Israeli history photo of the week: Palace hotel

By LENNY BEN-DAVID
November 22, 2012 11:43

A Library of Congress collection of photographs that document Israel before the creation of the state.

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Israeli history photo of the week: Palace hotel . (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)

The Library of Congress has recently digitalized a collection of over 10,000 photographs, taken by the "American Colony" in Jerusalem, a group of Christian utopians who lived in Jerusalem between 1881 and the 1940s. The photographers returned to the US, and bequeathed their massive collection to the Library of Congress in 1978. The collection includes Winston Churchill's visit to Jerusalem, Jewish expulsions from the Old City during Arab riots, and the building of Tel Aviv.

When the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin el Husseini built the Palace Hotel in 1929 he spared no cost. After renovating the Muslim sites on the Haram el Sharif (Temple Mount), he sought a palatial luxury hotel for visiting rulers of the Muslim and Arab world. He had no compunction about using funds from the Muslim religious trust.

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Early in the construction, one of the Jewish contractors wrote in his memoirs, workers discovered buried human remains, apparently from an ancient section of the Mamilla Muslim cemetery across the road. Husseini instructed the contractor to quickly and quietly rebury the bones lest his political rivals discover the desecration. But they did find out, and a nasty public relations and religious court battle ensued.

The hotel was unable to compete with the plush King David Hotel a few blocks away and closed its doors in 1935. The building was expropriated by the British Mandate Government.

After the British departed Palestine in 1948 and Israel's creation, the Palace Hotel became Israel’s Ministry of Industry and Trade. Today, the historic building is under renovation and construction with plans to reopen as the 5-star "Palace Jerusalem --Waldorf-Astoria."

More photos can be viewed at www.israeldailypicture.com


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