By: Hillel Kuttler
For many English-speaking Olim, Pardes Chana–Karkur’s appeal lies in its small-town, old-time, down-to-Earth aura that evokes a simpler era, with neighbors popping in just to say hi and passers-by unloading a new immigrant’s moving van just because. The short commute to both Tel Aviv and Haifa is huge, and the nearby beach, nature reserves and historical sites make outings convenient.
The town has just enough English speakers to provide a cultural cushion, but not too many to threaten to become an Anglo enclave – and that’s more than fine, in the view of several Olim. Better the secret not get out.
“I didn’t want it to turn into Ra’anana” – a Tel Aviv-area town known for its concentration of English speakers – “and that’s why I liked it,” said Yoel Israel, 31, who made Aliyah from Philadelphia four years ago and lives in Pardes Chana’s Neve Merchav neighborhood with his wife and two daughters. When the Israels moved in four years ago, a stranger stopped by the first day to recommend his mechanic and other service providers.
“He connected me to his entire network,” Israel said, still seeming astonished. “And the older people are like savtas [grandmothers] to my kids.”
Housing prices are manageable, but are rising rapidly, several Olim pointed out. Tara Carey – a Toronto native who rents a house in Neve Asher with her husband Blair and five children and is looking to buy – defined “affordable” as a monthly rent of 4,700 to 5,300 shekalim for a four- or five-bedroom house and 3,000 for a three-bedroom apartment.
Located just east of the ancient coastal city of Caesarea and south of the 19th-century pioneering village of Zichron Yaakov, Pardes Chana–Karkur (one municipality runs the combined jurisdictions) is home to about 40,000 residents. The trees along its perimeter, and the orchards on its outskirts – Pardes Chana means Hannah’s orchard, named for the granddaughter of Nathan Rothschild of the dynastic banking family – lend the town a rural feel.
Some of the residents called parts of Karkur a “hippie” kind of place.
Those coming from eastern New York City and western Long Island might chuckle at the moniker that American immigrants have hung on Pardes Chana–Karkur, Zichron Yaakov, Caesarea, Hadera and Binyamina: the Five Towns. Fact is that the critical mass of the area’s English-speaking immigrants reside in those places, and a Five Towns WhatsApp group and several Facebook groups are helpful resources.
A wide range of public and private schools offer multiple educational options, and synagogues include Sepharadi and Breslov Hasid. A new synagogue is being built in Karkur. Many Anglos attend services at the Neve Michael Children’s Village, in the Neve Asher neighborhood.
What’s not readily available are municipal services for immigrants. The village is just too small for that. But Anglo Olim know the reality going in and are fine with it.
“There’s no Ulpan or absorption center,” said Carey. “People are very warm and welcoming to English speakers, but it’s not somewhere that Anglos who don’t want to jump into cold water will want to go. We did.”
“Honestly, it didn’t matter to me. It didn’t even cross my mind,” economics professor Todd Kaplan said about whether living near many English speakers was important to him.
“It’s a nice area because you’re in farmland, but it’s also pretty close to the large cities, so, for me, it’s the best of both worlds,” said Kaplan who often rides his bicycle to the train station to reach his classes at the University of Haifa. Kaplan, who lives with his wife and three children in Karkur, loves to exercise and said he enjoys biking and running alongside the fields near his house or driving to swim laps at the nearby pool at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.
Talia Goldgraber, another Karkur resident, cited lectures, a monthly small-business forum, a book club and scores of programs hosted at a local women’s center as offering plentiful activities to satisfy most people – in addition to the hiking opportunities she and her family enjoy.
“There are definitely lots of activities going on,” she said.
To get there, motorized transportation is necessary, Israel said.
“If you don’t own a car, you shouldn’t live in Pardes Chana,” he said.
He said he’d like to see the parks, sidewalks and other infrastructure in Pardes Chana–Karkur upgraded.
A digital marketing professional, Israel may soon be in a position to help in that area. Some, he said, are urging him to run for the town council.