Saturday, 22 September 2018

Aliyah & Living in Ashkelon

 

Ashkelon is a small but growing city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The climate is mild and temperate.  With miles of beaches and golden sand you can enjoy the small town vibe or enjoy  the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv which is only 50 kilometers to the north.

Ashkelon is centrally located to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Be'er Sheva. Public transportation; buses, sheruts (shared taxi) and train services are readily available.  Many Ashkelonians enjoy the peace and tranquility of Ashkelon but choose to work in Tel Aviv and commute daily. 

Ashkelon is situated 13 km north of the Gaza Strip.

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Comparing Property Prices

Due to its geographical location and its easy commute to Tel Aviv,  the financial capital of Israel, the city has the potential for increased development and the price of real estate will increase.  A growing English and French speaking community are seeing the potential of Ashkelon both as a residential area and for investment property purposes.

There are a large number of new, as well as second-hand flats and homes, which are quickly being snapped up.  In Ashkelon it is still possible to buy a 3-bedroomed family apartment, with views of the ocean for around 1.5 million shekels.  The price for sea-side property in towns like Netanya and brand new developments in Haifa are much more.  A sea-view apartment in Tel Aviv is out of the reach of most new immigrants. 

Billions of shekels are being invested into building 32,000 new dwellings in 7 neighborhoods in Ashkelon.  This project should be completed by 2020 and will turn Ashkelon into Israel's 6th largest city.  This project will include 2 train stations an industrial area and hi-tech park as well as other public amenities. 

You can expect to pay:

 
Between 1,800 - 3,500 NIS a month in rental  for a studio, one or two bedroom apartment
Purchase price for a similar sized apartment is around 550,000-1 million NIS
 
Three to five bedroom apartments cost between 2,500 - 5,000 NIS a month for rental
Expect to pay upward of 900,000 NIS for a similar sized apartment of house

Of course these prices fluctuate depending on demand, location, new or not so new dwellings, balconies or gardens, parking , elevators and other amenities.

Travel, Tourism & Entertainment

Ashkelon is steeped in history - it was the oldest and largest seaport in Canaan. In the course of its history, it has been ruled by the Ancient Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Hasmoneans, the Romans, the Persians, the Arabs and the Crusaders, until it was destroyed by the Mamluks in 1270

Historical and archeological sites sites, parks and picnics, hikes and nature walks are all part of what is on offer at the Ashkelon National Park

There is also a sports arena in Ashkelon and international film and music festivals are held each year.

The Immigrant Community

Immigrants from all over the world live in Ashkelon.  There is an established French speaking community and a fast-growing English speaking community. There are both English and French speaking associations for those who have recently arrived and they offer a wide range of activities. 

The South African Zionist Federation helped establish the Afridar neighborhood and in 1951 the first South African immigrants settled there.  South Americans and Israelis moved in thereafter. 

Learning Hebrew

Hebrew, Ulpan classes (Hebrew learning program - אולפן) are available and are covered by your Aliyah benefits. There are also private Ulpanim (plural of Ulpan) in Ashkelon.

Religious Life in Ashkelon

Religious life in Ashkelon is varied and diverse and is home to both Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities.  There are 3 Ashkenazi shuls popular with the English speaking community

  • Kehilat Netzach Yisrael (Conservative)
  • Central Barnea Synagogue
  • Central Afridar Synagogue

There are currently 7 Mikvot (religious ritual baths) in the city.  There is also a selection of kosher and non-kosher restaurants and supermarkets catering to all levels of observance. 

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Education

Over 27,000 pupils from pre-school to twelfth grade attend the state and religious schools. There are another 5,500 students attending Ashkelon Academic College.  The College offers degrees in all fields of Engineering as well as B.A. degrees in the Humanities.  There is also a Mechina program (university preparedness - post matriculation program;  Heb - מכינה). Harvard University operated an archeological summer school program in Ashkelon.  

The Ashkelon Municipality tells us that a state of the art school system is being developed in Ashkelon, with 2016 as its target date . The goals are: to realize pupil potential and improve attainments, with an emphasis on values; to equip all Ashkelon schools with computer systems capable of advancing science and technology education; to cultivate a rich and creative educational-learning environment in the schools; to develop a wide range of educational initiatives; to enable teachers to improve their professional skills and familiarize themselves with innovative teaching methods; and more.

Healthcare

The Barzilai Medical Center is one of the two main hospitals in Israel’s southern region, serving a population of 500,000 in the surrounding areas.  All 4 of Israel's Health Funds -  Maccabi, Clalit, Meuhedet & Leumit, have branches spread across the city's neighborhoods.

Jobs & Employment

The northern terminus for the Trans-Israel pipeline, which brings petroleum products from Eilat to an oil terminal at the port is located in this city, and so is the seawater reverse osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant, the largest of its kind in the world. Since 1992, Israel Beer Breweries has been operating in the city, brewing Carlsberg and Tuborg beer for the Israeli market. Intel is located not far from this city, and there are job opportunities for skilled workers and English speakers. Immigrants can also find work at The Barzilai Medical Center and the Ashkelon Academic College.

Local Website for Ashkelonians

The English Speakers of Ashkelon (ESOA) have developed a useful website; events, on-going activities, social services and more can be found on their site.  They also have a Facebook group called ESOA.

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