Residential buildings in haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) society in Israel tend to be characterized by the cheapest possible construction. The idea is obtain a roof over one’s head, preferably owner-occupied, in a haredi neighborhood, while other considerations are less important. Special requirements and additions are usually not part of the picture.
But there is a haredi luxury, and even super-luxury, residence market in which that is not the case at all. Projects in these categories can be found in neighborhoods in mixed towns and cities, and even in some places thought of as secular in character. The market covers luxury private houses for haredi families and apartment buildings.
Specifications as in Herzliya and Tel Aviv
"Haredi society is steadily growing, and, in the nature of things, when that happens, the different segments within haredi society also grow," says Yakov Erblich, co-CEO of realtors Sun Chen, which specializes in the real estate market for haredim. "There are more and more wealthy haredim, and one of the direct results of that is demand for luxury residences, both in the standard of construction and in the specifications. There are currently projects in haredi society with very special specifications, at a standard to match any luxury project in Tel Aviv or Herzliya.
"There is a sort of intermediate generation in this society today, a middle class of people who are not very wealthy, but of higher economic standing than the general haredi population, and they have more demands. They want value for money, and they’re prepared to pay more. These aren’t things that existed in haredi society in the past, but now they’re here and their scope is growing."
"In recent years we have been seeing more and more luxury projects aimed at haredim," says Eyal Apple of Apple Architects. "The concept that this is an ascetic group that makes do with little may be true of some of the people, but there are very many in this society who like and adopt a modern lifestyle, and want spacious, well-designed, comfortable homes with all the technological innovations that there are."
A home serving a large family
The special characteristics of luxury residences in haredi society stem from the desire for a high standard that will also suit haredi culture and a religious way of life.
"Even at the luxury end of the haredi market, the thought is above all about a large family," says architect Shirley Dan, owner of Shirley Dan Plans Design and Supervision. "The families are very large, sometimes with six to eight children. Hospitality is also a central concern, and together with that the need to plan the home in such a way that it will ‘grow’ with the family over the years.
"It’s not usually a matter of a classic family, two children and a dog, but a large family that requires different, less conventional solutions," adds Apple. "Two and even three children to a room, joining two rooms together into one big bedroom that can later be divided quickly, and things like that.
"In haredi society, children leave home fairly young. If a secular person plans a home for twenty years, a haredi will plan it for ten. Things change very rapidly, and the make-up of the family is very dynamic."
"Haredi society has learned to combine practicality that answers life’s needs with meticulous planning and high standards of finishing," Erblich explains. "People no longer suffice with an apartment with two kitchen sinks, a ritual handwashing niche, and that’s it. Which floor the apartment is on is also important, certainly in a development with no shabbat elevator, and nowadays, in the apartment specifications, we can also see underfloor heating, advanced air conditioning systems, and private parking.
"More and more haredim are in the workforce, including in the free professions, and they can afford high-standard housing. This is a trend that is seeping into haredi society and deepening its hold in it, and young people are also coming into this category and raising the bar and the demands, in favor of a higher quality of life."
"The luxury residence market is a completely different world from the standard haredi housing market, in terms of the standard of items, level of investment, and standard of design," adds Dan. "Construction is at high investment, thought out, with attention paid to every detail, and technology rules: everything you can dream of is to be found in these homes."
"In most of the projects that I’m familiar with in haredi society, the tendency is to standard construction, both in the building itself and in its appearance, and not just the apartments within it," adds haredi developer Hani Horowitz, owner of the Horowitz Group.
"The smart thing is first of all to invest in a well-designed building, that looks good, with a large, high-ceilinged lobby, and that way to give something different that hardly exists today in haredi society, unlike in society at large. Today, in almost every project, from north to south, you can see spacious, high lobbies, with a 3.7 meter ceiling. These are things that you’ll hardly see today in standard projects for haredim, because there they want to exploit every square centimeter for another apartment, another storeroom, or some other space.
"The new project that we’re planning in Elad, for example, isn’t defined as a prestige project, but the prices will be 20% higher than those of standard apartments, and we’ll offer a high, wide lobby, garden apartments, penthouses and duplexes, which are products in high demand these days in haredi society."
Mickey Berger, head of project finance at Ruby Capital, says, "Today, prestige projects aren’t just in Jerusalem, as in the past. The luxury residential sector has become dominant all over Israel, and in every segment of the population, and the wealthy members of haredi society are mixing with Israel’s wealthy in general, and are looking for suitable homes in other haredi cities as well, and are also moving out of haredi neighborhoods into neighborhoods close by, even such as have a completely secular character, for example from Bnei Brak into adjacent neighborhoods in Ramat Gan.
"Today, they don’t just focus on the capital, although it is still the leading city as far as price levels are concerned, with luxury projects of NIS 50,000 to NIS 70,000 per square meter, just like in Tel Aviv."
"If at one time we saw housing like this only in prestigious neighborhoods, today you can find luxury homes for haredim in poor cities as well, such as in Bnei Brak, and also in poor neighborhoods," Erblich says.
What do haredi homes have?
Space for hospitality: "Apartments in luxury projects for haredim will always be bigger, and substantially so: 160 square meters and even 170 square meters," says Benny Anekstein of V5 Architects. "The living room and dining room will be very large, so that they can host lots of people, and the living room will be a sitting area only, without a television of course, but a space that can be tuned into a bedroom if necessary."
Shirley Dan: "When a family has many children, there isn’t a bedroom for each one, and they usually sleep in pairs. When the children grow up, go out to study and marry, people look for creative solutions to be able to host the extended family: a basement or attic that can be converted into guest accommodation when needed."
Eyal Apple: "When the children grow up and have families of their own, there’s an additional challenge: hosting the extended family on shabbat. So basements are planned that can become guest rooms at weekends, rooms with fold-away beds and other devices."
A Passover kitchen: "Another challenge is making the home kosher for Passover," says Apple. "Making the existing kitchen kosher for Passover before the festival is long, hard work, requiring meticulous attention to the fine details. Anyone who can afford it simply builds a ‘Passover kitchen’, and extra kitchen under the stairs, in the basement, or even in an attic, that is only used on Passover."
Smart home systems for shabbat: Shirley Dan says that luxury homes in haredi society are characterized by a welter of technologies that make a religious way of life easier. "Wealthy haredim are very fond of smart home systems: advanced time switches, setting of various systems for all kinds of automated, timed ‘shabbat scenarios’. For example, blinds can be set in advance to shut at a certain time in the evening after the shabbat begins and to open again the next morning. The same thing applies to air conditioners, lights, and even doors."
A sukkah balcony: Anekstein: "A sukkah balcony - one of the greatest challenges in designing buildings for haredi society, because of the requirement that it should be open to the sky - is an obligatory element in luxury residences as well. In prestige projects it will be very large, comparatively, around 20 square meters or more."
Private pools: Dan: "Private pools are a must in this sector. Anyone not familiar with luxury housing for haredim will not understand this need, but you have to remember that going to the beach or to a public pool is something very restricted in haredi society, and so a private pool is an excellent solution. Of course it has to be hidden away, and bordered by a fence or by bushes."
A private mikveh (ritual purification bath): "There are luxury homes where you can find a strictly kosher mikveh," adds Apple. "For anyone who goes to a mikveh everyday, a private mikveh makes life easier. You have to choose its location carefully, because the water in a mikveh must partly come from rainwater or dew. It’s often connected to the gutters of the house, to ensure a regular supply of natural water."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 5, 2022.
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