Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mitzpe Ramon Homes

Our concrete bunker apartment; ground floor, right

The homes of Mitzpe Ramon seem to have been built in three stages, during three eras. The earliest and oldest were built during the founding of the town in 1950. They lie closest to the crater. The oldest of these resemble concrete bunkers, built of very thick, heavy, monolithic cement walls and stone. I believe our new apartment is in one of these buildings. They are stand-alone, three story structures with walls of foot thick poured concrete. There are two apartments on a side, making for a total of six per building. Many of these apartments are still government subsidized, but the state is trying to divest itself of these obligations by selling the apartments to the current renters at a favorable price or selling them to developers. Our apartment and eight others like it are owned by two brothers who, among other things, are real estate developers.

Our apartment has been completely remodeled with new floors, windows and fixtures installed. The floors are polished Jerusalem stone, inclduding the baseboards, and the windows have integral adjustable shutters that can seal the rooms completely from the desert sun and glass windows in a metal frame that form a tight seal to keep out heat, cold, and blowing dust (of which there is alot). Because the walls and floor are tremendously thick concrete, they have a great deal of thermal inertia. So, even on a very hot day in the summer they tend to remain cool. But once winter starts and they cool down, it can be equally difficult to heat them. Many of the newer homes in Mitzpe Ramon have wood-burning stoves, which the residents tell us is really necesary to keep them warm in winter.

Inside our apartment; note stone floors, base boards and tight-sealing windows with shutters

These kinds of Israeli apartments can be very easy to clean if you don't have rugs or carpeting. Sweep the dirt out the door into a dust bin, pour water on the floor and squeegee it out the front door.

Another view of our apartment building from the adjacent park

Our apartment, and others similar to it, are located about 500 feet from the edge of the crater. This old part of town sits in a small defile with a short and not very steep uphill run to the crater's lip. Below is our daughter's apartment building, just up the street from ours. This street terminates (at the top of the hill) at the narrow strip of land that serves as a buffer between the town and the crater.

Chavie's apartment building (immediate right) just below the crater's rim

At the very edge of town, right next to the crater, are somewhat newer-looking apartment buildings, with many more units than the six-unit bunkers just below them. I haven't been in them, bust they must have great views of the crater from the upper floors.

Apartments by the crater rim which lies immediately to the left of photo.

The second stage of development of the town was on the low plateau that rises 50-80 feet behind these older structures. This is where the Field School was built and the second stage of apartments and some custom homes.

Tower of the Field School and newer apartments on the low plateau in Mitzpe Ramon

The B'nai Akiva Yeshiva is also built in this part of town, together with some custom homes of various size and quality. Below is a custom home that we looked at to rent but ultimately did not go for. The rooms were mostly extremely tiny and laid out in a bizarre pattern. The home's nicest feature was the second floor balcony, which covered something like half the area of the roof and would make a perfect place for a Succah and general outdoor patio. At the time we didn't know it, but the Rosh Yeshiva of the B'nai Akiva school had just finished building a beautiful new home just a few houses to the left of this one.

 Custom home in Mitzpe Ramon

The third area and era of development was the building of tract homes to accommodate the large influx of Russian refugees who came to Israel with the collapse of the Soviet Union. These houses were thrown up in great haste and are something of blight on the landscape with their uniformity and poor construction quality. The walls are very thin and everything about them smacks of shoddy construction. They are mirror image duplexes, which would probably serve better as single family homes if more people could afford to buy and merge them.

A tract home of the Russian emigree era

There is yet a fourth ring of development around the three eras of house building in Mitzpe Ramon and that is the industrial district, which appears to have warehouse-type structures for light manufacturing businesses. I didn't get a chance to explore these at all while in Mitzpe Ramon during our house hunting trip, so I hope to revisit them when we actually arrive.

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