Begin exploring housing options
We hope that after reading this section you will understand that there are a number of options and that you will find comfortable living arrangements! For some students the thought of having to find an apartment halfway around the world can be overwhelming. Fear not – here is some helpful info!
Some students prefer to secure an apartment before they arrive in Israel while others prefer to wait until they arrive so they can check out the apartment themselves. If you choose to live with other HUC-JIR students and are looking for roommates, the HUC-JIR class listserv and Facebook group will be up and running by early April. There is not enough we can say to encourage you to live with an Israeli. Past students who have chosen this option have found it one of the best decisions they made all year. Their Hebrew improved tremendously and they had the opportunity to meet people out of the HUC-JIR "bubble." If you choose this option, it is best to look once you are in Jerusalem, as most often the roommates want to meet in person. If you choose to wait to find an apartment until you arrive or live with Israelis, below you will find listings for temporary accommodation or ask incoming students if anyone has an extra room/couch for a few weeks.
In Israel, each apartment is a condominium, owned by an individual. There are almost no apartment buildings built for the purpose of rental. An apartment becomes available when the owner moves to another city, when he/she goes abroad for a specific period of time, or when a family wants to rent an apartment of an elderly parent or grown child. The number of rooms is counted as the number of bedrooms plus other living areas. For example, a “three room” apartment may have “two bedrooms and a living room”. By Western standards, rooms are on the small side and may be dual or even multipurpose. For example: living rooms convert to bedrooms or double as guestrooms. Separate dining rooms are rare, therefore an area of the living room usually houses the dining table and chairs. Be prepared for differences in terminology. If your landlord quotes a “stove,” he/she may have a two-burner gas tabletop range unit without an oven or separate grill. Avoid apartments that are advertised as “partially furnished.” It probably means that they have the bare minimum of furniture and it will not suit your needs.
If you rent an apartment currently occupied by HUC-JIR students (see lists below), they may offer you the option of buying furniture, appliances, dishes, and other housewares that they have purchased. This may save you lots of time, hassle, and money when you first arrive and don’t yet know where to go to buy things. If current students are selling a “package deal” it is better to buy everything. Even if you don’t think you want everything, having everything up front is better because it is cheaper in the long run and you often find that you need things that you never imagined you would need. However, there have been cases in the past when incoming students have discovered that the items they bought were not of the quality they had expected, or were overpriced. Be sure to check out thoroughly what you are buying, in advance.
Things to ask about when looking for an apartment:
- Rent and bills (Arnona - the municipal tax, Va'ad Bayit - building fees, gas, water, and electric)
- Is the apartment shomer shabbat or shomer kashrut?
- Does the apartment have central heating/AC?
- Is the apartment furnished?
- Does the building have an elevator? How many floors up is the apartment?
- Is the area noisy?
Most students have found that rental apartments within their price range are not luxurious, particularly by standards you may have come to expect, but they are functional and usually contain the basic necessities that you will need during your year here.
Choosing a neighborhood
The majority of students live in the Rehavia and Baka neighborhoods. These largely residential areas are a twenty to thirty minute walk to HUC-JIR. The apartments downtown may be even closer (within ten minutes to school) but include the typical urban amenity of noise. Farther from campus—in the twenty to thirty minute walk range—are the neighborhoods Nachlaot, German Colony, Greek Colony, Abu Tor, and Old Katamon. For more information on these or other Jerusalem neighborhoods we suggest consulting a “Streetwise Jerusalem” or Google Maps. While you may find suitable and perhaps even less expensive apartments in other neighborhoods, we suggest you first consult with the Office of Student Services in Jerusalem regarding traveling time to the college.
The amount of rent will depend on location, size, and extras, such as oven, washing machine, etc. Current rental rates for furnished apartments range from $700-$1000 for a one bedroom apartment plus living room to $1000-$1,600 ($500-$800 per person) for a two- or three-bedroom apartment plus living room. Additional monthly costs could add approximately $80-$100 per person, depending on telephone usage, internet, air conditioning, and heating.
These monthly costs include:
- Utilities (water, gas, heat, electricity, and telephone – can be expensive)
- Va'ad Bayit: Building maintenance fee for building upkeep, central heating, etc.
