Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Aliyah to Zfat (Safed)


Exactly a year ago, I stayed in Zfat (Safed) and Tiberias for a couple of months and was even considering settling in the area. It seems to be the perfect place when you are looking for a quiet lifestyle. The more spiritual ones rather move to Zfat and not necessarily to Tiberias. The distance between both places is about an hour bus ride. Nevertheless, the small town of Tiberias at the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) looks like New York when you start comparing in to Zfat. Although Tiberias has not too much action to offer, it seems to be a real city compared to Zfat. 

Zfat keeps on attracting more and more American Jews who are planning their Aliyah to Israel. The town has a large English speaking community and most members are very welcoming. You may feel at home immediately if you are the Zfat type. Breslov, Chabad (especially Chabad Meshichist) or Carlebach style. People invite you for Shabbat and the town has its own English library. Let alone the famous Zfat cemetery where lots of Kabbalists are buried. 

I think that most Americans making Aliyah to Zfat mainly concentrate on the spiritual side. Kabbalah, chassidic teachings and the great landscape. But when you make Aliyah, you have to be realistic and reality is that there are hardly any jobs in Zfat. Lots of locals are on the dole or social benefit. If you come to Zfat, use up all your Nefesh be’Nefesh money, you need to think about your future existence in town. How are you going to earn a living in a place where there is no industry, no nothing ?

Zfat used to be cheap. Reasonable rents and supermarket prices but look at it now. The American housing demand has ruined estate prices let alone the increasing rent. Some Americans may come with a bit of money and are able to satisfy the greed of the Zfati landlords but what about the local Israeli population ? For them it turns out to be a disaster competing with a bunch of wealthy Americans claiming the houses for themselves. 

Because there are no jobs in Zfat, English speakers who have already made Aliyah discovered a new market: Giving spiritual classes although many of them have no clue about deep kabbalistic studies. However, they need to pay rent and thus teach all kinds of made up theories in order to get the money rolling in. 

Furthermore, some Anglos have also started renting out one or two rooms to guests. When you go to such a guest house, watch your money, as those places can be real rip – offs. 

Another branch new immigrants have discovered is creating art and selling it to tourists. Mostly overprized. 

Copyright / Photos: Miriam Woelke

The latest clue is that some Americans are planning to open an international real estate agency. This is a great way to make money, as more and more Anglo Olim want to move to Zfat and nowhere else. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have been facing the problem for quite a while. Wealthy Jews from abroad buying property and hardly using it. Jerusalem has developed its own ghost towns such as the apartment building complexes in front of Jaffa Gate where rich Americans bought apartments for more than 2 million Dollar and only come for Pessach and Rosh Hashana. Those people keep on destroying rent and real estate prices and the result is that no ordinary Israeli can compete with such price demands. Jerusalem’s municipality now wants to start charging higher taxes from foreign investor not using their property. 

Nevertheless, it is not Jerusalem anymore but Zfat and as soon as this new real estate agency is opening, YOU are going to be ripped – off. What people don’t consider is that they change the character of Zfat and the real Zfatim who are born Israelis don’t want that. They have been there for generations and fought all the wars and now wealthy Americans are taking over with all their money. Not even speaking Hebrew but running after every Shekel. 

How does it feel making Aliyah into the middle of nowhere and earning a living by cheating others coming from your country of origin ? 


Zfat Stories


  1. B"H

    Life is expensive whether you choose to live in the diaspora on in Eretz Yisroel.

    Unfortunately some people will deal dishonestly in business.

    Making Aliyah is expensive in the long run. Yes education is much cheaper but finding employment which won't leave you in dire straits can be very difficult for many.

    And not everyone is willing to compromise either.

  2. B"H

    Many many Olim, including myself, hardly find the kind of employment they used to have in their home countries. What else can you expect when you are not too familiar with a new language and a very different mentality.

    Israelis know each other from school or the army and have connections. New immigrants don't have all this and mostly start from scratch; meaning in underpaid positions then would have never chose to do back home.

    I do, for example, understand that people get fed up and just move back to where they came from.

    If you depend on earning a living and planning your Aliyah, you should choose a place where there is work and a cultural life. You can live in Haifa and still go and visit Zfat any time you like. But only going to Zfat should be for people who have enough money on their own.

  3. B"H

    Some people may find professional jobs through the Anglo community which Nefesh heavily markets towards.

    I think considering alot of Olim are very educated if they have a good level of conversational Hebrew then they might stand a chance.

    I know quite a few people who G-d willing will make Aliyah one day. But due to reasons known to them choose like myself to remain here in the Diaspora.

    Living expenses are sky rocketing. Tuition is on the rise etc It would be cheaper for me to move to the States and buy a home in Boro Park then where I am living.

    Most Olim move to either Tel Aviv or Yerushalayim. Depending on work/hashkafah will determine the community they move to.

  4. B"H

    If someone really depends on a job then move to Tel Aviv. Rents are high but your salary is much better than in Jerusalem. And so are the job opportunities.