Zev Stub founded Janglo as a free Yahoo Group in 2001, and gradually built it into Israel's largest online community for English speakers.
We recently checked in with Zev to get his insight on traveling to Israel and what vacation property managers need to know to make their rentals more appealing to visitors. Here's what he shared:
Can you tell me about Janglo? What is the mission of your site? How has it evolved since you started it?
I started Janglo as a free community service on Yahoo Groups back in 2001, without any thoughts of building it into the empire it has become today. Even though we are now one of the main advertising channels and sources of information for English speakers in Jerusalem, my first priority has always been the same as when I created it: To help English-speaking immigrants succeed in building their lives in Israel.
People today come to Janglo to find jobs, housing, sales, a reliable business directory, community announcements, advice and much more. Even though more and more people are using Facebook these days for those tasks, we've always offered more value, and that continues to pay off.
Where are you from originally? How did you come to settle in Israel?
I grew up in Chicago, and moved to Israel in summer 2000, right after I graduated college. Ever since I'd spent a year studying in Israel after high school, I was sure that I wanted to be a part of the saga of the Jews' return to our ancient homeland. While earning a living is usually a lot easier in America than Israel, my family and our friends live much more meaningful and fulfilling lives here than we would have in the States.
What do you love about life in Israel? Why should vacationers consider visiting?
The ancient land of Israel is frequently referred to now as the "start-up nation," because our high-tech scene is one of the most vibrant in the world. The juxtaposition of the ancient and the new and hyper-modern is everywhere here, and part of the daily fabric of life. Restaurants in ancient cisterns, biblical spirituality in the workplace, the melting-pot of 2,000 years of Jewish diaspora in an ancient city where so many people are simultaneously new immigrants yet deeply attached to our heritage. The challenges of Israel's diverse population are what frequently appear on the news, but the rewards of our diversity are what make life here so rewarding.
What destinations in Israel are most in-demand for travelers right now?
People typically talk about Israel's two largest cities - Jerusalem and Tel Aviv - as a "yin and yang" of sorts. Jerusalem is the ancient city of tradition and religion, while Tel Aviv is a non-stop beach city, super-liberal, and bustling with startups. More recently, Jerusalem has been forging its own path in technology and culture and is gaining international recognition in those areas. In Jerusalem specifically, the Mahane Yehuda Market - once a disheveled place where locals would go to buy cheap meat and vegetables before the Sabbath - has become regentrified with some of the city's hottest new restaurants and bars.
What are visitors to Israel looking for when it comes to vacation rental properties?
More so than most places, Israeli communities tend to form around defined political, religious or social demographics. That means, for example, there are ultra-orthodox neighborhoods where a secular traveler would feel very uncomfortable and Palestinian areas where Jewish visitors might feel endangered. So the first rule is to make sure you know what kind of area you are staying in!
A fair portion of travelers here are Jews who visit somewhat frequently, either to reconnect to heritage, support causes or visit grandchildren living here. Those types know their way around their cities and have the people and neighborhoods they like to visit.
I imagine that large family tourism is more common in Israel than other parts, so an apartment than can sleep eight-plus people is at a premium value.
The most exciting times to visit Israel are around the Jewish holidays. Passover (spring) and Sukkot (Autumn) in particular are non-stop festivals where everyone is out on the streets enjoying. These times are also when every attraction is super-crowded and traffic is impossible, so make sure you bring an extra supply of patience!
How can vacation rental property owners make their properties more appealing to those visiting Israel?
I think one of the most basic distinctions of apartments here would be renovated or non-renovated. Most apartments in the big cities can easily be put into one category or the other within seconds of walking in. While many old apartments are cozy and comfortable, apartments built or renovated in the last 15 years are completely different, aesthetically and functionally.
Air conditioning and central heating are not always a given here, and when my wife was recently looking for a vacation apartment for her parents staying here in February, making sure that the apartment would be warm and cozy was one of her biggest concerns. Homes are often poorly insulated here, so the heating situation can make or break a trip.
Especially in Jerusalem, where many travelers are religious, having a kitchen that is kosher is a big plus for Jews who follow the traditional dietary laws. It's probably a good idea to be upfront about what visitors can expect in terms of kosher dishes.
What should property managers/owners include in their listings to increase the likelihood that their properties are rented? What have you found makes for a noteworthy listing?
Again, it's worth noting whether the apartment is kosher and whether it has holiday-specific amenities like a "sukkah balcony" where religious visitors can eat outdoors on the Sukkot holiday. It can also be helpful to mention proximity to kosher restaurants, synagogues, and nearby attractions.
And again, good heating and cooling are essential!
In general, good listings are clear, stating what the apartment offers without hiding anything or making misleading claims. In your listing's headline, make sure to state the neighborhood, the number of rooms, price and exactly one adjective - luxurious, modern, great location, etc.
On the flip side, what doesn't seem to be as effective when it comes to property listings?
Bad pictures, poorly-written headlines or text. The first things the customer will see is your headline and main picture, so if those aren't good, then you're not even in the ballgame.
What do you want visitors to Israel to know?
There are a lot of native English speakers from English speaking countries living in Israel, and in general, we are a very friendly bunch that loves to help. If you ask us a question that gives us a chance to tell about what we love about life here, you'll probably enjoy a long conversation, and maybe even get invited to a Shabbat dinner!
What travel news or trends are you following in Israel right now? Why do they interest you?
While Israel always lives under the shadow or terror, recent years have been the quietest in our country's history. Tensions are *relatively* low now, and we hope they'll stay that way.
Meanwhile, culture is exploding here! I recently saw an article saying that Israel's restaurant scene is one of the best in the world. Jerusalem has massive music and culture festivals throughout the year, many very good. Tel Aviv's nightlife is legendary, and its considered one of the top LGBTQ travel destinations in the world. Outside the cities, it sometimes feels like everyone runs a winery or a dairy farm where you can relax and enjoy beautiful locally-produced delicacies.
Go on a food tour, wine tour, heritage tour, architecture tour, or political tour, or just wander around the city. You'll love it!
Looking for ideas to showcase all that makes your vacation property sing - whether it's proximity to great culture or unique amenities like a Kosher kitchen? Download our eBook: Creative Marketing Tips for Vacation Rental Owners.