Is Jaffa about to become the Saudi Caesarea? Yedioth Ahronoth recently learned that Arab moguls, most likely of Saudi origin, as well as various other Palestinian entrepreneurs, have recently been purchasing great quantities of prime real-estate in the Ajami neighborhood right on Jaffa’s coastline.
The property involved is in a rare, prime location not 100 meters (328 feet) from the beach front.
The houses in question are neglected, some even scheduled for demolition, but their prime location affords them massive potential in the real estate market. In spite of growing demands for these homes, their owners, most of them impoverished, working-class individuals, refuse to sell their homes to Jewish entrepreneurs.
Now, however, they appear willing to sell these very same homes to wealthy tycoons from Arab nations who are willing to pay millions of dollars, in cash, for this prime real-estate.
“This is a recent phenomenon that we are seeing in Tel Aviv,” said a senior official at the city’s municipality. “The wealthy elite among the Israeli Arab and Palestinian population have come to realize that real-estate along the Jaffa coastline is worth its weight in gold.”
Amos Glazer, manager of Anglo-Saxon Real Estate Tel Aviv, has stated that he is currently working with several foreign Arab billionaires who are looking to purchase real-estate in Ajami, and who have contacted him through their London and Paris attorneys.
“They are probably from the United Arab Emirates, and are willing to pay almost anything for privately owned land in Ajami. They do not want to deal with municipal property because we have run into problems signing such property over to them in the Land Registry Bureau.”
Galzer further noted that he “is currently in advanced stages of negotiation for a 0.12 acre property overlooking the ocean, complete with construction rights, worth some $700,000. The Arab magnates in question pay in cash and largely do not haggle over prices. They clearly possess large sums of money, because they are willing to pay sums 30% above market value for these homes.”
Erez Cohen, former Chariman of the Real Estate Appraisers’ Association in Israel, is also familiar with this recent trend. “I am well ware of the fact that in the past year Arab tycoons have been ‘eyeing’ various properties in Jaffa, especially homes found in prime locations by the beach front. They do not purchase these homes directly, but rather through European companies, and in many cases you simply do not know who the individuals involved actually are.”
On the streets of Jaffa there is already talk of Saudi sheiks sending their representatives to Jaffa in order to carry out these real estate deal on their behalf. One London-based millionaire, for instance, recently bought a home worth some $2 million right by the beach front. He paid for the house in cash, even though it was in poor condition and scheduled for demolition.
Dreams of large sums of money and of striking it rich are frazzling the resident of Ajami. One man, for instance received an offer to sell his home for $1.7 million, which he gladly accepted. The next day, however, a Palestinian businessman living abroad offered to pay him $1.9 million for his home. The property owner agreed to take this offer as well, and now the new “owners” are left haggling for the property.
'Villas and cottages to soon line Ajami beach front'Israeli Arabs are also showing as keen interest in Jaffa real-estate. An Umm el-Fahem businessman recently purchased a home in the Ajami neighborhood which he hopes to convert into his own luxury residence. Entrepreneurs from Nazareth are also looking to open a hotel in Jaffa.
“Before too long we will see villas and cottages lining the Ajami beach front,” said a local resident and community activist. “The only question is how the Israeli authorities will respond to this new trend, and whether they will allow Arab millionaires with foreign passports to build their estates in Jaffa.”
A senior Tel Aviv Municipality official stated that “the NIS 1 billion ($283.3 million) that we have invested in developing Jaffa during the last decade are finally paying off. Jaffa property is now becoming just as expensive as property in northern Tel Aviv.”
Jewish Israeli entrepreneurs have been trying valiantly to purchase real-estate property in Jaffa over the years as well, seeing as the city has undoubtedly become a hot sport as of late. Luxury apartments have been built here and there, most notably on Andromeda's Hill overlooking the harbor, though mostly on property belonging to the Greek or Armenian churches rather than on Arab-owned lands.
Arab land owners, as it turns out, are less than willing to turn their property over to Jewish businessman or developers. Conversely, Jewish land owners are also reluctant to sell their lands to Arabs.
“I once represented an Arab-Israeli businessman who was looking to purchase a luxury home in Jaffa,” recalls Glazer. “He was willing to pay as much as $800,000 for the property, but the owner was unwilling to even negotiate because he was an Arab.