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.

Tzur Hadassah transportation.

I was asked about transportation to and from Tzur Hadassah. Thought I’d share the options – though they are not as many as would be helpful:

Bet Shemesh: Superbus 182.

Jerusalem: Superbus 184 and Egged 180.

Beitar: Illit buses; there are multiple lines that go to Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh and Bnei Brak frequently.

Tremping: People do tremp (hitchhike) from the front gates. I’ve also seen (and picked up) people hitchhiking from the trempiada at Gilo junction.

Lizrael, princess of the rood.

My commute has become significantly more interesting. Not much longer, thankfully, but definitely more interesting.

It now involves driving through a few kilometers of the West Bank; I can hear some of you cursing me out while some of you are cheering me on. I’ll choose to ignore both reactions for now. I don’t think much about politics as I go through it; the goal is to get to work more than anything else.

Anyway, we pass a Palestinian sherut ‘depot’ on the way to the tunnels. Same concept as Israeli taxis, it’s just the license plates are green and the writing is in Arabic… for the most part.

What was funny today was that one of the sheruts was named… I mean, I come from the States where people name their cars, trucks and boats… Even their houses… But I liked the name of this one in particular:

Palestinian sherut

Yafa The Princess of the Rood

A man should love his mode of transportation, especially if it’s also his livelihood. I’m assuming that yafa means the same in Arabic as it does in Hebrew, which is beautiful (I’m told that yafa is actually not an Arabic word and that the driver probably meant it in Hebrew… which is kind of funnier).

My husband wondered what they’d say if he painted our car yellow and he wandered over with a pack of cigarettes and a box of donuts and started chatting with them.

I replied, it’s probably not time for that yet. It’s also not our car.

Getting around town.

Now that I’ve been getting around on only four wheels (as opposed to 4386524 wheels on a bus), I’ve totally forgotten what it’s like to use public transportation. Yes, it’s only been a couple weeks, but somehow, I’ve completely lost the former public transportation patriotism I held so dear.

So, for everyone I’ve left behind as I rev the engine of this bad boy (Ford Focus?), I can only offer as much help as I can. Here’s a quick summary of some transportation websites:

אגד

EggedThe redesigned Egged website is pretty impressive for an Israeli online service. As far as intercity lines, you can easily look up routes and schedules, order tickets and now they have a new SMS service: Text to the number 2800 (in Hebrew only) what you need to know and they will get back to you right away with an answer. Actually, I’ve tried it and it took a few tries before I got closer to the answer… But Egged’s phone service is always there and pretty decent (03-6948888).

One issue for some might be that although they claim to be available in English and Russian as well as Hebrew, most of the cooler features are not actually in those languages.

Another major lacking is that there is no updated bus map for Jerusalem. I guess they make up for this by having a fairly good system of buses for the city, as well as the recently-added night lines (which a lot of us expected to die out after the summer).

But you can get a historical overview of Egged! There’s even an Egged museum.

דן Dan  buses

Dan has a friendlier site than Egged; in Jerusalem Egged is your only choice and in Tel Aviv and other area, Dan is the leading bus company, so it really doesn’t matter which site is nicer.

You can look up routes between Tel Aviv and the surrounding areas. It’s the same concept as what Egged did. And like Egged, they are also lame with the bus maps.

It’s nice to know that there are plenty of sheruts in the Tel Aviv area that operate along the same routes as the bus lines. It just means more available transportation.

קווים

KavimThe Kavim website is the same concept as Dan and Egged. I love their logo, though. So happy.

They have the timetables although they are not as user friendly or easy to read as when you can enter where you’re coming from and where you’re going with a drop down menu.

סופרבוס

Superbus logoFor all those living the suburban dream in Modiin (and Lod, and Shoham?), Superbus is what you need to get to… well, a few places and every 20 minutes. It seems that for these residents that aren’t too many choices, so you pretty much have to put your travel plans in their hands. Of course… There is the train… if it’s running of course.

רכבת ישראל

Israel Railways

Well, the whole Israel Railways train system is undergoing renovations. Sure, some of the trains are running, but the website is pretty lame for now. It’s sole purpose at the moment seems to be offering announcements about what is closed and what’s not running. It’s a shame, because the trains are supposed to be the easiest and fastest and more environmentally-friendly way to travel.

Connex

Ok… I don’t know much about the where and how of Connex, but their site is the most professional-looking and easy to navigate. I suppose that’s logical, it’s also the one that is owned by an international company. Interestingly, there English version of the site is… “comming soon”. I guess I spoke too… early.

אוטובוסים

Autobusim website

Otobusim is one site with information on seemingly all of the transportation systems in Israel. It includes routes by: Egged, Dan, Metropoline, Kaviim, Connex, Metrodan, Superbus, and the Haifa Carmalit.

Doesn’t seem to be available in any other languages aside from Hebrew, though. However, the best thing about this one is that it has one page with all the other companies’ contact details… And we all speak the language of phone numbers, right?

That pretty much sums it up for now… I’m sure there are more sites out there, and feel free to leave them below.

Happy traveling!