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For decades, Bet Shemesh has been a leading choice for English speakers making Aliyah.
 
Why is it so popular, and what does the city have to offer?

There are few places in the world more suited to raising a Jewish family in a loving, caring community with top resources and a great standard of living.

 

Location (back to top)

  • Bet Shemesh is located in the center of the country, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

  • One of the few locations offering residents the option of working in both greater Tel Aviv  and Jerusalem. Commuting time to either ranges from 30 mins - 1 hour, depending on time of day, destination in the city and traffic.

  • Great weather. Winters are far milder than Jerusalem, and summers are hot, but without the humidity of Tel Aviv, Modi’in and other locations on the coast.

  • Surrounded by beautiful hills, plains, hikes, rivers, archaeology and biblical/ historical sites. (See here and here).

  • 30 minutes’ drive to Ben Gurion airport.

  • Under 30 minutes’ drive to Modi’in and Gush Etzion/ Efrat. Beaches in the Rishon/ Ashkelon region and many other places on the coast are just 35 minutes away.

  • 25 minutes’ drive to Hadassah Hospital (Ein Karem). 30 to Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center.  A fully operational Terem Emergency Medical Clinic operates within Bet Shemesh.

  • One hour to Be'er Sheva and on to the Negev.

English Speaking Community (back to top)

  • Home to one of the largest English-speaking communities in Israel.

  • While everyday life is conducted in Hebrew, and the majority of the town’s residents are Hebrew-speaking Israelis, Bet Shemesh has one of Israel's highest concentrations of olim from the U.S., Canada, Britain, South Africa, Australia and other English-speaking locations.

  • English-speakers form the majority of some Bet Shemesh neighborhoods including Nofei Aviv, Sheinfeld, many areas of Ramat Bet Shemesh, Ramat Shilo and more.

  • One of the few Anglo communities in Israel with diversity in ages. The city includes large numbers of English-speakers of all ages, from students and young marrieds, to young families, those with teens, families with grown up children, and a rapidly growing  community of 60-plus (mainly retirees)- who maintain a number of highly active and successful social groups.

  • Bet Shemesh is also one of the few places in Israel to boast an elderly day care center, Melabev, run in English.

  • The town hosts tens of English-language publications, websites, newsletters, newspapers, email lists and more.

  • There are native English-speaking service providers based in the city for virtually every professional imaginable: doctors, attorneys, plumbers, bank tellers, repairmen, rabbis, electricians, accountants, other medical professions, handymen and much more.

  • Most of the city’s Israeli (Hebrew) businesses go out of their way to accommodate and attract English-speaking clients by providing information and services in English as well.

  • Due to the very high number of Anglos, most schools have special “native English speaker” classes for English lessons, allowing children to maintain very high levels, without compromising their Hebrew- an accommodation which is critical in the acclimation process for new olim.

  • The city provides ulpanim (Hebrew language classes) free of charge to newcomers; to adults and children.

  • The city's full service libraries include entire English-language sections.

A Large, Modern City (back to top)

  • Bet Shemesh is a large, modern city with a growing population approaching 120,000 residents.

  • Ambitious construction is underway across the city to accommodate the growing number of residents who find the city so attractive.

  • Bet Shemesh is home to a number of great parks and playgrounds, many with beautiful landscaping. (See photos).

  • The city’s population includes religious and secular; and people from all backgrounds including Moroccan, Yemenite, Russian, Ethiopian and of course English-speaking Jews.

Extensive Services (back to top)

  • Bet Shemesh is home to a number of large malls (including Big Fashion) that hosts tens of stores including top brands such as Children’s Place, Footlocker and many more.

  • Other large shopping precincts including the Naimi Mall, Outdoor Big (strip mall), Sha'arei Ha'Ir and Ramat Bet Shemesh Shopping Area (Merkaz Mischari); with others currently under construction.

  • There are more than a hundred places to eat, from take-away pizza and falafel to more upscale restaurants. 

  • All of the big Israeli and international food chains have branches in Bet Shemesh, including Aroma, Café Greg, McDonalds, Café Rimon, Pizza Hut, Burgers Bar, Café Ne’eman, Lechem Basar, Big Apple Pizza, Atza Sushi, Pinati, Roza, Japan Japan and many more. All are certified kosher with a high level hechsher.

  • Many of the above places offer home delivery.

  • Other attractions in the city include bowling, trampolining, The Biblical Museum of Natural History and much more.

  • Attractions just outside Bet Shemesh include Kiftzuba, Davida's Farm, Eretz Yehuda Petting Zoo, Latrun Tank Museum, Mini Israel and Galita Chocolate Making.

  • Many great annual events such as the Bet Shemesh Night Run, the Jewish Music Festival that sees people from across the country coming to the Bet Shemesh amphitheater every chol hamoed Succot and a twice-yearly comedy show in English featuring some of America's very best television comics.

  • Multiple swimming pools in the area.

  • Most government services are available without leaving the city (including issues such as obtaining new passports).

  • Very extensive health services available in the city including tens of doctors, specialists, 24-hour emergency clinics, x-rays, ultra-sounds, physiotherapy, pharmacies, blood tests and much more.

  • Bet Shemesh also has an expanding number of small and large (and some very large) supermarkets, including one Costco-style store stocking Kirkland products! (Osher Ad).

  • A number of the supermarkets specialize in American (and British) products, stocking products not typically available in Israel.

  • Online shopping (including in English) is available throughout the city.

  • All of the major youth groups (including Bnei Akiva, Ezra, Ariel, Betar) operate in Bet Shemesh, and provide a great "home" and framework for olim youth.

