Tzur Hadassah update: It’s not *all* Pleasantville.

I get a lot of email from people looking to move to Tzur Hadassah, our 1,000 family size yishuv in the Jerusalem hills. I tend to paint a rosy picture here, and get more honest in the emails, but I think I’m going to be honest here and allow myself to complain a little bit.

You know, in case you were interested.

Here are the complaints that I would say are fairly universal among most Tzur Hadassah residents, with the exception of a few here or there (depending on whether you are actually characterized by being the source of a complaint).

  • Questionable security
    When we moved here in February 2008, there was a spate of car thefts going on. Car thefts here are relatively common in the winter months, and it’s not shocking why. We’re technically a ‘border town,’ being that the ‘Green Line’ is across the street from the end of the yishuv. The fence that is supposedly the edge of the town is quite literally a backyard fence. Parts of it used to be electric, but that is no help in the fact that there are at any time several holes at different points.

    A couple weeks ago, not one but two families I know were robbed in their homes – within 24 hours of each other. That was news to me – cars are one thing, but break-ins are another.So, all that said, what is security like here? When we moved here, it was a professional and a volunteer from the yishuv every night. And by volunteer, I mean husbands and sons from the yishuv doing a shift every three months or else paying a ridiculous fee. Until recently, it was one or two ‘professional’ guys on shift without guns; while we all paid a ridiculous fee. Now, we all pay a ridiculous fee and it’s a couple of guys with guns and a boom gate. So… most of us are not very happy with the security situation.

  • Poor public transportation
    This is probably the most common turn-off for people who consider moving here. We have access to three Superbus/Egged lines outlined here.

    All together, there are about five trips outside the yishuv and five incoming every week day. It’s not enough for most people who commute and there’s no convenient way to get to the train in Beit Shemesh – unless you tremp. In fact, tremping is pretty common. So is having cars; actually, owning a car is pretty much mandatory.

  • Careless pet owners
    This is probably the most common ‘small’ problem for people who already live here. I don’t know what percentage of the population actually owns dogs, but whatever it is, too-large a percentage let their big dogs run loose in the streets all day. So there is dog shit everywhere for all seasons, as well as lazy dogs sitting in the middle of roads so you have to drive around them or stop to avoid hitting them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs and wish I had the space to own one, but I don’t. So I don’t. Owning a dog while living in an apartment is unrealistic and irresponsible if you’re going to choose a big lab, husky or shepherd and let it run outside all day. It’s not safe for drivers, it can be terrifying for kids, and it’s just a poop hazard for pedestrians.

  • Religious people
    There are definitely exaggerations about the secular-religious divide here. I’ve written about it before. For all the rumors, the fact is traditional, open-minded ‘religious’ people have no problem really. And there are plenty of Sephardi-traditional-Shabbat observing types as well as Reform/Progressive types.

    The issue is with the fear of Charedi families moving in, with Beitar Illit across the hill and expanding constantly. There are actually a few families here for some reason (one of them being the token Chabad family). I’m highly skeptical, but then again, who knows.

  • Rising prices
    What can you do, it’s a popular place and the prices across the center of Israel have gone up tremendously in the last few years. Our apartment, which we currently rent, has gone up in value over 400,000 shekel since we moved here.

    In Tzur Hadassah, the prices have gone up about 17% a year. So it’s not really the affordable non-Jerusalem option it once was – especially because you need a car (see bullet #2).

  • Traffic hazards
    Ok, truth is, I haven’t heard many people discuss this one, but it’s growing. Nearly six months ago, we got a  small shopping center including supermarket on the second largest thoroughfare road which until then had been completely residential (aside from the small medical clinic inside a house). To drive down that way now is to weave through a narrow busy street with two constantly-full parking lots leading into it. Drivers not watching, kids crossing the road to get to the candy store, and soon it will be worse with a planned coffee shop.

    Another issue is driving in the old yishuv, where roads are actually narrow, barely two-way, and for some reason, prone to speeding drivers in nice cars. Most of the nurseries and gans are located there, so driving through around 8 am and 4 pm is a ball.

So that’s my rundown of complaints for Tzur Hadassah. The pros outweight the cons, whןch is why we’re pretty much settled here for now. But if you were wondering… there you have it.

Hebrew-speaking dogs.

I’m sitting on my couch and I hear a scratch at the door. My first thought is, did a jackal from the forest across the street come all the way upstairs to haunt me?

My second thought is, it does, however, sound like a dog.

After peeping through the door, I realized it was a dog. A big, fluffy, yellow, gentle, wet and smelly dog. And it was indeed ‘knocking’ at my door.

This is the second time a dog has confused our apartment with their owner’s. Tzur Hadassah is filled with domestic dogs who are sent to roam free and come home whenever they please.

We tried to shoo it away but it insisted on coming inside. He probably lost track of the scent of his trail since it’s really the first or second big rain we’ve had here.

But I felt sorry for him, probably wanting to be home curling up in his pillow. I realized we could send him home with a few key words.

Shev. The dog sat and I checked his collar for a house number. Nope.

Bo. We made him come towards the steps to go downstairs.

L’mata. I tried to encourage him to go downstairs but he needed more, he needed company, so we bo‘d him all the way down, until he started wandering over to the apartment building next door, which looks exactly like ours.

Hebrew-speaking dogs. There’s no place like home.