Nestled in the Judean Hills just eight miles south of Jerusalem, Efrat is a picturesque community and a popular destination for English-speaking Olim. Efrat boasts excellent schools, an efficient service-oriented local government, a beautiful library with an extensive English book section, many Torah classes for men and women, a mix of retail stores and restaurants, lovely parks, and an active community center offering dozens of programs for adults and children.
The largest settlement in Yesha’s (Yehuda and Shomron) Gush Etzion region with approximately 1,400 families and 8,000 residents, Efrat is divided into seven neighborhoods, each named for one of the seven species of the Land of Israel: Gefen (grape), Te'ena (fig), Rimon (pomegranate), Dekel (date palm), Dagan (grain), Tamar (date) and Zayit (olives). Dagan and Tamar are still in the planning stages, with plans to build 2,500 housing units, which would double the size of the community.
Efrat rises to a height of 3,150 feet above sea level, and shares the same beautiful mountain climate as Jerusalem, offering relatively mild summers and cool winters. The city’s population is primarily Dati Leumi (religious Zionist) and also has a Chardal (Charedi Leumi – or Yeshivish Zionist) crowd. There are more than twenty Orthodox shuls – mostly Ashkenazic, but Sephardic and Yemenite synagogues also exist – in addition to several post-high school Yeshivas and Kollels, plus there is an active women’s learning program.
Most residents work in the greater Jerusalem area or have home-based businesses, while some travel to Tel Aviv or farther away via car or the train in Bet Shemesh. Thanks to a highway linking Jerusalem with Gush Etzion, Efrat is a mere twenty minute drive from Jerusalem. Efrat is accessible via public and private transportation, although living there without a car can be challenging.
Efrat’s English-speaking residents comprise 35% of the population, and are very active in all aspects of the community: they provide leadership within the local schools, and are involved in many important chessed projects and in local shul programming – delivering shiurim and running educational, spiritual and social activities.
Efrat in some ways mirrors the Jewish communities located abroad, as families are often drawn together through their connection to their shuls, and their social lives to some extent revolve around their synagogues. What only thirty years was merely a dream of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin - then a young rabbi at the Upper West Side’s Lincoln Square Synagogue - Efrat has grown and flourished while retaining the intimacy of a small town.
Before ending, permit me to wish you a Shana Tova: May you and your loved ones be blessed this coming year with good health, happiness and fulfillment in all your endeavors.
“My Israel Home” is a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. Gedaliah Borvick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org