The Ultimate Guide to Ashkelon

Written by on January 22, 2015 in

So you just moved to Ashkelon  …NOW WHAT???

Ashkelon_Panorama_Image

#1: BUREAUCRACY
As a new immigrant, you need to dedicate some time to bureaucratic steps:

1) Open a bank account
Ashkelon has all of the major bank chains in Israel including Discount, Hapoalim, Mizrachi, Ben Leumi and Leumi. Most people decide based on the convenience of where they are each located. The Israeli Post Office also has some banking services with the lowest fees, but be aware the lines for service maybe long. Bank Yahav has a branch in the HaCity neighborhood where most of the people speak rudimentary English.  Union Bank has a branch in the Migdal area. The remaining banks have branches scattered around the city.

2) Visit Misrad Ha’klita (Immigration office) & Misrad Ha’Pnim
Both ministries are located at 9 Berl Katzelson Street. Katzn
elson is off of Ben Gurion Blvd at the end of the Migdal and also the area is bordered by the Hutsot Kenyon (Mall).  This area is serviced by the number 1, 1aleph, 2, 3, 4, 4aleph, 5 and 10aleph) bus routes. There is a dirt parking lot on the side of the building for those with cars. To drive turn left into where the Hutsot Mall is the left onto Katznelson.

The hours of operation for all offices housed in the building are (January 2015):

Bureau of Collections Enforcement
Sunday -Thursday 08:30-13:30
Holiday Hours Sun-Thurs 09:00-12:00

Population and Immigration Bureau
Sun-Mon-Tues-Thurs 08:00-12:00
Mon 14:30-17:00 Wed 13:30-17:00
Visa Services by Appointment Only
Employer and Foreign Worker Services
Sun-Mon-Tues-Thurs 08:00-12:00

Israeli Employment Services
Sun, Thurs 08:30-13:00
Youth Hours Mon, Wed starting at 13:00
Telephone (08-675-0241)

Misrad Ha’klita –Telephone –1599-500-914.  It is important to make an appointment in advance to sign up for your absorption basket and ulpan. If you are a senior you also need to ask them for help getting your Pensioner’s Card or Senior Citizen Card.

Misrad Ha’Pnim (Interior) – Telephone 08-674-2555.  The Ministry of the Interior creates and maintains your Teudat Zuehuet and Israeli Passport.  You can now request both documents in the Bio Metric versions.  You MUST visit the Misrad Ha’Pnim each time you change your address! You will receive your passport after your one year anniversary, hence you might want to apply for a Teudat Maavar (temporary travel document) in case you have to travel in an emergency.

3) Join a Kuppah (Medical Insurance Plan)
Ashkelon has all of the major health funds, including Maccabi, Clalit, and Meuchedet. Macabbi and Clalit both have sizable buildings off of Ben Gurion Blvd on the south part of the city.

Maccibi is in an older building with a pharmacy on the ground floor located 1 short block from Ben Gurion and HaNasi (near City Hall and the Cultural Center).  Sign-up and administrative task are on the 1st floor as are some exam room although there are others on the 2nd and 3rd floors.  Once you have your card you will sign in for your appointments by using the ticket machine on any floor.  Maccabi has a clinic in Barnea with women General Practitioners who speak English.

Clalit is building a brand new building just south of the Central Bus Station on Ben Gurion Blvd.  The building should be open by spring 2015.

Barzilai Hospital is not associated with any of the medical insurance companies and takes all insurance.  The hospital is also located on the southwest side of the city above the National Park off of Ben Gurion.  Many of the people who work at Clalit and Macabbi speak some level of English as do the people you call to make your appointments.

Notes for the expecting – Check with your obstetrician on the procedures giving birth in the hospital closest to you.  Barzilai has midwives and nurses who will be doing the delivery.  Start with the E.S.O.A Facebook page to ask for recommendations on doctors and other questions you might have.

4) Phone and Internet
It is very difficult to navigate life without phone and internet services so we recommend that you take care of this as soon as possible. Bezeq and Hot are the major internet infrastructure vendors. Almost all of the cell phones work here. Orange and Bezeq International among other vendors off you ISP service (last mile for internet connectivity).  You might think of buying a student type of package from any of the “vacation cell phone companies” to have text, phone, and data service while you are looking to sign up with a more permanent solution.  All of the major cell phone vendors are established in Ashkelon.

