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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

“We were doing it all,” says Museri. “We were buying land, we were dealing with zoning, we were handling architects, we were putting in electricity, sewage systems, we were doing the sales, property management, everything.”

They roped in friends back home: On one trip to Tel Aviv, Rudasevski reconnected with Natalie Libert, whom he’d had a crush on since high school. He convinced her to follow. She helped design their coffee shop, Pedasito, which quickly transformed into a bustling hotel and restaurant.

“I fell in love instantly,” she says of Pedasi (and presumably feels similarly about Rudasevski; the two are marrying in May). “It’s a really special place.”

On another trip back home, Museri had a spectacular massage. He offered the masseuse a job in Pedasi; today she runs a spa there. Rudasevski’s army buddy, 29-year-old Adi Shlush, came to visit. He promptly packed up all his stuff and moved to Panama, too.

“I saw the opportunity here,” he says. Panama, with its 10 percent annual economic growth, dollar-based economy, and relatively stable government, has sought to entice foreign businesses and visitors. The government makes it relatively simple to maintain residency and work permits and offers tourists free health insurance for 30 days. Last year, about 2 million visitors came to this country of barely 3 million people. The New York Times rated it 2012’s best place to visit.

But it’s not just that, Shlush says: “I feel comfortable here.”

There are about 8,000 Jews in Panama, and Jewish immigration here has tripled in the past two decades, according to the World Jewish Congress, an international federation of Jewish groups. The organization notes Panama is also the only country outside of Israel to have had two Jewish presidents in the 20th century: Max Shalom Delvalle, in 1969, and Eric Delvalle Maduro, from 1987-1988.

“There’s a big Jewish community here,” Shlush says. “We have a very good group. We’re like family.”

Today Dekel has about 12 projects in the Pedasi region — all in various stages of development — including an eco-lodge, Pedasi’s first large-scale shopping center, another giant resort community, a bakery, the hotel, a coffee shop and a wine bar. More is planned. It all raises the question: aren’t the friends endangering the very qualities they say they love about Pedasi, the untouched beauty, the simplicity?

No, says Museri. He notes that though their zoning permits allow them to build seven-story buildings, none are higher than three; most are just one level. They say they are going beyond environmental stipulations, incorporating twice the amount of green space than required, for instance, and using the highest quality sewage systems available.

“Pedasi is one of the most amazing places in the world,” David says. “We want to keep the nature as it is.”

Moreover, by now, most of the beachfront property has been sold and is under development: “It’s already happening,” Museri says. “We’re just trying to do it well.”

Lomi Kriel’s work has appeared in the Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald and the Houston Chronicle, among other publications. She lives in Panama City.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.