More retirees are making themselves at home in Holy Land

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Retirement centers are sprouting up all over Israel. The demand for these residential units is being fueled largely by two factors.

One is a rising standard of living in Israel, making the units more affordable.

In addition, Jews from the diaspora are choosing the Holy Land as a place to retire, according to Haim Barkan, general manger of the Beit Bakfar chain of retirement homes. The appeal is partly economic: A relatively low cost of living in Israel makes the country affordable to seniors on fixed pensions from the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain. Services offered in retirement homes also add to their appeal.

The following are descriptions of some retirement homes:

*Bayit Bakfar Ginosar is located on a 40-acre park on the shores of Lake Kinneret, a spot considered by many as one of the loveliest in Israel. The complex features semi-detached residential units for those who prefer to develop their own private plot of land, as well as apartments in a large central building for those who prefer a condominium arrangement.

The main building offers extensive services such as communal rooms, restaurants and a large lobby. There is a private shoreline with a small jetty for boats, and residents can use the facilities at the water-sport activity center at no charge.

The center introduced the concept of the rural-style retirement center in Israel and has inspired many other companies to develop similar establishments. The complex offers 300 residential units, including two- to three-room, ground floor apartments with private garden; first-floor apartments with large terraces; and apartments in a large central building. Information: (011) (972) (9) 766 4696.

*Elisha Towers is one of the most prestigious retirement centers in the country. Located near Haifa, close to the city center of Carmel, this retirement residence offers a commanding view of the Bay of Haifa and the surrounding hills. The towers are equipped with a swimming pool and gym, a rooftop restaurant, a spacious lobby, a lounge and a dining room.

There are 209 residential units, from 1-1/2- to three-room apartments, some with terraces. Information: (011) (972) (4) 830-9000.

*Migdalei Hayam Hatichon Hasharon, located on the boundary between Kfar Sana and Ra'anana, is set on a five-acre park. Facilities include a swimming pool, gym, restaurants and a cafeteria. There are 310 residential units of two- to three-room apartments.

The deposit can range from $110,000 to $200,000. Monthly maintenance payments are $570 to $1,050, with an annual 2.5 percent depreciation during the first 10 years. Tel: Information: (011) (972) (9) 761-1433.

*Ahuzat Beit is built near a commercial mall in the city of Ra'anana in the Sharon region, with ample shopping facilities and a cinema. Ahuzat Beit offers its residents an arrangement in which the price of one residential unit includes medical expenses as well as nursing home services. There are 300 residential units, mostly of one to two rooms. However, there are several very large two-room penthouses with terraces. Information: (011) (972) (9) 770-5050.

*Naot Eilat is part of the Maonot Maccabi network of retirement homes. This Eilat facility offers a well-known medical institute for alternative medical treatment. The grounds are located close to the Red Sea and include a large swimming pool. There are 85 apartments of 1-1/2 to two rooms. Information: (011) (972) (7)-636-4666.

*Beit Protea in Herzliya is one of the most popular retirement homes in the country, attracting a large number of South African retirees. There are 110 residential units, primarily of one- to two-room apartments. Information: (011) (972) (9)-959-5222.

*Beit Tovei Hair in Jerusalem is the country's most exclusive religious retirement center, ideal for observant Jews who wish to spend their later years in a religious environment. There are 150 apartments, from 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 rooms. Information: (011) (972) (2) 531-8318.

*Ad Mea Veesrim Rishon Lezion in Rishon Lezion has a large number of communal rooms, a fully equipped gym, a swimming pool and a physician in attendance 24 hours a day. There are 160 residential units of one-, two- and three-room apartments. Information: (011) (972) (8) 944-5544.

*Beit Gil Paz in Kfar Saba was founded by a group of former Israeli air force officers as a means to retire among friends. But the center also welcomes residents with no military background. Beit Gil Paz includes a gym, swimming pool, mini-market and laundry facilities. The 240 apartments are from one to three rooms. Information: (011) (972) (9) 764-2222.

*Mishan Afeka is situated in Afeka, one of northern Tel Aviv's most prestigious neighborhoods just east of Ramat Aviv Gimmel. There are 175 apartments of one, 1-1/2 and two rooms. Information: (011) (972) (3) 645 1333.

*Ganei Omer is located on a 25-acre estate in the desert city of Omer, near Beersheva. It is unique in that residents own their houses and pay a monthly fee to cover grounds maintenance and 24-hour security services. The grounds include communal rooms, a restaurant and a cafeteria. There are 212 houses of two and three rooms. Information: (011) (972) (7) 646-0988.

*Ahuzat Rishonim in Rishon Lezion is one of the largest and most spacious centers in Israel. The grounds boast a gym, swimming pool, restaurants and communal rooms. In addition to beautiful lodgings and facilities, the price of a unit covers all medical expenses, including a nursing home. There are 321 residential units, including two- to three-room apartments. Information: (011) (972) (3) 953-1170.