We recently received an assignment to sell a well-maintained 165 square meter (1,775 sf) 5-bedroom penthouse in Har Choma, Jerusalem. The apartment has two large sukkah balconies boasting panoramic views. The asking price is 2,500,000 NIS or approximately $675,000. If this apartment were located in more centrally located and better established Jerusalem neighborhoods, it would be sold for more than double the price. So why is this apartment so reasonably priced?
Har Choma is situated in southeastern Jerusalem and is bordered by Kibbutz Ramat Rachel to the north, the Judean Desert to the east, Bethlehem to the south and Derech Chevron to the west. As its name suggests, Har Choma is built on a hill. The apex of the hill reaches 775 meters above sea level and offers magnificent views of Jerusalem and the Judean Hills.
Har Choma is one of Jerusalem’s eight ring neighborhoods – so called because these communities form a ring around the capital – that were built after Israel’s miraculous victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Har Choma’s initial plans were drawn in the 1980s and, after fifteen years of struggles against environmental and political opposition, construction finally began in 1997.
In the mid-1940s, a Jewish group purchased a 130-dunam (32 acre) parcel, which comprises the majority of Har Choma. During the 1948 War of Independence, the hill served as the base for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and was utilized by Jordan’s Arab Legion. The name Har Choma – literally Mount of Walls – refers to the walls of a Byzantine church on the side of the hill, which were visible to the Palmach forces that were stationed nearby at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
Although Har Choma is barely over a decade old, the neighborhood has grown to almost 25,000 residents. Har Choma’s popularity stems from its relatively inexpensive housing and suburban environment despite its proximity to the center of Jerusalem. It has been well planned, offering many small parks and large playgrounds, with a picturesque promenade encircling the neighborhood and connecting the larger parks. Har Choma has over a dozen kindergartens, multiple elementary schools, three shopping centers, and numerous bus lines connecting the neighborhood to the rest of Jerusalem.
Har Choma is a mixed neighborhood, with a many families in the Chardal (charedi leumi or ultra-orthodox nationalist) camp, most of whom are affiliated with Yeshivat Mercaz Harav, founded by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. There is also a large dati leumi (religious nationalist) community plus secular Jews. Due to its relatively inexpensive pricing, scores of educators and civil servants – and many young families – live in this neighborhood.
Currently, only 5% of the population is comprised of English speakers. However, there has been a recent push to attract and generate a nucleus of English speakers, which would address the strong demand for inexpensive housing for Anglos with restricted budgets desirous of living in Jerusalem. This effort should eventually gain traction as there are no alternative Jerusalem options offering both affordable and relatively new housing.
I am keeping my eye on Har Choma, as I believe it has strong potential in the near future to become a destination for a portion of my English-speaking clientele.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.