- Arnona: Municipal property tax - approximately $60-$90 per month. (Despite whatever your landlord may tell you, by law, tourists on a student visa are not entitled to a student discount.)
In addition to rent, add up all the “extras” to get a clear picture of what your monthly housing expenses will be.
Living with an Israeli - recommend, recommend, recommend!
A past student who choose this option wrote "Living with an Israeli has been a critical part of my experience here and I think the college should have every student live with an Israeli. It makes little sense to live here for a year and constantly be surrounded by Americans, which most of our class is. My interactions with my housemate and her family have completely changed my view of Israelis and has hugely enhanced my Hebrew. Everyone would benefit from a similar experience."
1. Find an apartment
On the left, under the "Housing" heading you will find a link to "Apartment Listings". Most are from past HUC-JIR students but some are new listings we received this year. We continue to update as sometimes landlords contact us with new listings. The fact that the apartment is included in our listings is not in itself a recommendatioon and does NOT mean that we will automatically guarantee a lease for renting it. (see HUC-JIR Guarantee below)
Other sources of housing information in English can be found at:
Note: Beware of scams on websites such as craigslist!
There are MANY groups on facebook dedicated to apartment posts in Jerusalem. Some include: Secret Jerusalem Apartments, Looking for an Apartment in Jerusalem, Apartments/Roommates in Jerusalem, etc. These are safe and many students find their apartments through these groups.
Additionally, rental agencies in Jerusalem will assist you in finding an apartment for a fee (usually 5-10% of the annual rent.)
Jerusalem agents accustomed to working with HUC-JIR students are:
Fax 972 2 5617207
Cell 972 52 5226684 and 972 959 8041
Cell 972 52 6924695
Cell 972 54 5467330
2. Ask the prospective landlord important questions
1. How do I pay my rent?
Rent is quoted in Israeli shekels or U.S. dollars. Most landlords will want the rent paid in shekels though others will prefer dollars (some even ask for you to pay into an account abroad). If the rent is quoted in dollars but you are paying in shekels, it will be calculated according to the daily representative rate of the dollar (sha'ar hayatzig), published in the newspaper. Often landlords require a few months’ payment in advance. It is strongly recommended that you DO NOT PAY MORE THAN THREE MONTHS IN ADVANCE! Opening a bank account in Israel is no longer simple, due to international money-laundering regulations. So you need to find another option for paying your monthly rent. Some students pay by arranging a monthly/quarterly bank transfer from a bank in the States/Canada/Europe to the landlord's bank in Israel, but you may find that bank charges make this an expensive option. Many students simply use an ATM to draw cash in shekels from their account back at home. Others recommend paying rent by TransferWise (international bank transfer app with very low fees).Many landlords are not resident in Jerusalem and do not come personally to collect the rent each month. It is quite usual for student tenants to deposit cash directly into the landlord's bank account.
2. Is it acceptable for a landlord to request a deposit?
Yes, they may request advance payment to cover two to six months’ rent. In addition, they may require a security deposit (separate from the rent), a sum of money to hold and use to pay for any unpaid bills or damage that you leave after you vacate the apartment. The security deposit is returnable in its entirety if there is nothing of this sort to pay; or in part, after agreed upon deductions are made to cover expenses.
3. What does the Va’ad Bayit (maintenance fees) include and how much will it be?
Usually includes include heat, communal lighting, cleaning of stairs and communal areas. The sum can vary greatly from building to building. Some calculate the total expected maintenance fees for the year then divide it by 12. Other buildings charge a smaller amount during the months where there is no heat, then raise it considerably during the winter months when the building is heated.
4. How much is Arnona (property tax)? Who pays it, and when is it due?
Arnona is a property tax, which is levied by the City of Jerusalem. Unless your lease says otherwise, it is your responsibility to pay the Arnona. The Arnona can be paid monthly. When you discuss the terms with your prospective landlord, ask how much the Arnona is and determine how it will be paid, whether it is an item included in each month’s accounting, or a set amount that can be added to the rent.
