By 5TJT Staff
Shlomo Walfish is the founder of the Aish Orchestra, and a longtime activist with Manhigut Yehudit. Shlomo grew up in Monsey but lived in Petach Tikva, Israel for three years from ages 12-14. Once he married, he lived in Kew Gardens Hills, Cedarhurst, Far Rockaway, and Woodmere. He davened in a variety of shuls including the Shteeble, the Red Shul, Beth Shalom, Rambam, Rabbi Katz, Young Israel of Far Rockaway, the White Shul, Aish Kodesh, Rabbi Nobel, and Young Israel of Woodmere. He and his wife have two girls, ages 18 and 16, and two boys, ages 11 and 7. They now live in Ramat Bet Shemesh.
5TJT: How do you and your family like it?
SW: B’H, we are extremely happy here.
5TJT: When did you move to Israel?
SW: We moved here in 2008.
5TJT: When did you buy your house?
SW: In 2003.
5TJT: Why did you buy a house five years before you moved?
SW: I tend to closely follow economic trends and came to the conclusion that real estate in NY was about to crash, and in Israel it would continue to increase. So we sold our house in Cedarhurst, bought one in Ramat Bet Shemesh, and rented in Far Rockaway for three years, then Woodmere for two more.
5TJT: How did it work out?
SW: B’H, the timing was just right. The exchange rate was 4.95 shekel per dollar. We sold our house in the Five Towns at the peak and bought in Ramat Bet Shemesh on paper; it took two years to build and has increased in value ever since.
5TJT: How did you know to buy in Ramat Bet Shemesh before it became so popular?
SW: We were looking for a good way to protect our house investment but also something we could move to someday. The trick is to research new developments to buy on paper so that you can get a good deal, but do the necessary research to make sure the community is headed to becoming one where you will feel comfortable living.
5TJT: What made you choose Ramat Bet Shemesh?
SW: Yerushalayim would have been a nice option; we daven for it three times a day. . . . However, for the price of a four-bedroom apartment in Rechavya, you can buy a ten-bedroom villa, fully loaded, in a new development in Ramat Bet Shemesh. The quality of life is beautiful. It’s a warm, heimish, suburban community with many shuls and schools for all types and ages, and the kids love it. Plus we have great shopping, a new mall; a bowling alley is now coming to town; and it’s very centrally located. Most of the year has gorgeous weather and crisp clean air. My son is in a baseball league, and lots of people here go mountain biking in the Jerusalem hills with breathtaking views.
5TJT: Are there still opportunities for people to do the same?
SW: There is a major new development starting to be built right now. You can get the benefit of getting a great deal while it’s still on paper, along with the reassurance of having a development that is already part of a fully developed community. So you know exactly what type of community you are getting. There are some really beautiful houses and apartments available with an amazing eastern unobstructed view of the Jerusalem hills. Prices are sure to go up.
5TJT: How does this compare to other new communities being built?
SW: This is in a fully developed and very warm, heimish, and diverse suburban community with all the amenities already built. There are many great shuls and schools in the area with high-quality people. Many people learn in the morning, then work. Shuls include Aish Kodesh, Menorat HaMaor (Rabbi Myers, son-in-law of Rabbi Dr. Avraham Twersky), Rabbi Haber, Rav Soloveitchik, the Gra (Rabbi Kornfeld), the Carlebach Shul, lots of sefardi shuls, and many more. Plus you are only 30 minutes from Jerusalem, 20 minutes from the Gush and Modiin, and 50 minutes from Tel Aviv.
5TJT: What do you think about the U.S. economy now?
SW: I was in the U.S. two summers ago, when the dollar exchange rate was four shekel per dollar. At that time I advised a number of people and investors to buy real estate in Israel because I thought the exchange rate was headed toward 3.5 shekel per dollar; a 12.5% loss of the purchasing value of the dollar. That is exactly what happened! Unfortunately, the dollar trend will continue heading downward, so people with dollar-based assets like mutual funds, stocks, IRAs 401Ks, and whole life insurance need to consider investing outside the U.S., diversify, and purchase real capital while their dollars still have purchasing value. Some people even set up self-directed IRAs to invest in real estate in Israel. It’s tricky but can be done.
5TJT: Is there any other advantage to buying in Ramat Bet Shemesh, even for those not moving yet?
SW: Yes! This is a rapid growth city, with 100,000 residences, heading to 200,000 in the next 5 to 10 years. While most people own homes here, there is a very large demand for rentals. With current exchange rates, $300,000 will get you 1,080,000 shekel. Since the Israeli economy is, b’H, one of the best in the world, the shekel will continue to outperform the dollar as well as other currencies like the euro and pound. You retain (save) the current value of your dollar assets while getting rental in shekel for year to come which will buy you more dollars than today. That’s why Warren Buffett invested over $6 billion in Israel—the most money in any country outside of the U.S.
5TJT: How can someone interested in learning more about buying in Israel contact you?
SW: I will be visiting NY and NJ this week, October 3-10, to showcase some investment and housing opportunities. They can call 516-371-2474 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to meet with me. v