Panama's Israeli Mecca

Beach Town of Pedasi Is Developed by Sabras

Just Beachy: Israeli developer Avihai David is building a beach town in Panama.
Courtesy Dekel Development
Just Beachy: Israeli developer Avihai David is building a beach town in Panama.

By Lomi Kriel

Published January 08, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
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“We came to Panama, and we spent a year scouring every beach and every town, and we didn’t find any place that made us really excited until we found Pedasi,” says Museri, a tall, burly 34-year-old who spent nine years in the Israeli army and grew up on a kibbutz. “As soon as we woke up in the morning it was clear. This was it.”

At the time, there wasn’t much there. The prominent French architect, Gilles Saint-Gilles, fell in love with the region in 1997 and constructed a multi-million-dollar estate for himself and his wife. By 2002, Saint-Gilles had begun working on several residential development projects.

When the Israelis arrived, the roads were still poor, the infrastructure terrible. But they saw the waves, the world-class fishing, the whales and dolphins and turtles that frolic here and knew they had stumbled onto something magical. It wasn’t just the untouched natural beauty, but also the character of the place.

The Azuero Peninsula, encompassing Pedasi, is almost mythological in Panama’s psyche. It’s home to some of the most revered national festivals — no place in the country celebrates Carnaval, the four days of hedonism before Ash Wednesday, as passionately. Beautiful traditional clothing is still made here, as is the national liquor, distilled from sugarcane and called seco.

Spanish-colonial plazas abound. Yet remarkably, until recently, it remained a secret to much of the outside world; the locals are still friendly to tourists, curious and kind. Explains David: “The best way to tell what a place is like is when you’re surfing there. In every place in the world there is competition for waves: in South Africa, in El Salvador, in Australia, you name it. But when you surf in Pedasi it’s like, ‘Come share the waves with me.’ There’s good vibes in the water. It’s very tranquilo. That’s what the people are like too.”

The friends already had formed Dekel Development in Costa Rica. As the global economy shattered in 2008 they began buying property in Pedasi.

“I was really a little bit in shock,” says Rudasevski’s brother, Jonathan, one of Dekel’s first investors. “I’d never thought about Panama before in my life. But they were so excited.”

One of their first projects was Andromeda Ocean Estates — “just a cornfield when we got there,” David says — that today is a luxury beachfront residential community, one of Pedasi’s first. Forty percent of the development, which offers more than 200 residential and commercial lots, is sold.


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