Jews Seek Israeli Property Following Toulouse Shooting

Article Summary
Israeli estate agents report a sharp rise in the number of French Jews looking to buy Israeli property since the attack on a Jewish school in the south of France. Incidences of anti-Semitism typically prompt international Jewish interest in Israeli real estate, and this week was no exception. Shlomit Tzur reports.

It is a week and a half [March 27 2012] before the Passover holiday, and real-estate experts report a surge in demand from French Jews for apartments. This is evidently the result of the terrorist attack in Toulouse.

Chaim Kaufman is a realtor with the Kaufman Properties Brokerage Agency on Ibn Gevirol Street in Tel Aviv. He explains, “When there are anti-Semitic waves in Europe or the United States, Jews living abroad tend to become more resolved to purchase apartments in Israel. After such [anti-Semitic] events, even tiny ones, Jews living abroad express the strengthened desire to have a second home in Israel. During the last week, several French Jews announced that they would come earlier than usual to Israel, before Passover, in order to view potential apartments for purchase. They come this week even though Seder night is only the end of next week.”

According to Kaufman, areas that are desirable to the French Jews are those found within walking distance of the ocean. “They especially like the section between Dizengoff on the east and Hayarkon Street on the west. Since they also demand an elevator and parking space, our supply of available apartments is limited.”

Eldar, a company that markets exclusive housing projects in Israel, reports an increase of about 50% in requests from French Jews during the last week, on the heels of the recent events in Toulouse. The company’s CEO, Roni Cohen, notes that the inquiries are arriving from Jews living in various French communities, not just Toulouse. “The French Jews usually pay us visits during vacations. This time it seems that many of them moved up their Passover vacations, as we have been receiving requests … regarding various projects in Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Netanya and even Or Akiva.”

Cohen emphasizes that most of the interested parties are looking for residential apartments in which to live and not for investment purposes, as had been the case in the past for this market segment. “It seems that most of the inquiries are looking into the option of purchasing ‘refuge apartments’ in Israel, in case the situation in France escalates and become unbearable for them.”

Briga, a company that builds exclusive residential projects in Netanya mainly for foreign residents, reports a surge in inquiries. Yaki Briga, CEO and owner of the company, reports that French Jews have become increasingly anxious regarding their personal security in France over the last few years. He says, “We have in-depth conversations with them on this issue. In recent years, more and more Muslims hold key positions and high-level offices in France, and the waves of anti-Semitism are more frequent and more difficult. No doubt that a large proportion of the Jews in France in general, and the wealthy Jewish population in specific, feels a growing need for a home in Israel.”

The company increased their number of salespeople in this period due to the many requests they have received, and anticipate an increase of about 30% in the numbers of interested persons due to arrive already next week. “It is no secret that there is a direct relationship between terrorist attacks against Jews abroad, and the Jewish investment in Israeli real estate,” adds Briga. “If a specific family is personally affected somehow, even on a minor level — such as a child receiving worse treatment in school, or even a hint of difficulty due to their Jewishness — immediately the desire to come to Israel rises to the fore.”

According to Briga, “The terrorist attack in France was written on the wall for a long time. From frequent conversations with French residents over the last year, we understand that the situation there is not going to change [for the better]. Muslims are now manning a large number of high-level positions in France, from school principals to directors of local authorities. The Jews tell us that as a result, they are receiving problematic treatment. Therefore, the terrorist attack in Toulouse has caused many of them to understand that they must give serious consideration to moving to Israel to live.”

According to Kaufman, most of the buyers leave their new apartments closed throughout most of the year and use them only twice a year when they come to Israel — usually, on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Passover. Only a small percentage of them rent out the apartment. Kaufman thinks that “members of big families prefer to have an apartment in Israel, so that whenever a family member comes to Israel he can stay there and not in a hotel.”

Recently, a decision based on Trajtenberg recommendations on how to reduce the cost of living has passed the Knesset, doubling the property tax on apartments that are closed for more than six months a year. Briga says, “this is a lousy and stupid decision. Investments of foreign residents in Israel are welcome; they create income in Israel. If, as a result of this change, foreign residents will stop purchasing apartments in Israel, this will harm the economy. If not, it will harm the tenants who will pay higher prices in the months that the apartments are rented out. This is all about ministers and their slogans.”

Despite the security situation in the south of the country, the Claude Nahmias Company, building in Ashdod, reported on Tuesday that there was a surge in inquiries from French Jews who have already purchased apartments and want to know when they can move into them. Yaki Vetori, the company’s CEO, described an unusually busy week with inquiries by French Jews who have family members living in Israel, wanting to buy an apartment as well. “We are accustomed to the pattern of their enquiries, usually beginning with the Passover holiday. But this year they started earlier and began to ask to set up meetings even before the holiday.” According to Vetori, the buyers are aware of the security situation in the south. “The French Jews interested in Ashdod regularly ask if the apartments in the new projects have family safe rooms.”

Found in: israel, france

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