Zichron's Village Charm Attracts Anglos

Zichron Village Charm Attracts Anglos on Jerusalem Post

Jun. 3, 2004 6:18
Zichron's Village Charm Attracts Anglos

Joel RutmanWhenever Hedy and Joel Rutman thought about moving to Israel, they always assumed they would live in Jerusalem.


But when the San Antonio, Texas, couple made aliya in 2002, they decided to look at Zichron Ya'akov because of its proximity to their daughter in Netanya, and they ended up falling in love with the place.


"We had talked about living in Jerusalem for approximately 30 years," said Hedy with a chuckle. "But we liked it here and we found that our money went much further in Zichron." Coming from San Antonio, where houses are spacious and spread out, the Rutmans' 160 sq.m. house on a 250 sq.m. property is considerably smaller than their 280 sq.m. Texas home. But it was Zichron's small-town quality, similar to San Antonio, that drew them, as well as their narrow view of the sea from their small backyard.


IZichron Village Charmt was a similar experience for the Lichts, a family from San Diego.


When Jonathan Licht began looking at Israeli properties a few years ago, what attracted him to Zichron was its size.


"I wanted a village that is on a human scale," says Licht. "My house in San Diego is twice the size, the neighborhood is beautiful, but you have to drive everywhere." Like the Rutmans, the Lichts purchased an attached house in Zichron, part of a unit of six homes on a narrow alleyway off of Rehov Hameyasdim, the town's historic main drag. The Lichts' house is newer than the Rutmans' - which is 10 years old - and is a 170-square-meter five-bedroom duplex that is identical to the other homes in the complex. The $270,000 houses were built in Zichron's "moshava" style, with cream exteriors and wooden shutters, and were all sold to non-Israelis, including two New York families, one family from New Jersey, one from Brussels and two from San Diego, including the Lichts.


The No. 1 attraction of the complex is its proximity to the town's center. Licht says that one of the highlights of his house is being able to walk down the block to go to Ohel Ya'akov, the town synagogue named after James Jacob de Rothschild.


The Pedestrian Street of Zichron YaacovThe quaint township and its historical roots are what draw most people to Zichron, says Yoav Etiel, who co-manages a local property company, BarEl Properties, with his partner, Amir Bremli. In fact, it's what brought Etiel back to Israel after 17 years in the US. A Haifa native, he told his wife that he would only move back if he could live in Zichron.


"It feels like the Land of Israel," he says. "It's not Netanya. There's history here. This is one of Israel's first real estate investments."


According to the history books, in the 1800s Baron Edmond de Rothschild, known in Hebrew as Hanadiv Hayadua (the well-known benefactor), bought 4,800 dunams of land known as Zammarin in this verdant region the very first time he saw it. In fact, he bought it twice from the original Arab owners, because of a dispute over price. The settlement was named after the Baron's father, James Jacob, and after several failed agricultural ventures, the farmers settled on viticulture. Rechov Hameyasdim, the main street, was originally called Farmer's Street because the farmers lived there and farmed their vineyards down below.


The huge wine cellars that were carved into the mountain side a century ago are still used today as part of the Carmel Mizrachi Winery, and part of the city's tourism development plans include extending the tourist route down from Hameyasdim to the wineries, where an artists' colony will nestle among the wineries. Zichron has also spread far beyond the town's center, with a suburban sprawl that extends north, south and west of Rehov Hameyasdim.


The city has exploded to a population of 13,000 from 5,000 in the last decade, and the town plan is to reach a population limit of 20,000 by 2020. Zichron mayor Eli Abutbul has a slow-growth policy for the town, in order to protect its small but cosmopolitan atmosphere, and has put a hold on new construction since coming into office last November.


"A mass of construction doesn't help tourism or the town," says Abutbul, who wants to make sure there is enough infrastructure and services to support the recent growth. "People come up here and they want to see views and greenery, not bulldozers." Most of Zichron's 13,000 residents are secular, but about 1,300 identify themselves as Shas voters, and another 2,600 identify themselves as religious, half of whom are Anglo. There is also a non-Jewish community in Zichron - the Christian Beit El community of about 300 Germans who began moving to the town 40 years ago. With the influx of more religious residents, there are now about 20 synagogues in Zichron, including one Conservative and one Reform. But the only synagogue that includes a prayer for the Baron's father, James Jacob, is Ohel Ya'akov, in the center of town.


Most Zichron residents live there because they like the town, and its proximity to the rest of the country, says Etiel. With access to highways 70, 6 and 4, a 20-minute ride to Haifa and a 50-minute ride to Ben-Gurion Airport, it's in a good location and that's one of its greatest appeals. Residents love the town's charming center, as well as the views of the sea down below. There are several shopping centers throughout the town, as well as cafes, banks and a post office. There's no movie theater, or local transportation, although there are Egged buses to the nearby cities.


There are four elementary schools, three secular and one religious.


Middle and high school students attend a community school in nearby Binyamina, while religious students travel to Haifa, Pardes Hanna or one of the other nearby towns. There is also a local branch of the pluralistic Keshet school, which currently has five grades. Beit Daniel is Zichron's open university, a 35-dunam pastoral campus near the town's center that also has artists in residence.


For new home buyers, Zichron can be expensive. For $300,000, buyers will find a 160-square meter attached house on a quarter dunam plot of land.


But it won't have a view of the sea or close proximity to the town's center.


"I tell people that they'll be downtown three times a day in any case and see the water five times a day, just driving around doing errands," says Etiel.


He's right.


Most of Zichron's neighborhoods are to the north, west and southwest of the town's center. Houses in the western Yaakov neighborhood are priced in the range of $270,000 to $300,000. In Neveh Habaron, a suburban-style neighborhood with all telephone wires and cables buried underground, prices range $300,000 to $600,000, and the area backs onto Hashmura, another neighborhood with its own shopping center, attached houses ranging in price from $290,000 to $360,000, with views of the park and sea from some blocks. Up in the villas of HaChoresh, a northern Zichron neighborhood, house prices are $550,000 and up for the millennium-standard homes.


Givat Eden is the northernmost Zichron neighborhood, with attached homes for $300,000, as well as four-plex apartments at $245,000. There are also garden apartments in Givat Eden for $215,000 to $230,000, or rented at $800 per month, and they overlook the nearby Arab town of Faradis, which has very good relations with Zichron.


If you're not ready to buy a house in Zichron, the Havat Habaron Hotel is now selling apartments in half of the hotel, for $75,000 to $80,000, with all the hotel amenities available to apartment owners.