Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Israelis moving to Zfat (Safed)


It is incredible how many Israelis I have met so far who are planning to move to Zfat (Safed) in northern Israel. Not only Yerushalmim (people from Jerusalem) but from almost anywhere in the country. Especially from the Tel Aviv coastal area.
Israelis of different age groups who suddenly see their future up north. I myself belong to this group of people and I am so happy to be in the north that I haven't even bothered too much about going to Jerusalem and organizing some further bureaucracy and moving my belongings. Nevertheless, I wouldn't necessarily move to Zfat but prefer Tiberias.

However, it is surprising how many Israelis are suddenly ready to move up north. Zfat is a small development town with approximately 25,000 inhabitants. With plenty of religious Jews but also many secular inhabitants. Old romantic houses and lots of cobblestone in the old city. Surrounded by the new city.

Whoever wants to move to the former Kabbalah town of Zfat has to consider one important fact: There is hardly any work here. No jobs and the person should think about how he is going to make a living here. Unless he is willing to rely on the welfare, as many inhabitants are forced to do.

The religious English speaking community is welcoming but I always feel that especially the English speakers expect you to have a firm income. American immigrants who have settled in Zfat obviously came with money, as they fixed plenty of old houses in the old city. Very nice but you can see that a whole bunch of cash must have been involved.

Israelis may move to Zfat for very different reasons and not only because the ARIZAL (Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, 1532 - 1572,) is buried here. One reason may be that various Israelis are simply sick of living in big cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya or further areas. Today, more and more people (like me) are looking for a quiet place to live. No crowds around, some nature and a higher quality of life. However, "quality of life" does not stand for a higher income and luxury. On the contrary: Personally I am looking for nature, less people and a less stressful life. Not constantly running around without taking any break and thus loosing all my years of life without having lived.

Other Israelis seem to be drawn to the north due to the low rent. Here it is still possible to buy a house at a normal price and not for millions of Shekels. Apartments are affordable and you don't spend your entire salary only on rent. On the other hand, once the demand for cheap housing is rising, the prices are going to rise as well.

The north definitely needs a higher percentage of Jewish population. Just look all the Arab and Druse villages and smaller towns all over. Sometimes it looks as only Arabs settle here and then your hear their false claim that Samaria (Shomron) and the Galil (Galilee) belongs to them because there aren't too many Jews around.
Life in the north is not free of challenges and problems. As someone coming from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, you have to be prepared for a life without too much action. In many areas, such as Kiryat Shemona, Zfat, Katzrin, the Golan or Tiberias, you won't even find a cinema. Zfat doesn't have a night life and at about 6pm, you won't see too many people walking along the only shopping street. The Zfatim (inhabitants) of Zfat prefer staying at home and eating there. In case you look for a mall, you can travel to Rosh Pina (only a few kilometers far away).

Last week it happened to me that as soon as I got off the bus in Jerusalem, I was shocked by the amount of people there. Immediately I started missing the quiet north. However, the north may not be for everyone and you should be prepared for a big change in life.

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