means price hikes of from 25% to 35%. As a result, we are buying all the land we can find because we believe it is good business to increase our building activities in Be'er Ya'acov." Be'er Ya'acov is what is called a moshava, an agricultural settlement built at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th. Its survival in its present form is something of a miracle because of its proximity to an area that has been rapidly expanding as a residential area for the past 30 years. Miracles do happen, and up to now it has preserved its rural character, but what will happen in the future when its population trebles. "The Be'er Ya'acov of the future will be a new entity," Be'er Ya'acov Mayor Nissim Gozlan said. "I call it a "new moshava." This means that it will have the advantages of a full-fledged town with a rural character. Be'er Ya'acov's population will be 30,000, but not more, and with a land area of 9,000 square meters, this will allow as to maintain our rural character."