>>Hi Avivah, we plan on making aliyah in the next few months and very much considering Karmiel as a place to settle. I noticed that your initial post describing Karmiel and the area (pros and cons) was over 2 years ago. Any way you can give a short update on how things have changed (improved, worsened, prices, …) in the past few years?<<
Surprisingly little has changed about Karmiel since I wrote that post! Here is a brief summary of some main points and some additional details.
Physical – Karmiel is a beautiful, green, clean city. (The major caveat to that is that there are many dog owners who don’t consider it important to clean up after their pets and also don’t mind letting their dogs use the sidewalk for their needs.) There are many beautiful parks that are all well-maintained; the municipality does a wonderful job of keeping the city clean and all physical aspects in good condition (roads, parks, landscaping, etc). After visiting just about any other city in the country, I really appreciate coming home to the pleasant and peaceful atmosphere here.
Housing prices – I’ve been contacted by several people who live in the center of the country who have wanted information about buying here. They pictured Karmiel as a place that was dirt cheap and were surprised at what the prices actually were. For a reference point, for not much more than the prices here, you can buy or rent an apartment in the city of Beitar, which is very close to Jerusalem. Prices are definitely cheaper than Jerusalem or other major cities in the center of the country and you can get great value for your money but you’re still looking at selling prices here of about a million shekels for a three bedroom garden apartment. (Neighborhoods vary and there are less and more expensive neighborhoods than this but this is fair for the neighborhoods that everyone who has contacted me has been interested in.) Rent for that size apartment runs about 3000 – 3500 shekels a month.
Transportation – there are frequent buses locally running to each neighborhood; buses are new, clean and usually not crowded. There is a very affordable daily pass that allows for unlimited travel as well as a monthly pass. There are daily buses to most cities in the country.
Plans are well underway for the train to connect to Karmiel and progress is visible every time I leave the city. This will make it faster and easier to connect with the center of the country, which is anticipated to raise real estate prices. Plans are also in the works for the main toll road to connect to Karmiel; again, making it more faster and easier to access the center of the country. I don’t remember when it’s supposed to be done – I think the train should be here in a couple of years but I might be wrong about that. Once that happens, housing prices are expected to jump.
Shopping – Many people living in Israel that I’ve met haven’t hear of Karmiel and assume it’s a little rural village. I’m often asked about where I shop. This isn’t really an issue in a city of over 55,000 people – I don’t have to import food from other cities, which is what people have said they pictured. There are shopping centers in each neighborhood in addition to an industrial zone and mega mall that people come to from all over. There is enough of a charedi population that the kosher supervision that is accepted by a more stringent crowd is readily available though not to the degree you would find in a charedi city, obviously.
Most of my comments from this point on will be regarding the specifics of the charedi community, which is what most people who have contacted me want to know about. Of course there are other groups and communities and I’m in no way intending to exclude anyone, but can only write about my personal experience.
Schools – All girls attend the Amichai girls school, which is growing quickly. They have a good bit of experience with new immigrants and students are provided with tutoring assistance a couple of times a week to help them acclimate.
For boys, the two choices are Amichai and the cheder. I’ve written about both of them in detail in the past so will only add a couple of comments to update about something that was a concern in the past.
There was a period about a year after we got here when the local charedi cheder seemed to suddenly become very selective about who would be admitted. I believe this was due to a fear that there was going to be an influx of Anglo families who would challenge their standards and they wanted to move preemptively to clarify for whom their school would best be suited. They relaxed their position on this, presumably when they realized there wasn’t going to be an onslaught of families arriving.
>>We’re planning on coming from a central Orthodox environment and wanting to move to Karmiel to be in that similar type of central Orthodox of America (I guess called Charedi in Israel or Karmiel). Our children will be entering either the HS or Post HS stage. Any recommendations on what to look for regarding hashgafa of the type of category we fit into?<<
Without knowing more I can’t make specific recommendations for a particular family so I’ll share basic details about the local schools. I wouldn’t call central Orthodox the same as charedi but I’m not sure of the personal definition you’re using so perhaps they’re similar.
Girls’ high school – The local girls high school, Neve Chava, is an open and accepting Bais Yaakov- type school. Their rules are very reasonable and not as exacting and detailed as the rules of most Bais Yaakovs. This is probably because it began as a school that wasn’t geared to the charedi community, and though each year the number of incoming charedi ninth graders is higher, there is still a mix of girls from different backgrounds who attend. They offer a bagrut (matriculation) certificate, which is unusual for charedi girls’ schools.
