Baka (Geulim) is fast becoming the trendy upscale neighborhood where the young modern orthodox want to settle. Established back in the 1900’s, the area is characterized by Old Arab style homes and beautiful Jerusalem stone buildings. In 1922, wealthy Muslim and Christian inhabitants established beautiful homes in the area. Much of this beautiful architecture is still standing and has been preserved and renovated while keeping the charm and beauty of the Old-World motifs. With the War of Independence, the Arabs left the area and new immigrants from North Africa moved into the abandoned homes. During the 1970’s, the Israeli middle class began to settle in Baka. Many houses were renovated; however, the old architectural style was left intact. In the last decade, new immigrants from Europe and North America have bought large houses in the area, and French and English are commonly heard in the streets.
Today, the main street is Derech Beit Lechem, a street bustling with life, featuring designer stores, produce stands, restaurants and service stores. The new First Train Station at the beginning of Derech Beit Lechem has reinvigorated the neighborhood with new and exciting restaurants, cultural venues and street fairs. The grounds also house rotating exhibits and festivals such as Ice sculpture shows, circus events and even a “Formula One” race car exhibit.
From a real estate perspective, Susan Lerner, real estate agent with RE/MAX Vision who specialize in the Baka neighborhood, states that “the influx of young families and new French immigrants has been a breath of fresh air, and has rejuvenated the neighborhood.” With new construction coming on the market, such as Park 8, Bustan Baka and Quadra, the housing supply in the area has increased and created more of a balance between demand and supply. Although many of the new projects are expensive (with prices starting at NIS 30,000 per sqm), they are selling to local Israeli buyers as well as foreign buyers. Many local retirees, who are looking for a small boutique-like project, are opting to purchase in these beautiful, newly-built projects instead of moving out to retirement villages. Young families are then purchasing the homes vacated by the older couples and are renovating them to suit their needs. The area of South Baka (below Yehudah Street and stretching down towards Talpiot), is also becoming a very trendy area for young families. Many of the buildings there had stucco facades that have gone through refurbishing and now have stone facades. Many of these tenement-looking buildings have already received expansion rights and permits to add additional rooms and balconies. Young families like the idea of buying less expensive properties (selling for between NIS 18,000- 24,000 per sqm) and fixing them up themselves. The solution to the housing crisis can be seen in microcosm in this small Jerusalem neighborhood of Baka. When housing needs are met for all sectors of the society, and demand and supply start to even out, then housing prices can become affordable for all.