Sunday, May 14, 2023

Jerusalem Estates

Typical ad for Jerusalem Estates
I often express my ambivalence on issues affecting the Jewish people. One such issue are the ads for luxury housing in Jerusalem. Like the ones in Charedi publications like Mishpacha Magazine. On the scale of what is important to the Jewish community these days, this issue may not rank very high. However, that I keep seeing these ads every week has moved by to talk about it.

On the one hand, I have long supported the right of wealthy people to enjoy their wealth in any way they please. As long as they contribute generously to the people and institutions that need it they can do whatever they want with what’s left.. Which is usually a lot. Hard working people are surely entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Whether those fruits include a modest sum of discretionary funds to be used in modest ways or great wealth that can afford the kind multimillion residences in Jerusalem like those in Jerusalem Estates – located in a Charedi neighborhood in the heart of Jerusalem.

Nor do I even fault these publications for carrying these ads. They are entitled to make a profit and ads like this surely help. 

But at the same time, I have to admit that there is something unsettling about them. They seem to be promoting the ‘beauty’ of a wealthy lifestyle more than they are living in the holy land. Making it seem like living that kind of lifestyle is the only one can truly enjoy living in Israel. Anything less will simply not do. The ads almost always feature a well dressed  grandfatherly Charedi figure enjoying his grandchildren in a home, an environment, and a lifestyle that would make Donald Trump green with envy (if he were an Orthodox Jew).

The lifestyle those ads depict is about as unrealistic as can be for the vast majority of Orthodox Jews. Only the very wealthiest among us can even dream about the kind of lifestyle they depict. And yet the ad makes it seem like this lifestyle is the ultimate Charedi experience. Anything less just won’t do. Implying that any self respecting Charedi Jew should strive for a lifestyle where material wealth is the epitome of a well lived Jewish life. Even though there is little chance most Orthodox Jews will ever achieve it.

Another thing. Jerusalem Estates  sits in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Not all that far from Mea Shearim. Even though real estate value of homes in these neighborhoods have skyrocketed in recent years well beyond the reach of most buyers, the fact is that a lot of very poor Jews live in those neighborhoods. And they have been living there for decades. In many cases inherited from their parents and grandparents going back well before the establishment of the state. The contrast  could not be more stark.

Like I said I don’t really blame the developers for building a community that is designed for the wealthy. They have every right to do that. As do wealthy Jews who decide to live there. But it still sticks in my craw that they pitch this lifestyle in the way they do. A way that most Orthodox Jews in their wildest imagination could not picture themselves affording. 

That said, I’m not sure they have any alternative way to advertise other than in magazines widely read by people who would love to be able to afford their homes. Obviously a few of the magazine’s readers can actually afford homes like those. But that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

Off my soapbox.