5. What is the length of the lease? Can it be legally interrupted, either by you or the landlord? Is there a lawyer’s fee for signing the contract?
Leases are typically for one year. If you are not enrolling in pre-Ulpan and will not be coming until July, you may be able to negotiate for a lease covering only the time you will be in Israel. Once you and your landlord have signed the lease, it is a binding contract that cannot be interrupted unless there are provisions in the lease allowing for early termination. The sample HUC-JIR lease contains clauses that would allow you to break the lease early and without penalty, but these are not standard in all leases. Do not give your landlord any power or authority to terminate your lease. If your landlord is demanding such an accommodation, contact HUC-JIR or find another apartment. There should not be a lawyer’s fee for signing a contract.
6. How is the apartment heated and cooled? Is the heating functional? What hours is it heated during the winter?
VERY IMPORTANT TO ASK ABOUT HEAT IN THE WINTER.
We know you think you are coming to study in the hot desert – but it gets cold here in the winter! Many apartments have heaters, but not central heating, and may have fans, but no central air conditioning. This can have an effect on the electric bills in the hottest or coldest months. A fun little quirk of living in Israel is the adventure to find hot water. Some buildings only have hot water at certain times, others have heaters, but you will have to wait for the water to heat up before you can take a hot shower. When you ask about the heat and cooling, ask about the water heater as well.
7. Is the hot water heated by solar energy (dud shemesh), gas, or electricity?
The difference in cost may be significant. As noted above, different means of heating can change your gas or electricity usage. Ask your potential landlord or the current tenant for average bills or usage during different seasons.
9. How close is the apartment to HUC-JIR? How long will it take to walk or is there a bus that goes directly to HUC-JIR?
Jerusalem is hilly. Jerusalem is hot (in the summer). Jerusalem is a confusing mess of crooked streets, changing names, and reckless drivers. So, if you do not want to walk great distances or take the bus, finding an apartment closer to campus is advised. Find out how far the apartment is from school and consider that even if you live farther from school, you may live closer to shopping, recreation, or other activities that make a long walk to and from school, less of an issue. Busses are also an option, making your walk shorter and giving you a great chance to practice your Hebrew.
10. Is there a washing machine and/or dryer in the apartment? If not, where is the closest Laundromat?
Many apartments have washing machines, but not dryers. Line drying clothing is easy in the summer, and more challenging in the winter, so if your apartment does not have a dryer but does have a washing machine, finding the closest Laundromat is advisable.
11. What is insured by the owner? Is there a subrogation clause in the owner’s policy (see renter’s insurance below)?
3. Sign your lease
HUC-JIR has drafted a lease that we recommend you use. You can download it by clicking here.
There have been cases in the past where students have signed a lease in Hebrew without totally understanding what is written. The contract may contain clauses detrimental to you, and you must be very clear about any legal document you sign in Israel. Whether the lease you receive from the landlord is in English or Hebrew, to be sure that it is fair and reasonable according to Israeli standards, we encourage all students to send a copy to Helen Linden at email@example.com before it is signed. This is not required but highly recommended.
Make sure in advance exactly what the terms of rental cover, have this entered in your contract, and ask for a detailed inventory (signed by both parties) of the furniture and contents. This will safeguard both you and your landlord. Also be sure to clarify in the rental contract which party is responsible for municipal taxes (“Arnona”) and building maintenance fees (Va’ad Bayit). Sometimes, the owner will pay the Arnona, but usually it is the tenant’s responsibility.
All leases are negotiated directly between students and landlords (or their agents). Plenty of students every year rent an apartment without a guarantee from HUC-JIR --- it is not our requirement. However, it is customary for the owner to require the tenant to supply him with a guarantor, insuring that the tenant will keep to all the obligations in the lease, vacate the premises on time with all possessions listed in the inventory intact and in good condition. The fact that an apartment is included in our listings and/or the landlord is using our recommended lease does NOT mean that we will automatically guarantee the lease to rent it. HUC-JIR may agree to serve as a guarantor but you MUST send the contract to Helen in advance of signing. It will be reviewed by the Director of Administration and only after his approval (and any recommended changes are made) may HUC-JIR agree to act as a guarantor. HUC-JIR can only guantee a lease if ALL the tenants in your apartment are HUC-JIR students (SOs and families are included). The guarantee will be given after you arrive in Israel. To simplify this process we highly recommend that you ask your landlord to use the HUC-JIR contract. (see sample by clicking here). Ask the Office of Student Services to email you a copy in Hebrew and English.
