Nestled between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the city of Modi’in has become one of the most attractive cities in Israel for both highly educated, working-class Israelis and new immigrant families from English-speaking countries. This “city in the country” is home to 86,000 residents and boasts a top-tier educational system, a variety of cultural and religious attractions, as well as a beautiful central city park which leads to a nature trail that provides visitors with a fascinating link to Jewish history dating back to the Maccabees and Bar Kochba. As a matter of historical reference, Modi’in is the birthplace of the Chanukah story.
With enough land reserves to erect a city the size of Tel Aviv, the mayor of Modi’in, Chaim Bibas, 45, is in the midst of finalizing a series of new building plans to significantly boost the city’s population in the coming years. These plans will also create a “midtown” cultural and residential hub reminiscent of areas in such major cities as New York City’s midtown Manhattan.
In a recent interview, Mayor Bibas spoke about the growing number of Anglos in Modi’in as well as the city’s future.
Why do you think so many Anglos have chosen to live in Modi’in?
Mayor Bibas: During the many meetings I have had with English speakers during tours I have guided of the city, its environs, and educational institutions, it has become clear that Modi’in is very attractive to Anglos for the very same reasons that the city was built. When the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin laid the city’s foundation stone in 1993, the goal was to establish a city attractive to young couples and families, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. This vision was fulfilled in a short period of time. In recent years, we have also witnessed an exciting phenomenon, as parents of the young families have also moved here to be near their children and grandchildren.
Another factor is education. Today, there are 37 schools, including a diverse range of religious schools. Many schools offer majors in communication, art and dance, technology, sciences including bio-technology, physics, and biology, as well as electronics, engineering sciences, and architecture. The municipality’s investment in advanced technologies and building smart classrooms in schools is evident in all educational indicators and surveys. Modi’in is near the top of national educational indexes, with more than 80 percent of students passing the matriculation exams.
The Anglo population is also attracted to the quality of the city’s residents. Modi’in boasts a Grade 8 socio-economic index status (out of 10). Sixty-five percent of city residents possess an academic degree. Our youngsters are the city’s source of greatest pride. They are leaders in the field of volunteerism. This is reflected even after they finish their studies and join the army. Modi’in- Maccabim-Reut was ranked first nationwide for the highest percentage of army enlistment for the fourth consecutive year.
These and other factors are affecting positive migration to the city (approximately 3,000 people per year), including hundreds of Jews who come from countries such as England, the United States, and South Africa. As with anything positive, especially among the English-speaking immigrants, referral or word-of-mouth has been a large factor resulting in the growth of the community.
Are you surprised by how many Anglos have moved to Modi’in during the past decade?
When you build something — anything — in a professional manner, there is no reason it will not succeed and this is evident in Modi’in. The transformation of Modi’in, which 20 years ago featured nothing but barren hills, into a modern, contemporary city with over 86,000 residents is an unprecedented achievement in terms of the State of Israel. We have successfully completed many projects, including the development of Einav Center, a shopping mecca for both Modi’in residents and people living in nearby cities. The Technology Park is an ongoing development that is also attracting a variety of investors. It is becoming one of the major industrial and developed areas in the region.
In the center of the city is an urban nature park, Park Anabe, which boasts a 1,000 seat amphitheater for cultural and local events. The park also contains an artificial boating lake of approximately 14,000 square meters, a large adventure park, and trails for walking and biking.
What are your plans to attract even more Anglos to Modi’in during the next five years?
The Modi’in municipality and especially the Absorption Department constantly work in conjunction with the Jewish Agency, Ministry of Absorption, and other aliyah organizations promoting the city and our absorption program to potential olim. We participate in many aliyah fairs both in Israel and overseas, including ones in the metro New York region. We host private and group pilot tours, meeting families during their pre-aliyah trips and assisting them with planning their first steps. We also participate in webinars and other conference calls with shlichim overseas and potential olim. Through our Facebook group, our olim and potential olim receive constant updates of our programming, as well as news on the municipal programs that are running in the city.
How has the influx of Anglos helped Modi’in’s educational and business communities, as well as its image?
Many olim are bringing their own business ventures from overseas and running them out of Modi’in, thus offering new olim places of employment. The influx of Anglos into the city has also led to increased real estate values across of Modi’in. Israeli and Anglo entrepreneurs are looking to make Modi’in their home and to run their businesses from here for two key reasons — because of the city’s location and its high quality of life. ◆