The Serial Tourist's Guide to Jerusalem - From Real Estate to Daily Life

December, 2009 - Copyright by Morris Rosenthal - - contact info

The Serial Tourist's Guide to Jerusalem

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Copyright 2009 by Morris Rosenthal

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Starting November, 2009, I'm updating this guide for the sfirst time since 2006, following the 2001 original. After 14 years of wandering Jerusalem every winter, I still don't know the names of more than a dozen streets, never had a memory for that sort of thing, so maybe drawing maps and getting them down in writing will help out. Rather than using a blog for the guide, I'm going to do it in my ancient HTML editor, so if it's not to snuff aesthetically, at least it should load fast:-) This page with change pretty much every day as I manually archive and link the previous day's content.

This week I started on Jerusalem real estate with Understanding Real Estate Ads in the Hebrew newspapers. It's a different vocabulary, a different market, and a different set of rules. I wouldn't even consider buying in Jerusalem without the help of a lawyer, and if it's not brand new construction (or maybe even if it is), the services of an engineer. Of course you know never to use the lawyer or engineer suggested by the seller. Once you own a property, if you aren't here full time, you might want to consider a property manager who can visit the place every week, take care of whatever comes up, and rent it out if you want the income. Many buyers also higher an assessor to give them an unbiased valuation of the property. The first neighborhood I started filling in some price information for was Nachalot. The real estate market in Nachalot is unique in some ways because there's very little new construction, it's mainly renovated old stone homes being sold for outlandish prices. Americans have been buying like crazy for years in Rechavia and Talbieh, the neighborhoods around the president and prime minister's official residences, the Jerusalem Theatre and the flagship Orthodox and Conservative Shul's. I'm going to start expanding out this week to include other neighborhoods that attract English speakers, and just did the German Colony. The two other neighborhoods favored by non-Haredi American's are Old Katamon and Baka. I also just wrote up my current apartment hunting experience, a sort of blow-by-blow description illustrating why it ain't always easy. It seems I can always come up with reasons not to buy a home, but I'm working on it. I've got some not-so-nice aspects of the luxury housing market to point out as well. There's also a tradition of reusing old stones and letting houses sit abandoned. I've also completed a shocking expose of stone wall construction:-)

I'm working on a guide to Jerusalem shortcuts, which will also include some tidbits about the neighborhoods they are in. I started with Nachalot to Gan Sacher, a way to get from the popular, increasingly American neighborhood to the main park in Jerusalem. Yes, it's right across the street, but there's always a better way. The next shortcut I detailed was from Rechavia to German Colony. It's one you could easily puzzle out with a map or walking with friends who've been here a while, but you'll never figure it out taking busses or taxis because it includes one-way streets running in opposite directions. The most direct shortcut can simply be knowing where to start, as with the way from Nachalot to Mahane Yehuda. I lived in the Nachalot neighborhood for years, learning all of the alleys of Mahane Yehuda (the neighborhood, not the shuk itself), never realizing the the fastest way between two points is a straight line. A more obscure shortcut for the Jerusalem visitor is the way from Beit Hakerem to Givat Ram. If you didn't know it was there, you'd probably take some foolish bus that would go five times as far and take longer than walking. I must have at least a dozen more shortcuts I want to get to this winter. I have a page about city parks, I'm working on a page about archeology in the middle of the city, and I'm thinking of doing a page about trip-and-fall hazards.

Next, I want to get going with some of my longer walks, how to get from point to point in the city. I'll walk fifteen or twenty miles some days just in the course of visiting friends, going to the library, or getting a bite to eat. I haven't figured out yet whether I want to hand draw maps for the longer walks, use strictly photographs, or focus on navigation by landmarks. For example, "Continue to the Sheraton Hotel, take a right turn between the pointy building with the Catholic statue and the Prima Kings Hotel, and walk downhill until you reach the bank on the corner." I had thought of using the various high buildings as landmarks, but it you don't already know what they are, it won't help you much. I'm also working on pages for subject that people show interest in, the first of these being a page about excavating foundations through Jerusalem stone and the incredible number of tower cranes on construction sites here. I'm also starting on a home renovation guide, Jerusalem style. Also some notes on Israeli security doors and locks, dangling lightbulbs, and unclogging sinks. I've updated some previous comments about Jerusalem laundromats, Israeli newspapers, and telephone/ISP issues. I've also gone a little more into depth with shopping in Israel and the Arab market.

Finally, I'll be going through and updating all of my existing guide, which I think originally dates from 2000 or 2001. Today I'm going to update the section on finding and renting an apartment, because I've spent longer at the process than I usually do with mixed results this trip:-)