When my two oldest girls attended, there were two other English speaking girls in the high school. Four English speaking girls in the high school at one time was the most saturated this school has ever been. Currently, there are two English speaking girls but since they made aliyah five years ago, they aren’t new olim and don’t require any special assistance, so the experience the administration has had with olim has been limited to a very small number of girls. I don’t expect there will be more teen girls to attend this school as new immigrants. If they do, they will meet an administration who overall has a positive impression of new immigrants but along with that comes expectations that are probably a bit unrealistic.
Boys’ high schools: There is a local charedi ashkenazi yeshiva ketana for boys in Karmiel called Keren Ora, and another charedi sephardi yeshiva (don’t remember the name). Both are typical yeshiva ketanas. There are no new/recently new immigrants that I know of who attend. I would be wary of recommending these as an option to someone coming straight from the US.
A new high school opened this year that is geared toward a more chardal/dati leumi crowd that seems like a nice concept I was involved in the discussion a year earlier about this school when it was in the planning stage, but then the plans were put on the shelf and when the school was formed a year later, the boys attending are a different crowd than what they were originally talking about. They may have changed other aspects of what was being planned so I can’t speak about this with any degree of accuracy other than to say that good people were originally involved in planning the school. (Since we didn’t have any suitable local high school choices for ds15, we sent him to a school near the center of the country where he dorms. I had hoped that when this school opened it would be a viable option for our other boys but sadly, it’s not.)
There is also a small high school at the hesder yeshiva located in the Dromit neighborhood.
Post high school – My oldest three kids all are in the Jerusalem area because there’s not much here post-high school. Some girls in the area attend seminary in Haifa or Rechasim and commute daily while living at home; others live away from home and study in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak. These areas are filled with yeshivas, seminaries and degree programs for the charedi student. There really is very, very, very little available locally for people in this age group.
>>Hi, I am a mother of 3 small children. Recently divorced and I plan to return to Karmiel with my kids. I am worried i will not cope on my own but I consider planning a trip to Israel alone and settle things before moving, like finding school, nursery school . Is iris a good area to live with kids? Are schools easy to enroll? Is finding babysitters a common practice on this city?<<
Honestly I feel hesitant to recommend Karmiel in your situation but since you write that you’re returning to Karmiel, I assume that means you lived here in the past, probably speak Hebrew and have some social contacts in place already. So my concern might not be relevant for you.
My hesitation is that I think Karmiel is best for people who are very independent and don’t want or need the support of an active community though the people here are wonderful.
However, the Anglo community that is connected to the larger charedi community is, to quote someone who lived here for several years and left recently, a pre-community. English speakers are scattered throughout the different areas and since they aren’t concentrated in one specific area, they don’t all daven at one shul, shop at the same stores, or take their kids to the same parks – in short, the logistics make it a challenge to build a sense of community.
In your situation, it might be more helpful for you to be in a place where you can count on the help of others if you need it. This isn’t a reflection on the people here, who as I said are very warm and caring people, but on the lack of significant numbers and social cohesion. For Anglos coming to a new country without family support, already knowing you’ll be needing help, the lack of a strong communal social net can be difficult.
If I were moving to Karmiel right now, I’d consider looking into the Rabin neighborhood, which has a centralized shul with a communal focus. I was talking to a real estate agent about if this might now be a good option for English speaking families moving here, but her concern was that if someone doesn’t speak Hebrew, it might not be the right fit for them. It’s more expensive than the Dromit neighborhood where most of the English speaking families live, there’s only one bus line that goes to that area so many people say you need a car (though many people do fine without a car), the schools are mostly located in the Dromit so it’s more of a shlep for the kids – but I would encourage families to check into this as an option because of the more communal feel in that area. As much as I love where I live, I can still see that Rabin has some advantages that could make it easier to socially acclimate.
School registration – this is ideally taken care of in advance but I don’t know of anyone who had difficulty registering their kids when they got here, even if it was right before the school year began or even after school had begun. Something that is very nice here is that for the most part, kids are readily accepted to schools and there isn’t the exclusionary approach that is common in so many other places.
If a particular neighborhood is good for you depends on where your children are in school. It’s helpful to live in easy walking distance from classmates unless you don’t mind taking your kids to playdates at the homes of their friends.
The number of English speaking families in Karmiel are growing slowly. In the three years that I’ve been here, five of the first nine families to make aliyah directly to Karmiel have left (we’re the sixth family that moved here – two of those who left came before us, three came after us).
Why are people leaving? It can be challenging to find work in the north, for Israelis as well as for Anglos though obviously those who don’t have fluency in Hebrew or work experience in this country will have a harder time. Educationally, some people have needed options that aren’t available locally.
To sum up, Karmiel is a pleasant place to live with a nice quality of life, and if you find work, friends and suitable schools for your children and don’t need a strong sense of community, you’re likely to be happy here.