5) Drivers License (Tofes Amarah)
When you are ready to convert your driver’s license, you will have to follow all of the steps listed here:
http://www.nbn.org.il/aliyahpedia/government-services/drivers-license-cars/converting-foreign-drivers-license/

Misrad Harishui is located on in the Lev Mall (Kenyon) on Ha’Histadrut Street which is in the Neve Allonim neighborhood serviced by the number 4 bus. Driver’s License Application can be obtained along with an eye examination at: 36 Beit Gur in the Migdal (most buses stop at the top of the Migdal Area in what is known as Massof Remez.

 7) Arnona (Ashkelon City Municipal Tax) – 21 Eli Cohen
Whether you buy or rent you most likely will be paying for Arnona as a separate charge.  You will need to make an appointment.  The building is located at the bottom of ORT Street and Eli Cohen Blvd (Blue Glass).  It is a short walk from the Central Bus Terminal. There is a dirt parking lot (that is mostly full) across the street for those with cars. You can arrange for your Olim discount and Senior Discount at the same time. Make sure to bring a Hebrew copy of your buyer or rental contract.

8) Water (Ashkelon City Service) – 21 Eli Cohen
Whether you buy or rent you most likely will be paying for your water as a separate charge.  You arrange for Water in the same building as Arnona.  Make sure to bring a Hebrew copy of your buyer or rental contract. No appointment is needed. You may also need to be asked for the current meter reading and the reading the day you took possession, they may require that the previous tenant/owner validate the readings, so make sure to have current contact information such as cell phone and new address.

9) Electricity – 3 Kibbutz Galiot – Room 103
Whether you buy or rent you most likely will be paying for your water as a separate charge. The electric company is located between the Central Bus Station and the City Department building it’s the first building on the left. Make sure to bring a Hebrew copy of your buyer or rental contract. No appointment is needed. You may also need to be asked for the current meter reading and the reading the day you took possession, they may require that the previous tenant/owner validate the readings, so make sure to have current contact information such as cell phone and new address.

10) Gas.
Most kitchens have the hook-up for gas cooktops and some have electric ovens.  If you opt not to have any gas in your unit you may have to pay a minimum fee of around 20nis per month.
There are three (3) gas companies located at:
Amizragaz – Tsahal Street – 08-675-0673
Pazgaz – 31 Herzl Street (Migdal area) – 08-675-0648
Supergaz – Ha’Avoda Street (off of David Ramez Blvd) – 08-675-0646

#2: HOUSING
Short Term Housing

There are a number of “vacation” short term rental apartments located in and around the Marina. There are a number of good vacation rental companies online but the largest is http://www.airbnb.com.  During the summer these tend to be expensive and sparse.  During the winter months you can make monthly arrangements at reduced rates.

Longer Term Housing – Whether as a buyer or a renter besides utilities you will be expected to pay Arnona (municipal tax) and VAAD or a building fee above your rent or as an owner.  This fee works similarly to HOA or COOP fees except that the ownership structure is different in Israel

Renting
It is customary for leases to be for 12 months. Real Estate Agents charge up to one (1) month commission.  You can check such web sites as http://www.yad2.co.il which is a Hebrew web site to gauge prices based on your needs.

Purchasing
There is no multiple listing type service in Israel, depending on what area you are looking for you might want to start with http://www.yad2.co.il a Hebrew web site – you can use either Bing or Google translator to navigate. There is also another site called Mandlin.co.il which can be used to look for properties. Be aware many many units and houses are listed without photographs.  Once you have arrived it is always suggested to take a walk through each neighborhood and jot down any signs you might encounter.  Agents 2% on a purchase.

Neighborhoods
Barnea is the newest area and may now be the largest neighborhood with much new construction still taking place, it is an area favored by young families as there are many neighborhood parks for the children to play. Apartments in Barnea tend to be less expensive and there is a wide variety of housing price points from older apartment blocks to multi-million shekel homes near the sea.

Afridar was one of the first neighborhoods settled and has both new and older apartments, cottages, and villas at many price-points. It starts about 400 meters from the sea and spreads up the hill to Afridar Center and to the north and south. Many bus lines cross the area so it is easy to get to medical clinics, library, bus terminals, hospital and shopping.

Afridar Center and the surrounding areas is populated by many cottages (2 homes attached) and single homes at the top “of the hill”.  The houses range from original condition to newly enlarged and renovated. The Water Tower area, Ha’Dror, and Drom Afrika are some of the areas that should be looked at.  The number 4 and 4aleph are among some of the bus routes servicing this area.

The Marina area is undergoing final “on the beach” construction, older apartments tend to be small “vacation” units. The number 3, 18aleph and 6 are the primary bus routes. The Marina area borders both Afridar and Barnea neighborhoods, these three (3) neighborhoods are where many English speakers tend to reside. The Marina will by 2016 have a shopping area with supermarket, along with the current cafes and recreation offered at the Marina itself.

