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French Hill: A High Point of Life in Jerusalem

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Jerusalem’s French Hill, known to locals as Hagivah Hatzarfatit
Jerusalem’s French Hill, known to locals as Hagivah Hatzarfatit

Jerusalem’s French Hill, known to locals as Hagivah Hatzarfatit

Four years after Jerusalem was unified in the Six Day War, the neighborhood of French Hill was established in northeastern Jerusalem.

It connects western Jerusalem with Mount Scopus, the site of Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, two prominent institutions whose campuses were created prior to Israel’s independence in 1948 and then lost until Israel regained control over the area in 1967. The neighborhood also bears the name of Givat Shapira, in memory of Haim Moshe Shapira, an early religious Zionist leader.
French Hill (in Hebrew: Hagivah Hatzarfatit) is one of the highest locations in Jerusalem, perched 830 meters above sea level. Recently, I looked at apartments there with a client and one upper floor apartment offered breathtaking views spanning all the way from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The owner summed it up well when he said, “the cost for the view is 1,600,000 shekels, and I’ll throw in the apartment for free!”
There is a debate as to the source of French Hill’s name. Most claim it was named after British General John French whose headquarters or home was on this hill. However, Israeli geographer Zev Vilnay maintains that French never served in this area and that the name emanates from its previous landowner, the Catholic Monastery of St. Anne, whose monks hailed from France.
French Hill’s population of almost 7,000 people is extremely diverse, and includes singles studying at Hebrew University, young families, older families and retirees. There are numerous professionals, many of whom are employees of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, as well as hi-tech workers who work at the nearby Har Chotzvim industrial park, a hub of hi-tech activity. One hears many languages spoken on the streets of the community, as there is a high percentage of olim who emigrated years ago from Europe and North America. A number of Arab intellectuals who are connected to the University have also bought apartments in the neighborhood.
About 70% of the population is secular, about 20% is Masorati (Conservative) and about 10% religious (comprised mostly of Dati Leumi, i.e., religious Zionists). Interestingly, the demographic with the largest growth has been the relatively small Chareidi (Yeshivish) population, as young couples who have been priced out of neighboring Ramat Eshkol have chosen French Hill due to its nice housing stock, lovely parks and gardens, ample neighborhood shopping and excellent medical facilities. Many first-rate transportation options are available including car (it’s right off Begin Highway, offering easy access to major highways), bus, and now light rail, which has a stop near the community, offering quick access to central Jerusalem. The neighborhood is also just a 40-minute walk to the Western Wall.
After experiencing drops in housing prices during the beginning of the second intifada in 2001, the neighborhood’s pricing has roared back, and has doubled since 2003. The combination of substantial buyer demand coupled with significant rental rates paid by students and diplomats has people anticipating that prices will remain strong and continue trending upward.
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. You may contact him at [email protected] To read previous articles, please visit his blog at www.myisraelhome.com.

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