Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In search of a new home, life in Jerusalem

I was bored and flipping through the channels earlier this week and came across an interesting episode of House Hunters International on HGTV. It’s always fun to fantasize about having the wherewithal to make a move to some exotic locale on the other side of the world. As often as not, lovely beaches, deep blue water and majestic mountains are part of the deal on this show.

This time around, sun-bleached buildings, serpentine alleyways and ancient mysteries were the hot drawing cards, all circling about the very old and memorable city of Jerusalem. Hayley Gerszberg, living the good life with her four kids in New Jersey had decided she needed a change and Israel was where she wanted to be.

I thought this a swell adventure and enjoyed the first few minutes focusing on some of Jerusalem’s iconic sites – the Western Wall and Cardo in the old city; Mahane Yehuda, the world-class shuk, and picturesque gardens and parks in newer sections of the city.

In just five minutes, the show’s producers managed to pull together images of the ultra-Orthodox praying and soldiers enjoying free time away from, ah, soldiering; students on their way to school and seniors basking in the afternoon sun; tourists in search of memories and locals enjoying a cup of Joe at a corner café.

The show generally focuses on three properties and I figured tagging along with Hayley might give me a good idea of what real estate is worth in Jerusalem. Wrong! It turns out Hayley’s budget was a bit more than I’d have to play around with if I was in the market. She was hoping to find a place to call home that wouldn’t set her back more than, um, $2 million.

I forget the various neighborhoods that Hayley, her best friend and real estate agent visited, but they were all upscale areas, centrally located, featuring expansive green spaces, good schools, convenient shopping – and, most importantly, sun-bleached buildings and serpentine alleyways. I won’t bore you with the details – you can see the entire show yourself by clicking here – but Hayley eventually settled on a home in the German Colony, a chic and oh-so trendy community just a mile or so outside the Old City.

The house is expansive and beautiful, sort of contemporary, but filled with lots of little details – mosaic tiles, stone walls, bits of Judaica – that capture a sense of time and place. If I had $2 million hidden away somewhere, I could easily call this place home.

The program, of course, is all about the search and I was left wondering about Hayley, her kids and why she decided the time was right to make such a move. Israel can be a lovely place, but it’s a small country in a tough neighborhood. I found it interesting that even though Hayley talks about moving to Jerusalem she never says she’s making aliyah – if you’re Jewish you’ll understand my point.

I’ve had friends who’ve done the Israel thing and only managed to last a year or so. The language is tough to learn and the culture can be daunting. Without a social network, muscling your way through the bureaucracy is often a deal breaker. I imagine, given her resources, Haley can probably make a go of it just about anywhere. After all, F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously wrote that the rich are different. In this instance, I think he’s probably right.


  1. Love it! Your last paragraph is spot on....

  2. haley is a rich spoiled brat whose husband ran ecko and left her high and dry. Israel is her escape from reality and she has no intention of making aliyah. She didn't even buy the house. She rents it. The show is a farce. She basically chose the house she already lived in. the furniture showcased in the house is hers. Anyone can make it in Israel if their alimony check is in the 10-15 million.

  3. I don't know about anonymous and their opinions, but like you I was curious as to Haley's background. Never one to assume (false), I googled her and came up with a few articles. I thought you may be interested in the article or maybe I'm just nosy. Here it is: http://njjewishnews.com/njjn.com/2004/9204/sxlargesse.html
    Take care! -Kathryn