Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kiryat Bialik and the Krayot....by Maya

Kiryat Bialik is one of the "Krayot" (or "Qrayot"), a small group of communities just outside Haifa. Of the Krayot, Kiryat Haim and Kiryat Shmuel are technically part of Haifa itself, while Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Bialik, and Kiryat Ata are each a separate town with its own municipality. Despite this, if you look on a map, you won't see much of a separation between any of the Krayot except for Kiryat Ata. Kiryat Bialik lies on the eastern side of Route 4, or Derech Akko-Haifa, the main road running from Haifa to Akko, Nahariya, and Rosh HaNikrah. This makes Kiryat Bialik somewhat further (about two miles) from the beach, but closer to the fields and very close to the new Krayot Bypass that will be completed during the next few years.

It might be useful to you to know the reputation of each area in the Krayot.

Kiryat Yam, despite its beachfront property, is seen as the most run-down of the Krayot, and you need to be careful that a cheap apartment you find there isn't in an overly run-down area. Kiryat Yam is home to the Mercaz Klita for all the Krayot, and it has large Russian and Ethiopian populations.

Kiryat Chaim contains parts that are run-down and areas that are very nice. If you move there, pay attention to the noise on the street at night-- Kiryat Chaim also contains most of the dance clubs and bars in the Krayot.

Kiryat Shmuel is seen as very religious by most Israelis, and its streets are shut on Shabbat. To find out more about Kiryat Shmuel, read Ariyai's post on this blog. 

Kiryat Motzkin and Kiryat Bialik are very similar and tend to try to one-up each other for "pearl of the Krayot" status. (Right now, Motzkin is seen as nicer.) They each contain a mix of nice and not-so-nice neighborhoods, mostly apartment buildings rather than condos or single-family homes. The population is a mix of secular and religious, olim and native-born Israelis. You'll seldom here English on the streets of the Krayot, but I believe most Israelis speak enough English to help you get around. (You will hear a lot of Spanish; Kiryat Bialik has a big Argentinean population.) In this entry, I'll talk mainly about Kiryat Bialik, but most of what I say will also apply to Kiryat Motzkin.

 The beach in Kiryat Yam

Geography and transportation
Kiryat Bialik is pancake-flat and prone to some flooding in the heaviest rains of the winter. Public transportation is very good-- you can easily catch a sherut group taxi to Haifa or Akko from Rt. 4, and you can also easily bus to the beach, the train station, and the major bus terminal at Lev HaMifratz, where you can even catch a direct bus to Jerusalem. The middle of Kiryat Bialik is about a half hour walk from the train station that lies between Kiryat Motzkin and Kiryat Yam. Many people commute to Tel Aviv from the Krayot, and the trip takes about 1 hour 15 minutes each way by train.

Housing prices and style
A two- or three-bedroom apartment in Kiryat Bialik should cost between 2000 and 2700 shekels each month (500-700 dollars). Most housing in Kiryat Bialik is apartment housing, although these often come with balconies or yards. Buying a two- or three-bedroom apartment costs around 400,000 to 600,000 shekels (100,000-150,000 dollars). Buying a house with a yard costs about twice that. Buildings range from 1950s boxy construction to modern buildings with glass balconies. Don't rule out an older building-- rooms in older houses are often larger. Housing on the northern and southern edges of Kiryat Bialik tends to be cheaper, but these areas are also more run-down. I especially recommend the "Sabina" neighborhood to new olim.

Shopping
Kiryat Bialik boasts one of the largest malls in the country, the Kiryon, a sprawling construction right in the middle of the Krayot. You'll find most of the chains in Israel in this mall, plus a large movie theater, a bowling alley, a department store, and even a little synagogue. You can also easily hop on a sherut or a bus to go to Mercaz Big (a shopping center containing many electronics store; a great place to buy appliances), Chutzot HaMifrtaz (a shopping center similar to Mercaz big, also contains the centers for almost every cell phone provider), and Cinemall, a mall and movie theatre near the Lev HaMifratz bus station. In addition, Kiryat Bialik contains a wealth of small shops and grocery stores, particularly in Sabina. When I lived in Sabina, I found that I could walk to any kind of store I wanted-- flower shops, butcher shops, fishmongers, music stores, shoe stores, veterinary offices, pet stores, health food stores, grocery stores, what have you.



This building is representative of the older buildings you'll find in Kiryat Bialik.

 Synagogues / Religious Life
Kiryat Bialik contains a mix of secular and religious Jews, although many more secular than religious. The highest concentration of religious Jews is found in the neighborhood just south of the Kiryon, which is also where you can find about a half dozen orthodox synagogues (including an Ashkenazi shul) and a mikveh. Kiryat Bialik also contains a welcoming, vibrant conservative congregation that meets in Sabina, called the Kehilah HaMasortit HaKrayot. Most of the congregants of the Kehilah are Argentinean, although we have a small Anglo contingent. Most congregation interaction occurs in Hebrew, although sometimes the congregation offers classes in English or Spanish. You can view the conservative congregation's announcements here: http://masortihakrayot-hebrew.blogspot.com/.

Fun stuff
It's easy to find any kind of class in the Krayot, ranging from yoga to salsa dancing to painting (though these will all be entirely in Hebrew). We have several community centers that offer groups for adults and children, as well as a nice little library with a good-sized English section (several aisles, mainly bestsellers). While you'll need to go to Kiryat Yam for an intensive beginner's ulpan, you can find weekly Hebrew classes at Matnat Dan, a club near Sabina. We have some nice coffee shops and restaurants. Kiryat Bialik contains some nice jogging routes, particularly along its eastern side-- I enjoy jogging through the agricultural fields there. There's also a pretty nice beach nearby in Kiryat Yam, two community pools, gyms, etc. At the northern end of Kiryat Bialik lies a beautiful nature preserve, Ein Afek.  The Krayot don't have the vacation/retirement feel of Nahariya and they don't contain the gorgeous little villas you might find in a yeshuv, but they're a nice place to raise a family, find work, and enjoy life.

For English-Speakers
I almost never hear English spoken on our streets, and it's difficult for me to say how hard it would be for a non-Hebrew speaker to get around. (I came with pretty good Hebrew.) However, most Israelis do have decent working English, so you should be ok in terms of basic survival. :) You may have more difficulty forming a social circle of English speakers in the Krayot. The Krayot contain a small, close-knit community of secular British olim who immigrated to Israel about 20-30 years ago; I know many of these English-speakers through the Haifa English Theatre, which has a large Krayot contingent.  

Overall, I love living in the Krayot, but I think they aren't for everyone. I doubt that someone with an ideal image in their mind of "life in Israel"-- complete with gorgeous vistas, honey-scented air, lemon trees in the yard, and the sweet sounds of singing on shabbat, but minus the necessity to actually interact with Israelis-- would like the Krayot, but they're a very affordable place to live and offer many advantages for olim looking to enjoy a simple, full, successful life in Israel.

You can read more about my experiences and about the Krayot on my blog, howtobeisraeli.blogspot.com. If you have any questions for me, feel free to e-mail me at yiyehtov AT gmail DOT com.

~Maya