Back in March, I began looking for an apartment for our family to buy in Israel. After a bit of looking, we found the apartment we are currently living in, but there were seven weeks of delays after we and the seller agreed on the price and details of the sale. There were so many delays and issues that kept coming up that it seemed hard to believe it could or would work out, so much so that at one point I finally told our real estate agent that we needed to move on to look at other apartments rather than spend so much time on a deal that wasn’t moving forward.
Finally, in the first week of June, we signed a sales contract. Prior to commiting to the final sales date, I asked our mortgage broker how long it would take for the paperwork to be processed. He told us 6 – 8 weeks, and being the cautious sort of person that I am, we decided not to enter the apartment until ten weeks later, to be absolutely positive the loan would close before we moved in. Well, man plans and G-d laughs, because our apartment wasn’t ready when we needed to be here. Some of you remember that we had to delay our flight an hour before leaving to the airport because of yet another issue that arose, and the final loan paperwork didn’t close until a week and a half after our delayed arrival to Israel, twelve full weeks after we signed the purchase contract.
When we went into Jerusalem to sign the final paperwork, I was taken aback to see our file was literally about 400 pages thick. The broker told me that if even one detail on one paper is wrong, it delays everything. No wonder there’s always some kind of hold up somewhere or the other. We had some major complications with our purchase, and our lawyer, real estate agent, and mortgage broker each individually told us it was an unusually difficult process. (That’s saying a lot since home buying is known to be a drawn out and complicated process. So different from buying a home in the US.)
A few days after we signed the final mortgage paperwork, we went to the lawyer and signed some more papers for him. Just when I thought we must finally be finished – how many papers could we possibly sign?? – he told me to wait for a call from someone in his office within the next couple of days, and then we’d need to sign more papers and give them more checks. (When you buy an apartment here, you just have to loosen your purse strings as much as you can, because the unexpected expenses can be quite extensive.)
Five weeks later, I got a call from his office to come in and finish up the process, and this week I went in and paid them another 1000 shekels for two different offices to write our name on the papers as owners. And it looks like this is actually the official end of the paper trail – it’s so nice after all this time to finally be at the end of the purchase! Throughout the entire process, I really worked to stay focused on a positive outcome, as unlikely as it seemed. And now, our personal miracle is a reality, and we’re living in the home we bought in Israel!
Someone who rented our apartment several years ago met me and asked me, “How are you managing there?”, with the implication that it was tiny and we must be squished. This just goes to show that if what you have is adequate or not is so much determined by how you look at things! I love, love, love my apartment, and feel like Hashem (G-d) helped us get the perfect place for us, and I didn’t know how perfect until we got here.
First of all, our location is amazing. I had never come here, and though I looked at Google Maps to get an idea of where it was located, I had no idea what this neighborhood is like. It’s extremely central, just a two minute walk to the local and long distance buses, and also just a few minutes to shopping. This is hugely convenient for anyone, particularly a family without a car!
Two of the littles on the steps of our building
Usually the most central neighborhoods tend to be less desirable, and the nicer homes are further out in the suburbs. This is true here in Karmiel as well, with the highest concentration of private homes being in the more distant neighborhoods. But my neighborhood is an exception to this – it’s comprised of almost exclusively private homes, with the exception of my street, and it’s an especially nice neighborhood. It was designed to be an oasis in the middle of the city, and to create a visual/sound hedge betwen the private homes and the busier central area it’s part of, the builders designed it so that all on four sides they are buffeted in some way. My street is part of that barrier, though it doesn’t feel like it. One side of the street is semi-detached homes that back up to the private homes, and then across from that are our apartment buildings, with just ten apartments in each building. There are four apartments on the entry floor and first floor (two apartments are one flight down), and of these four, two face the quiet inner street, and two face the busy main street. The apartment buildings are just a flight high, so we’re the top floor. (The two bottom apartments have gardens, then the first two apartments on the main floor also have gardens. All the others have porches.) My apartment faces the quiet inner street, and though I’m incredibly close to a busy shopping area, it doesn’t feel like it at all – when I look out my windows (and my apartment is a flight up), I see greenery on almost all sides.
Something else very nice about my neighborhood is that it was built to discourage casual vehicle traffic. Almost every street is a dead end, including mine, and the few cars that go by belong to residents and visiting friends. We don’t have people zooming through at high speeds, or people looking for a shortcut to where they want to go. Even as far as foot traffic, the people walking through are the people who live here.