  • Bet Shemesh, and its surrounding areas are a haven for Israel's bike riders, and boast some of the country's leading mountain bike tracks.

  • Similarly, Bet Shemesh provides an excellent location for those who enjoy running. With multiple tracks and routes that are visited from people from all over Israel, Bet Shemesh also has a world class running club.

  • Full emergency services (fire, police, ambulances, rescue, Hatzala etc.) are based in the city.

  • The Bet Shemesh Municipality has a department to support new olim and has helped thousands of English speakers in their new home.

Transport (back to top)

  • Bet Shemesh has many forms of transport.

  • Roads are wide, clean with little to no traffic. New ring roads make driving between neighborhoods very easy, and fast.

  • Effective and frequent internal bus routes.

  • An abundance of cabs that are cheap and cost effective.

  • Plenty of parking in all locations throughout the city.

  • A regular, comfortable train service to both Jerusalem and several stops in the center of Tel Aviv, continuing on to Herzliya and the North - or Beersheva and the South.

  • During morning peak hours, the train to Tel Aviv includes a “Minyan Carriage,” where daily shaharit services are held during the commute, including with a Sefer Torah on relevant days. (Mincha and Ma’ariv available on the return journey in the afternoon/ evening).

  • High frequency bus services to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other locations.

  • Regular “sherut” to Jerusalem.

  • Highway number 1, between Jerusalem and the turn off to Bet Shemesh has recently undergone a major rebuilding that included a widening of the road to three lanes in each direction, multiple bridges, tunnels and safety features, the elimination of dangerous curves and turns, and a signficant reduction in travel time.

  • Work has also recently finished on Highway 38, the major road to Bet Shemesh. This road was also siginficantly enhanced to a dual carriage highway with multiple exchanges, significantly increasing safety and reducing travel time substantially.

Finances and Cost of Living (back to top)

  • Bet Shemesh is one of the most affordable places to live in central Israel, and certainly out of the locations with large Anglo communities.

  • Housing is significantly cheaper than places like Jerusalem, Modi’in or Ra’anana

  • Most other services and products are also substantially cheaper (from the price of groceries to gardeners; and especially kindergartens and other child care). 

Religious life (back to top)

  • Bet Shemesh is a dream location for observant Jews.

  • In addition to a small number of secular Anglos, there is a very wide range of all types of English-speaking “frum” Jews: Dati-lite, Modern Orthodox, Dati Leumi, Carlebach-style, Chardal, American Yeshivish, Haredi, Hassidic etc.

  • In addition to the hundreds of non-Anglo shuls and communities in the city, all of the above categories also have a number of shuls and communities that are Anglo-focused.

  • Hundreds of shiurim take place in the city every day, in both English and Hebrew.

  • Regular minyanim can be found at any hour of the day or night.

  • Tens of English-speaking rabbis, poskim, Jewish educators and roshei Yeshiva are based in Bet Shemesh.

  • Plenty of mikvaot, sofrei stam and every other type of religious services are available.

Schools (back to top)

  • There are many schools in Bet Shemesh itself, each catering to slightly different needs. Many kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools and yeshivot are each available for varying levels of Torah study, religiosity, academic levels and special needs, as well as those that focus on specific interests.

  • Many schools out of the city also provide daily transport to and from Bet Shemesh.

  • Extended school days are in place across the city, with most schools continuing past 3pm (in most of the country, the school day ends at 12 or 1pm). This is one of the most significant advantages of Bet Shemesh for young families.

  • A wide range of after-school activities exist in Bet Shemesh (sports – including baseball! - , art, dancing, music, computer programming, ballet, karate, craft, science and many, many more), many of which take place in English as well.

  • Bet Shemesh is known as a safe city, and children play on the streets, walk to friends and live a very enjoyable outdoor-focused life; often compared to the lifestyle of America in the 1950s.

  • See video of Bet Shemesh school kids here.

The People (back to top)

  • Above all, Bet Shemesh is best known for its warm, caring Anglo community.

  • Many streets in English-speaking neighborhoods feel like extended families, with some even joking that they feel like they live on a kibbutz, in the middle of the city.

  • Hessed organizations, social groups, support groups, gamachim abound.

What about the problems the city had a few years ago? (back to top)

  • Like any expanding city in Israel, Bet Shemesh is home to a small group of religious extremists.

  • A number of years ago these extremists succeeded in generating negative headlines that FAR exceed their relevance but that most unfortunately painted the broader city in a negative light among some media outlets who favor the sensational over reality.

  • Despite the headlines and the continued presence of these extremists in one specific area of the city, these problems have little to no impact upon the everyday life of the vast majority of Bet Shemesh residents.

  • A healthy dialogue exists between all the various segements of the population with communities living alongside one another in harmony and respect. This helps create the sense of family sought after by so many different people from different backgrounds.

  • Some English speakers are at the forefront of efforts to promote calm, dialog and mutual respect. But most are content to live their day-to-day lives, taking advantage of all the city has to offer, and enjoying the amazing community, that few people find anywhere else.

  • In October 2018, elections took place that brought to power a new mayor, Dr. Aliza Bloch. Dr. Bloch, who was supported by large swaths of the English-speaking population, campaigned on a promise to end sectarian differences in the city. Her victory generated significant national media interest, with many referring to the win as a "new dawn for Bet Shemesh." See Dr. Bloch being interviewed on national television (in Hebrew), the morning after her victory.

For a short, fun video about the happy people of Bet Shemesh, click here.


And to hear some thoughts as to why many olim choose Bet Shemesh, click here.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A helpful resource for asking public questions on aliyah to Bet Shemesh can be found here.

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