Making Aliyah (immigration) to Zfat (Safed) in northern Israel has become a real fashion among religious American Jewry. Whether Carlebacher, Breslover, Lubavitcher or others, lots of American Jews have discovered the "Zfat Spirituality". Not only that but the small town located on top of a hill, approx. 30 km away from Tiberias, still offers affordable housing and lower costs of living.
I wrote a few times about the subject in the past. At the moment, I am actually in Zfat for a few days. Arriving this Monday, I will be heading back to Jerusalem for Shabbat and Shavuot tomorrow morning. Many of you may be interested in the latest estate prices in Zfat, as you are planning to buy or rent a place. As I said many times before, you should not forget reality by only looking at the spiritual side. Yes, Zfat is a nice small town with a great welcoming English speaking community. However, there are also plenty of Israelis living in town and not everyone speaks English. Moreover, Zfat is surrounded by a few Arab villages and the Zfat Academy in the old city has far more Arab students than Jewish ones. Those Arab students have been trying moving into town and local Jewish landlords rented out apartments to them. Arab students are willing to pay more rent than Israelis and usually put the cash on the table. Jewish landlords in Zfat went for this until local Rabbis and residents started protesting. Now greedy landlords think twice to whom they are renting out apartments. Nevertheless, the situation between Jews and local Arabs is still tense. I was told that Jewish residents don't really want to use the city park anymore, as the park is located next to the Academy. Arab students are hanging around in the park and Jewish mothers don't want to sit there with their kids anymore. Too dangerous.
Another problem in Zfat is the terrible employment situation. No jobs, no infrastructure. A Shearim reader suggested that the municipality should create job but this isn't that easy. Factories and other companies prefer settling at the coastal area and not somewhere in the middle of nowhere on a hilltop. In case it is you planning thinking about Aliyah to Zfat, do not forget the employment situation ! Too many Americans have done this so far and are now offering their services as "spiritual healers", "spiritual artists" or by looking for an income by renting out guest rooms or working as estate agents ripping off other Americans.
Once your Nefesh be Nefesh money is gone, then what ? How are you going to support yourself in a place like Zfat ? Always have this in mind and be realistic about it.
Market only once a week: Every Wednesday, the Zfat residents stream to the market. On other weekdays they but at the local supermarkets.
Yesterday I was passing a real estate office in the old city and had a look at the latest offers. Apartments in the old city are up to 1,000,000 Shekels (approx. 250,000 $). I even saw apartments to sell for 2,500,000 or more Shekels. Especially in the old city, estate prices are skyrocketing and rents are up too. If you want to rent something affordable, have a look at apartment offers in the southern part of Zfat. There you find the cheapest apartments. The neighbourhoods are not as nice as in the old city but prices are pretty reasonable. A friend of mine from Zfat added that you should also consider the education issue. Where are your kids going to school when the Hebrew language is required ?
Zfat is definitely not New York and not everyone is made to live here. More than a year ago, I was thinking about moving here or to Tiberias but this kind of life simply wasn't for me. Too far away from everything and if you want to see "civilization", you need to go to Haifa ( a two - hour bus ride from Zfat).
Despite spirituality, the Kabbalah, a great functioning community, you should still consider all kinds of options and issues before making your final decision.
For sale: A four - room - apartment in the old city, nice neighbourhood and fixed rooms for 1,100,000 Shekels (250,000 $). The number below is the cellphone number of the agent.
Further estate offers and place available to rent. Just to give you an idea.
Photos: Miriam Woelke