As far as the apartment itself, we have a very nice sized kitchen that allows us to have two fridges and a very large oven. I get a wonderful breeze through the window on the side porch which abuts the kitchen, where our washing machine and drying lines are. It’s so convenient to have the washing machine close by rather than down in the basement, and it makes it easier to keep on top of the laundry. There are gorgeous orange blossoms right outside this window that I love seeing every time I hang laundry or even glance outside. I also have a small closet here that I’ve turned into my pantry; I store boxes of the veggies I buy on the shelves.
To the left you can see how close we are to shopping, but it doesn't feel city-like
Then, there’s our salon (living room/dining room). It’s a nice size, and open to the kitchen, which will allow us to have a nice amount of guests without running out of space. We have a small porch off of the salon, with a beautiful view. It’s not large but it gets plenty of use; the day starts with the littles running outside to watch the garbage trucks or call goodbye to a departing family member, and ends late in the evening when dh and I sometimes sit outside together to chat.
You can see the hills surrounding Karmiel in the distance - they're not far at all
Then we have three bedrooms on the main floor. The bedrooms are compact but allow for two people to comfortably share a room, with room for guests to sleep over as needed. Two girls chose the bedroom at the end of the hall, which feels very private since the large trees growing in the garden below create a visual screen for their window. The other bedroom overlooks the street, which as I said, is a pretty street.
The master bedroom is the same size as the other bedrooms, but it has its own bathroom and walk-in closet. We converted the walk-in closet to an office – it’s small – only 1 meter x 2.10 meters – but I realized that by putting in a large desk with a built in bookcase that was left behind, we could have a compact but very workable home office. My husband really, really appreciates this, and I love the luxury of having an office – our computer and desk were always in the main living area before this. Deciding to use the closet space in this way meant that we had to put a freestanding closet in the bedroom itself.
Just yesterday we finally got bedroom furniture for our room, and it’s so nice to have it – there’s something especially nice about sleeping on a comfortable bed and being able to organize our belongings! Though I initially wanted to get dark wood furniture, I realized that the room would look too small and cramped if I were to do that. So I decided on something very different than what I was initially intending – our new furniture is a pale color, and two of the four closet doors are mirrored, creating a feeling of increased space. We have windows on two sides of the room, so there’s lots of air and light.
Upstairs are the boys’ rooms. The older boys have a private bathroom with a shower in their room, which the littles can use as needed. It’s very light and spacious – just yesterday ds12 told me how much they like it. The littles have a room next to that; when we have male guests who are sleeping over, we plan to move ds9 and ds12 from their room to sleep in the littles room, where there is space for them. If we have female guests, they’ll either share ds16’s room or she’ll move into her sisters’ room temporarily. (This is what we agreed on with her when we let her have this room for her own.) It feels so luxurious to me to be able to host guests with so little difficulty.
Initially I wanted an apartment that was all on one floor, but having two bedrooms upstairs has been an unexpected boon. The upstairs isn’t connected to any other part of our building on any sides, so they can go upstairs and make as much noise as they want, and the only ones to hear it are us. This is great, since instead of telling them not to play noisy games inside, I can tell them to go upstairs and play there! In an apartment building you need to be more aware of noise than you would otherwise be, and having a ‘safe zone’ is something I really appreciate. I also think the boys like the additional privacy of having bedrooms in a different part of our home from everyone else.
The windows (except the bathrooms) all have screens , something that you can’t expect when buying or renting a home here, and I was so grateful that we didn’t have to begin our time here battling mosquitoes in the nightime! I wasn’t expecting it, and it feels especially nice when you don’t expect something and then you get it! Since our apartment is a flight up, the air flow is wonderful and we haven’t used any fans or air conditioning since we were here. Our ceilings are eight feet high, but feel like they’re ten feet high, and combined with the open layout of the main area, it lends to a feeling of spaciousness.
We also have an additional storage room on the bottom floor of our apartment building – I haven’t yet been in there, but the bikes are stored there, and it’s nice to have the extra storage space.
Oh, and I already have two friends on the street who live just a couple of doors away, and in general, my neighbors are all pleasant. (Update: before Rosh Hashana, we sent apple cakes to all the neighbors in our building, in addition to a few others. When we went downstairs to the neighbor who called the police to complain about the noise, the wife apologized for making problems for us. That was unexpected, and very nice!)
I feel incredibly abundant with all that we have here, with plenty of room for all of us! Interestingly, all of the kids said they like our apartment better than our old house, and even though they know it technically has fewer square feet, it feels bigger. To the person who asked how we’re managing, I told her with a big smile, “Wonderfully, thank you!”