*Something* was due today…

According to one of three calculations (?!), today was a due date for Bebe. We’ve been betting on whether the final closing of the apartment would come through before the baby. Initially, it seemed like apartment was a no-brainer; we already live there and have a solid relationship with our landlady for three years.

But, foiled by the bank, it was not to be – baby came last Friday, and lo and behold! – we are, today, homeowners.

I’m putting together a ‘buying property/getting a mortgage in Israel’ guide with our own little lessons from the process. God help anyone who cares to venture into this murky business.

But now I get to paint a mural on our mirpeset!

Contracted to real estate limbo (or, Tzur Hadassah homeowner!)

As of a two-hour meeting in the Bursa district of Tel Aviv today, we are now contracted to become the owners of our Tzur Hadassah apartment!

That’s a convoluted way of saying something even more convoluted: We’ve signed and are waiting for the banks to finish their end of the deal before I can comfortably say I’m a homeowner in Israel.

Here in Israel, you sign a contract between buyer and seller first, and then finalize the mortgage with the bank, after which the bank deals with the seller’s bank and pushes the money through, after which you can then breath easy, stop paying rent, and then start breathing difficultly again when you realize you have a twenty year mortgage to pay.

So we’re in ‘contractual limbo’ – we signed our contract proving intent to buy the Tzur Hadassah apartment we’ve lived in for the last three years. Nearly, nearly rightful owners.

The fun part? It’s all due to come through the week I’m due to come through. Stay tuned…

Tzur Hadassah: The Q&A breakdown.

I suppose there isn’t much info out there on the webs about Tzur Hadassah, because every once in a while I’ll get an email from someone asking about moving there. I’m more than happy to share my responses so that everyone can benefit. If you have any other questions, leave a comment.

Here’s my latest Tzur Hadassah information guide:


Tzur Hadassah is the Green Line… It’s within the 1967 borders, so it is technically Israel, but one side of it faces the West Bank directly. Wadi Fukeen is in that direction, in the valley between Tzur and Beitar (Beitar and the Wadi are outside the Green Line).

Past Tzur Hadassah (within Israeli borders) are Nes Harim, Bar Giyora, Mavo Beitar and past the forest, Beit Shemesh. Going the other way – through the machsom – you pass Beitar, Hussan, and then turn left towards the tunnels with Gush Etzion on your right.

The bus situation in Tzur is poor; there are a handful of buses in and out but it’s not even on the hour or anything. Most, if not all, people here have cars. It’s a 15-20 minute drive to Jerusalem by car through the tunnels. People do hitch hike from within.

Tzur Hadassah is mainly secular, with a Masorti – Mizrachi presence, a Progressive-Reform population, two or three Sephardi shuls and one very small – but intimate! – Ashkenaz minyan (which is where we go). If you are looking for diversity and respectful peace between religious and secular people, as well as a sense of pluralism, this is a great place to be.

There are Anglo families here, religious, traditional and secular… In our shul, for instance, there are a handful of Anglo-mixed couples and French-mixed couples and mainly Israeli of course. This is not really an English-speaking place; I mean, the Anglos speak to each other in English but in groups it is accepted and encouraged to speak in Hebrew. The kids range from baby to teenager, although most kids are probably between toddler and elementary school.

Rent – I don’t know ranges of prices so well, but I’d say you could pay around 2500 – 3000 NIS a month for a 3 bedroom apartment. There are also nice houses for rent. Currently they are building a new complex of duplexes, and they are pretty much all bought, and when they are done, there will be a mass exodus from apartments and houses for rent in the rest of the community. They speculate that will be sometime in the summer; I’d think it would be later rather than sooner.

Other information:

  • Currently there are about 1,000 families or so, and there is talk of whether to expand or stay at this size. The debate is: stay small and cozy, with less public services, or grow bigger and get more services.
  • There is a mini market that is actually impressive, although I’d suggest shopping in Beit Shemesh (15 minutes away) Beitar (5 minutes away) or Jerusalem for the bulk of your needs.
  • There are three gans: a secular, a Reform and a dati.
  • There is a school up to high school level, and it is also secular. There is talk of building a religious school… But who knows when that will be. Most people seem to get their kids to school in Jerusalem.
  • There is an excellent mirpa’a (clinic) that is privately operated but accepts all kupot.
  • There is a basket ball court, soccer pitch, a lot of parks and space to play. In the area outside the yishuv, there are tons of trails and national parks.

Don’t know what your other questions are, but feel free to ask. All in all, Tzur Hadassah is a cozy place, great for your mental health, quiet and peaceful with a city nearby for jobs and shopping and cultural activity, parks and nature all around us, really sweet, non-jaded people. It almost makes me not want to talk about it too highly, lest it ends up growing too big…

Tzur Hadassah in the Jerusalem Post – look at her grow!

I haven’t even moved there yet, but I feel like I’m already getting cheerleader-syndrome for Tzur Hadassah. Looks like the Jerusalem Post is either reading my stuff or recognizes the quickly-growing settlement:

On Location: Between chalets and minarets

The feature article starts off like this: “Nestled somewhere between the hills of Switzerland and the mosques of Baghdad is Tzur Hadassah.” I love that description and it’s completely true.

There’s a detailed description of the history of this section of Jerusalem hills and its humble beginnings:

“[Moshe] Tubol… came by boat from his hometown of Oujda, Morocco, to Haifa in 1956…

At the time, the authorities were looking to build some new communities in the area. Tubol latched on and helped lay the foundations for Bar Giora, Mata and Tzur Hadassah…. Tzur Hadassah was intended as a service center for the area, and thus the local school was transferred there from Ness Harim. And Tubol went with it.

At the beginning, he lived in Tzur Hadassah with two other families. But one left rather quickly, and the other followed not too long after. There was no electricity and the water was intermittent. There was no road – just a path. There were no phones to communicate with the outside world, and a school bus just made it to the entrance of the settlement to drop off and pick up the pupils…

But in 1967, says Tubol, things got better. The settlement was no longer on the Jordanian border, so people were less afraid to come. Tzur Hadassah was hooked up to the neighboring settlements’ generators, and phone lines were installed…”

After 1980, there were 40 families and Tzur Hadassah was growing. Today the place is home to 1,000 families.

The main drawback to Tzur Hadassah – which the article mentions – is the lack of activities for kids and community centers. For now, it also lacks a mikvah (the demographic is mostly secular). But these are all projects that the community leaders are working on and apparently the government is fine with encouraging the town’s growth.

The variety of people – from Sephardi to Ashkenaz, Israeli-born to immigrant and religious to secular – is a major point made by Rabbi Levi Cooper, resident rabbi, who was interviewed for the feature.

Because Tzur Hadassah essentially borders the Green Line, security is something on the minds of the residents, but it is dealt with as best as possible. Each resident is charged with shmira duty – either they take the all-night responsibilities once in a while, or they pay a sum towards the community. Either way, every resident is made conscious of the need to stick together as a community in this respect.

The conclusion of the article pretty much sums up the way any small settlement has become a recognized city in Israel:

“And thus, life in Tzur Hadassah has evolved from a sparsely populated little border settlement into an in-demand community for middle-class professionals looking for a green nook near the center of the world.”

And we’ll be joining it the first week of February.