Eli Cohen Boulevard is bordered by a number of neighborhoods close to the junior and senior high schools and the college.  It has a continental feel with shops on the ground floor and apartments on top. The neighborhoods are Neve Hadarim and Neve Ilan. The number 6 and number 18aleph service this area along with the number 10.

Both the Ha’City and Eschol Paz neighborhoods start near the Cultural Center near the top of the hill and drop down to the sea.  Ha’City is mainly two rows or 3 to 20 story apartment buildings bordered by Ben Gurion Blvd on one side and Beit El on the other. Eschol Paz is an oasis of meandering cobblestone streets of single family homes (villas) and duplex buildings (cottages), which is bordered by Beit El and Ha’Pardre.

The area on the same side as Barilai Hospital includes a number neighborhoods, it is worth the time to take a drive or walk as there is a number of new buildings and homes being built. The neighborhoods include Shimshon and the newest park/lake community called Agamim which (as of Winter 2015) is still under construction includes high rise, mid-rise and villas.

If you are interested in any of these areas you can see some of the neighborhoods by using the ‘walking tour’ picture albums at http://www.facebook.com/ashkelononthesea.

#3: HEBREW
You will want and need Hebrew in Ashkelon, especially if you are looking for employment! Seniors can and do survive without as much Hebrew as younger folks require. 

There are two different courses of Ulpan that you MAY receive as part of your benefit package. The first course is for the majority of people coming to Israel.  It is a five (5) month course, four or five days a week. The second course is for older people and covers the same material in the same way but spreads the course over 10 months in two sections.

The standard course is given at the Jewish Agency’s Canada House on Bar Khachba Blvd which borders both Barnea and Afridar and is serviced by several different bus routes depending on your origination point, the 6 is the most common. Check for location when you receive your confirmation telephone. Classes can also be given at other locations so check first.

The Pensioner’s class you must request and is has been given at the Vosk (Wosk) Center or Beit Vosk as it is known in the park that runs from the top of Afridar Center (at the top of Drom Afrikar to the bottom of the circle).

There are a number of private tutors and Ad Hoc courses given by the city at various times, you can usually find someone in the English Speakers of Ashkelon who will have recommendations for you.

#4: CONNECT
People are super-friendly in Ashkelon and Olim are especially eager to help new Olim.

City of Ashkelon
The city currently operates 10 community centers with activities for all ages from pre-school to seniors.

The city operates a pensioners department which holds Tai Chi classes and arranges for day and longer trips around Israel.  You can sign up for activities and get your Senior Card (50% discount of buses among other things. The office is located in an alleyway to the right of the front door of the City Hall (short block off of Ben Gurion near the Central Bus Station and Gurion Mall) – look for the flashing blue sign between a shoe store and a small eatery. The office itself is on the right side located across from a travel company). Hours are 08:00 to 16:00, Sunday through Thursday.

VIRTUAL GROUPS:
English Speakers of Ashkelon (E.S.O.A) https://www.facebook.com/groups/ESOAshkelon/
Go South Nefesh B’Nefesh Facebook grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/gosouthnbn/
Secret Ashdod and Ashkelon

SOCIAL GROUPS:

English Speakers of Ashkelon (E.S.O.A) – contact esoa12@gmail.com. Has a number of clubs (chugs) including ART, Crafts and tours during the year.  Sign up for their newsletter delivered via email.
Anglo Community of English Speakers (A.C.E.S) – Meets most Mondays at 12:30 for lunch at CAFÉ CAFÉ at the Cultural Center at the corner of Ben Gurion Blvd. and Ha’Nasi Blvd.  Other activities are ad-hoc. Contact – Margo Donavan 08-684-3171
Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI)www.aaci.org.il; sign up for the AACI e-newsletter by contacting mgreen@aaci.org.il

#5 HAVE FUN!

