Aliyah & Living in Gush Etzion – The Etzion Bloc
Hebrew: גוש אציון
Gush Etzion (Etzion Bloc) is located in the Judean hills between Jerusalem and Hebron. It is a collection of Israeli settlements founded in the 1920s. In 1948 during the war of Independence 240 people fell here. After the Six-Day War in 1967 many settlements, and a number of new ones, were rebuilt.
Just a 15 minute drive from Jerusalem, the landscape and views are spectacular. It is a quiet area with a well educated middle-high class population. People choose to live here for the quality of life, the welcoming community, the family atmosphere as well as religious idealistic reasons.
The climate is comfortable in summer (no humidity) but cold and rainy in the winter.
There are 15 settlements and 3 kibbutzim in Gush Etzion:
- Alon Shvut
- Bat Ayin
- Karmei Tzur
- Kfar Elad
- Har Gilo
- Ma’ale Amos
- Ma’ale Rehav’am
- Neve Daniel
- Pnei Kedem
- Sde Boaz
The 3 kibbutzim in the area are: Kfar Etzion, Migdal Oz and Rosh Tzurim.
Beitar Illit and Efrat are independent municipalities in the Etzion Bloc and do not operate under the local regional council.
The area has a population of about 75,000 people of all levels of religious observance – a mix of charedim (ultra-orthodox), religious and secular.
Housing options in Gush Etzion
Apartments from 2 – 5 rooms are available for rental in the Etzion Bloc. Accommodation includes duplex apartments, penthouses, roof flats, garden apartments, ground floor flats and luxury apartments.
Houses are also available for rental: Cottages, villas, detached houses and plots of land.
An average purchase price: The average cost is between US$1600 – 2000 per square meter (6000 – 8000 Shekels)
An average rental price: A 2 roomed apartment costs around US$500/month to rent (about 1800 Shekels)
Industry & employment opportunities in the Gush
The Gush Etzion Development Company (1983) is one of the most successful development companies in Israel and provides employment to the locals as well. The company is involved in all aspects of planning and building in the area and provides various services to the entire region.
The Development Company was responsible for the establishment of an Industrial Park that is meant to provide 1,000 jobs to local residents. Office and factory space is available at low rentals. The Park is in close proximity to Jerusalem and other major industrial areas.
There are plans in place for the development of tourist accommodation, hotels and guest houses which will also provide employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. Most residents of Gush Etzion do a daily commute to Jerusalem where more work opportunities are available.
There are 13 schools in the Etzion Bloc that cater to the religious and secular communities – both Ashkenazi and Sephardi. A small number of them are co-ed but most of them are separate boys or girls schools.
Gush Etzion is well known for its high standard of education. Two ultra-orthodox schools are located in Eastern Gush Etzion and serve Ma`aleh Amos and Metzad. An integrated school in Tekoa caters to secular and observant students. There are 5 religious elementary schools, one religiously integrated elementary school, 4 high schools, 2 hesder yeshivot that combine religious study with army service, 2 pre-military academies, a teachers’ seminary, a rabbinical seminary and a women’s Torah College.
Yeshivat Har Etzion is one of the hesder yeshivas in Gush Etzion, located in Alon. You can reach the yeshiva at Tel. 972-2-9937300 Fax. 972-2-9931298. The Yeshiva also runs a family guest house that provides full Shabbat accommodation, meals and special events.
Well known Rabbi Shlomo Riskin is the Chief Rabbi of Efrat. He is also very involved in the Ohr Torah Stone hesder Yeshiva, under the leadership of Rabbis Shimon Gershon Rosenberg (Shagar) and Yair Dreyfus.
Over and above that provided by the Ministry of Education, the Gush Etzion Regional Council provides extra hours of learning, advanced Torah studies, special mathematics groups, art, music and remedial services.
New olim can also participate in psychodrama classes for children aimed at developing and emphasizing Hebrew learning. Religious girls doing their sherut leumi (voluntary army service for girls who because of their deep religious observance are exempt from regular compulsory army service) help out with the children for 2-4 hours a week.
Orot Etzion, a pre-school in Efrat provides Jewish education that addresses every aspect of the child’s development – emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, moral and creative – through intensive Torah learning that is fully integrated with all of the child’s studies and life experiences. Boys and girls learn separately.
The Mamad school in Gush Etzion has a dual curriculum that integrates Judaic and secular studies. Boys and girls learn together until the fourth grade. From the fourth to the eighth grade, boys and girls are separated to further continue their studies.
Reishit/Sadna is a unique school located in Rosh Tzurim which integrates special needs children into a regular framework. One out of every 4 of the students has special needs. The program is successful and very well known around Israel. Many people choose to settle in Gush Etzion because of this education program.
Afternoon programs for mentally and physically challenged children are available in Alon Shvut. For additional information please call 972-2-993-9917.
Gush Etzion shopping options
There are many small businesses in the Etzion Bloc – shops of all kinds; clothing, baked goods, a steak-house, a Teva Naot factory outlet etc. General services; health services, postal service and a garage are also represented. There is a Rami Levi supermarket in the area that specializes in produce for the religious community.
Entertainment & Tourism
Specially for children
- The Elazar Experience Center – a zoo and petting park.
- Deer-land – a large wildlife park where visitors can circulate among the animals.
- Pony rides at Moshe’s Farm in Efrat – a delight for children
For the whole family
- The Gush Etzion Springs – There are 5 natural springs in Gush Etzion and you can bathe in one of them
- The Gush has a variety of festivals throughout the year for families to enjoy including the Cherry Picking Festival and the Path of the Patriarchs on Pesach.
- Mount Herodian
- Gush Etzion Wineries: Tour of the winery and wine-tasting (Gush Etzion Junction)
- Sound and Light Show: Recounting the fall of Gush Etzion prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. Ages 8+ (Gush Etzion Junction)
- Biyar Aqueduct (the Shaft Riverbed): You can participate in an underground tour of the aqueduct (Efrat)
- Gush Etzion Farm: Horseback Riding Tours
Transport between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion
Egged bus nos. 160, 161 and 164 run approximately every half-an-hour, between Jerusalem and Gush Etzion. Gush Etzion has its own transport company with a fleet of over 70 buses, minibuses, vans, and private cars. For security reasons all drivers are armed. The transport company transports almost 1,500 students daily to the various educational institutions inside and around the Etzion Bloc.
For more information about the area and the various Aliyah and relocation options, contact the Gush Etzion Regional Office.