Few students choose to take out rental insurance but if you should be interested, the following agents can be contacted:
Steven "Shaya" Kelter
Phone: 02-5612223/4 and 052-387-3887
You may want to get a quote from both. Make sure that you ask exactly what the insurance covers.
4. Get your keys or arrange to get them in Israel
YAY!!! You’re going to live in Israel!!!
5. Arrange for temporary accommodation if necessary
If you choose to wait until you arrive in Jerusalem to look for permanent accommodations, you will need temporary housing. You must make these arrangements yourself – the College will not do this for you. You may want to arrange to stay with relatives and friends in Jerusalem. Students also suggest arranging temporary housing with classmates to save money. (You can get in touch with each other through the student listserv.) It is possible to keep your bags in storage at the College until you find a permanent apartment. As it may take two to three weeks to find an apartment, you should calculate your arrival and initial expenditure budget accordingly. Below are some options for temporary housing. This option allows students a convenient place to stay while searching for permanent housing. It also allows time for students to investigate neighborhoods and apartments and to meet with future roommates.
Beit Shmuel - Dormitory type accommodation at Beit Shmuel, the Reform movement guest house adjacent to the HUC-JIR campus, is available, but often full if not booked well in advance.
, 23 Jaffa Road, Tel: 02-5813222 http://theposthostel.com/
New hostel located in the historic central post office building, less than 10 minute walk from HUC-JIR
Agron Youth Hostel and Guest House
, Agron 6, Tel: 02-6217555 , www.iyha.org.il
Part of the Conservative Yeshiva, 10 minute walk from HUC-JIR.
The Abraham Hostel is in the city center, next to the Mahane Yehusa market (shuk) and 20 minutes walk from HUC-JIR
Jerusalem Garden Guest House
Youth Hostels - If you plan to lodge in youth hostels, you should purchase a youth hostel card. The card reduces the price of a room and almost guarantees you a space. Additional youth hostel information can be obtained by doing a Google search: “Youth Hostels in Israel".
- Furnished Rooms for Students and Tourists – A service that began in the USA, they provide furnished housing for students, tourists and volunteers in Israel. Their staff personally visits all candidates for hosting to assure impeccable service. Homestays include a continental breakfast as well as a fully furnished bedroom. There is no extra charge for electric, gas, water or arnona. Contact in Israel Joe Offenbacher firstname.lastname@example.org
Israel Cell 054-818-1462 US VOIP 212-420-1397 More information at http://www.sarahomestay.com/?l=en&location=israel
New York Number in Israel 718 785 5136
Israel Local 052 801 5888
Prides itself on maintaining a complete, updated, and unique database especially designed to meet the needs of the anglo-Israeli market. Whether you are looking for a room in a flat, a flatmate, or a short term vacation rental in Israel, BayitBuddy presents detailed profiles by location, so you can quickly locate potential matches.
Hotels - Below you will find a sampling of hotels. They have been listed primarily because of their proximity to HUC-JIR. Listing a hotel or hostel does not necessarily constitute a recommendation.
St. Andrew's Scottish Hospice (BB), 1 King David Street, (9722) 673-2401. Limited number of rooms, make reservations in advance. Highly recommended.
Jerusalem Gate Hotel (BB), 43 Yirmiyahu Street (near Bus Station), (9722) 500-8500
Eyal Hotel (BB), 21 Shammai, (9722) 623-4161
Eldan Hotel (BB), 24 King David (across from HUC-JIR), (9722) 625-3311
Prima Royal Hotel (BB) (formerly Windmill Hotel) , 3 Mendele Street, (9722) 560-7111
Prima Kings Hotel (BB), 60 King George Street, (9722) 620-1201
YMCA (BB), 26 King David Street, (9722) 569-2692