Visitors:

Ashkelon has a number of hotels for your visitors, along with the short term holiday apartment rentals.
Regina Golan (Afridar/Marina)– Newly renovated boutique hotel next to Delilah Beach entertainment center
Dan Garden (Afridar/Marina) – Closed for renovation – reopening unknown
Holiday Inn (Barnea/Marina) – Older respected hotel
Shimshon Hotel (Afridar Center) – Small hotel with Friday morning kosher catering
Golden Tower (Afridar) – Business type hotel

Shopping & Recreation

Hutsot Kenyon (Mall) – Ben Gurion Blvd – Served by many bus routes – There is a bowling alley and movie theater
Silver 2000 Power Center (Cosmos) – At the Train Station as you enter the city off Route 4 – Served by 18aleph, 14, 13, 36 and 12 bus routes – Carousal and rides for children 5 and under in the evenings.
Geiron Kenyon (Mall) – Off Ben Gurion Blvd next to the Central Bus Station – serviced by all bus routes that stop at the Central Bus Station
Migdal – The Old City bordered by Eli Cohen Blvd and Ben Gurion – serviced by all bus routes that stop at Massof Remez

Activities

Cultural Center – Shows and Performances – Ben Gurion and Ha’Nasi
Municipal Arena – Sports and Performances – Ben Gurion and Yitshak Rain Blvd

There are 10 Community Centers located around the city with activities for all ages from students to seniors!

There is an ever increasing number of exercise classes and gyms around the city – check when you get here, new ones are opening as the city grows.

Restaurants
There are many small independent` of restaurants and cafes in Ashkelon along with many of the well know Israeli chains -to name just a few:
Mei Wei – Oriental Sushi – Afridar Center – Kosher Meat

Marina – Burger Ranch, Scu-Bar and others – open weekends – Not Kosher
Aroma – Chain – Silver 2000 and Kenyon Garoin
Cafe Cafe – Chain (4) – Afridar Center, Silver 2000 and the Cultural Center – Kosher Dairy.
Greig’s – Chain (2) – Eli Cohen near Ort

Catering – Friday Mornings for takeout
Ganai Shimshon – Hotel – Afridar
Agamim – Catering Hall – Afridar
Barion – North Industrial Center
2nd Floor – Kenyon Lev in Shimshon

Grocery Shopping
Ashkelon, like many cities in Israel is growing and new markets are constantly appearing.  We have YOU, Mega, Yesh, Zoba Gadol, Tiv Tam, Bitton and others such as Victorie on Menachim Begin Blvd. As with many towns and cities in Israel there are still many independent markalets, Green Grocers and Butchers are dotted around the city, you can find many along Eli Cohen Blvd.

The Open Shuk – The Open Shuk operates on Thursdays and has both fresh vegetable and fruit vendors along with kitchen wares, clothing, plastics etc.
The Closed Shuk – The closed shuk is open normal business days Sunday through Friday morning and is bordered by David Remez Blvd (where the bus terminal is and Ha’Avodo Street.
Shufersol/Supersol – This is the largest chain in Israel. The largest with an organic natural department is at the Power 2000 Center/Train Station (also known as Cosmos).  There is a medium sized one across from the bus terminal on Remez with an entrance on Eli Cohen Blvd. and a small neighborhood one in Afridar Center.
Nitzat – Larger heath food market in the Silver 2000 Center (train station/Cosmos) – fairly large selection of refrigerated and dried goods.  Prices for Vegan cheeses are the same as Supersol around the corner.
YOU – is located just south of the Central Bus Station on Ben Gurion and opened in 2014.
Osher Ad – Is located outside the city down Route 4 in a mashav.

#5: RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES
Ashkelon is a growing city over 160 synagogues.  As with any town or city in Israel many are Sephardic. There are a few Ashkenazi shuls dotted around the city, one is in the Afridar area near Beit Vosk. There is a very active Conservative congregation centrally located near the border of Barnea and Afridar. Below is  a list of institutions that have some “anglo” involvement

Kehillat Netzach Israel- Conservative
8 Harel Street, POB. 5041 Ashkelon 78150
Phone: 08-6711370/1
Website: www.netzach-israel.org.il

Central Synagogue, Afridar, Contact: Gary Donovan – 08-684-3171

Barnea Synagogue, Contact: 052 637 4667

Chabad is very active in the city and the Chabad Rabbi, Rabbi Lieberman, is an English speaker.
Phone: 08 675 4913
Email: chabad@chabadashkelon.com
Website: http://www.chabadashkelon.com/

#6: VOLUNTEER
Another great way to connect with others is participating in volunteering projects in the City. Some great ideas are to volunteer in a nursing home, a merkaz klita, or in a school tutoring English. The English Speakers of Ashkelon (E.S.O.A) do numerous fund raising activities during the year which are posted on their facebook group.  

Yad Sarah – Israel’s largest volunteer organization working with disabled and elderly. http://www.yadsarah.org/index.asp?id=109&area=4

All of this information and more can be found in the English Welcome to Ashkelon booklet along with a map of the city also in English by contacting E.S.O.A. (ESOA12@GMAIL.COM) or the City of Ashkelon.

BEHATZLACHA!!!!

 

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