Beth G. Kopin
Inches to Metric: Zionism Through Design

Inches to Metric: Buying a Home in Israel #1-Where…

View of the Old City from our neighborhood park Haas Promenade (Tayelet)
View of the Old City from our neighborhood park Haas Promenade (Tayelet)

This series is being formatted using the classic:

Where What How and Why? 

#1-Where Should I Look to Buy?  

We are often asked by Israelis and Americans where we live in Israel? When we say Jerusalem we always get asked why? Initially we were surprised by the question. It never occurred to us to live anywhere but Jerusalem. Our liturgical prayers, songs, poems, and artwork depict Jerusalem when referring to Israel. As a Zionist I was metaphorically brought up swimming in the Jerusalem waters. A non Jerusalemite Israeli will sometimes look at you like you are a bit crazy to choose Jerusalem. Why? That is another discussion…

With the Old City as the backdrop, Jerusalem’s essence is one of spirituality and antiquity. I attended a womens’ mission to Israel sponsored by JUF (Jewish United Fund) in 2005. Upon arriving we were driven to a park overlooking the Old City called Haas Promenade (locals refer to it as Tayelet) and said a collective prayer of gratitude. We saw the OLD CITY shimmering in the distance in a golden glow. I silently prayed that someday I could live near the park. Six years later we bought a garden apartment in a new building where we can walk to the Tayelet in minutes and wave to the Old City.

We preferred Jerusalem. Some people would only consider moving to Israel if it was near water. You can see water from Tel Aviv, Old Jaffa, Herzeliya, Natanya, Tiberius, The Galilee, Haifa and now developers are building near the Dead Sea… take your pick. Some prefer city living others remote areas. In the North you can live near rolling hills, waterfalls, farms, and in the South arid desert.

The complicated/fun part comes into play when deciding if you want to live in a religious or secular neighborhood, and from which region/culture? Modern Jewry comes from two regions of the world, and are referred to as either Ashkenazic or Sephardic, each culture is distinct:

  •  Ashkenazic (Eastern Europe), can be secular, observant or ultra religious. Post  Holocaust Eastern European Jews dispersed throughout the world. Gradually many made Aliyah (moved to Israel). Israel is a mosaic of people from around the globe. Watch Shtisel if you are curious about the Chassidic Ashkenazic culture (ultra religious).
  •  Sephardic (Middle East), can be secular, observant or ultra religious as well. What is seldom talked about was the wiping out of Jewry, and now Christianity from the Middle East other than Israel. Not a Holocaust more of a “ridding”, where many fled/moved to Israel. Watch The Baker and the Beauty if you are curious about the Sephardic culture (secular).

How can you tell the difference between the cultures/religious observance?

  • The type of kippah (male head covering) you wear is a political/religious statement.  It’s like waving a tribal flag, (a tribe within a tribe). The Chassidic (ultra religious) Ashkenazic and a smaller pocket of Sephardic men wear long black coats wide brimmed black hats, and have beards with side curls. The wives wear long skirts, long sleeves and  wigs. The Serugim (modern orthodox and or conservative) wear a kippah that is crocheted with a pattern, some wives wear pants with tunic dresses or just modern clothes, wigs or head scarfs, (serugim means crocheted). Watch Serugim, a show similar to FRIENDS on the modern orthodox crowd.
  • The more observant the wearer the more solid the kippah which distinguishes you on how you pray/study/live. If it is knit and all black you are stricter in observance than the kippah with pattern and black velvet is even more observant worn by both Ashkenazic and Sephardic. Tiny crocheted on the top of your head means one statement, black velvet under a black hat with a bit of the kippah showing under the hat means another.

We live in Arnona, made up of mostly conservative and modern orthodox American born (Ashkenazic) Jews mixed in with moderately religious and secular Israelis. We chose our neighborhood for several reasons:

  • We wanted to live near friends. We have friends who made Aliya and or bought second homes, many of which live in our neighborhood.
  • We wanted to live amongst Israelis. We come to Israel often. If you live where the homes are owned by twice a year Americans the entire building/neighborhood may be vacant when you arrive, (American ghost town). A benefit to living amongst Israelis is your building will be better maintained. Deluxe buildings sometimes become neglected when no one is present advocating for the property.
  • We wanted to live in a community where we and our friends could walk to each others homes on Shabbat and holidays, this is our culture.
  • We wanted to live near a shul (synagogue) that we enjoy. Our neighborhood has many we feel comfortable attending.

There is another important criteria to consider when buying property, which side of the city you’d prefer? Our neighborhood is on the East side of Jerusalem, a 15 drive to the edge of the city. If you want to live in Jerusalem but closer to Tel Aviv, living on the West side of Jerusalem makes sense. Rahavia is quite popular for tech people and students (mixed in with Orthodox/black hat types), who commute to Tel Aviv and or work or go to University in Jerusalem on that side of town. The shorter commute  matters greatly.

Stay tuned… 


About the Author
Beth Kopin is a trained interior architectural designer from the US. She has experience in the design/construction world that spans thirty years, and works and lives in both Chicago and Arnona, Jerusalem. She commutes regularly between the two cities. She brings her work ethic, training and US standards to Israel. Beth has surrounded herself with extremely talented trades. Her design team developed a way to CAD (computer aided design) plans in both US and metric standards. This enables both the US born clients (some of which live in Israel, some as second homes), and Israeli trades to better understand the plans, ensuring a more fluid communication. She is able to help bridge the gap of cultural differences, manage expectations, relate often confusing metric standards, as well as all the basic elements of designing a beautiful and functional home.,
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