Five years after former US president George W. Bush and his delegation stayed at
Jerusalem’s most famous hotel – twice in a six-month period – the King David’s
staff is again sparing no expense to accommodate the leader of the free
Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
Quarantined by enormous white tents to obstruct public view of the
grounds, with a manned metal detector placed near the front door, the
internationally- renowned hotel appeared more exclusive than ever, as its staff
awaited US President Barack Obama’s arrival.
“As of Wednesday morning, no
outside guests can enter [the hotel] other than members of the US delegation,
Israeli officials and hotel staff,” said Sheldon Ritz, deputy general manager
and director of the King David’s food and beverage division.
with several other senior hotel-staff members, will remain on call for the
duration of the president’s stay.
“We have to be available 24/7 for any
requests – that’s why I have a bed in my office,” he said. “Even if he wants
something at 4 a.m., I need to be ready.”
Indeed, Ritz, said the hotel
will soon transform into a “mini-White House.”
“The whole hotel will be
taken by US officials and we’re staying here to provide them room service
24-hours a day, as well as ongoing use of our restaurants, banquet facilities,
gym, pool and all other amenities.”
Ritz said Obama’s delegation will
fill all 233 of the hotel’s rooms, adding that he was told the president’s total
group will occupy 1,100 rooms throughout Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, making his one
of the largest foreign delegations ever to visit Israel.
He added that
Obama’s advanced delegation checked in on March 6 to vet the hotel and map-out
the president’s itinerary from beginning to end.
“As of lunchtime today,
with the exception of the American delegation, all guests have checked out,”
Ritz said. “And starting this evening, the hotel will be on lockdown and will
remain that way until Friday, when [Obama] checks out.”
He added that
surrounding roads near the hotel, including the heavily-trafficked King David
Road, will be closed down, beginning early Wednesday morning.
was also on duty at the hotel during Bush’s two stays in 2008, said that Obama’s
visit should be less complicated than his predecessor’s.
stayed here in 2008 it was very different because he came during two very busy
periods and we had full occupancy, which meant we had to vacate 200 rooms each
time he came,” he said.
“This time the president is coming during a
quieter period, so we only had to vacate half that amount.
added, the timing of Obama’s visit presented some challenges.
making it difficult this time is we’re in the middle of preparing the hotel for
Passover,” he said. “The day of his arrival everything will be kosher [for the
holiday]. We even bought him a special set of kosher plates.”
which suite the president will stay in, Ritz said Obama has his pick of the top
three, all of which normally cost around $4,000 per night.
“We’re not yet
sure which suite he will reside in, but his choices include The Jerusalem Suite,
the Royal Suite or the Presidential Suite, depending on which one he finds most
comfortable,” Ritz said.
Regarding the hotel’s menu, Ritz said nothing
has been significantly changed, although the president is expected to come with
his personal chefs, who will work in tandem with the hotel’s chefs to prepare
most of his food. Additionally, Ritz has been told to keep the kitchen open at
all times to keep Obama’s staff – some of whom will operate on US time – well
“I already have orders for Wednesday and Thursday to prepare
hamburgers and pizzas throughout the night for members of his Administration who
will be working around the clock to keep up with things in [Washington] DC,” he
Ritz said US Secretary of State John Kerry is arriving Tuesday
night, making him the first significant US official to arrive.
the same choices of suites as the president,” he said.
Overall, Ritz said
the hotel’s staff is better prepared now than it was in 2008.
it’s easier this time because we’ve gained a lot of experience since Bush came,
so we have a better sense of expectations.”
Asked if he would meet Obama,
“I met Bush last time, so hopefully I’ll have the
opportunity to meet Obama as well,” he said, adding, “and get a photo taken with