The reactions of friends and acquaintances when I told them I had been invited
to a newly reopened hotel in Nazareth were fascinating. Nearly all the Jewish
Israelis dismissed the location, which does not jump to mind as a major holiday
destination, while the foreign non- Jews couldn’t believe my luck.
turns out, the Golden Crown Hotel caters to everybody: During the two nights I
spent there toward the end of August, it was fully booked with a mix of tour
groups coming to visit the Christian holy sites of Nazareth and Israelis looking
for an affordable, family-friendly hotel.
There are also facilities
suitable for visiting businesspeople and conferences, but I didn’t see any
evidence of such guests during my stay. Some of the rooms are also suitable for
Many of the Israeli guests were lastminute bookings,
including those who had to change plans after Ashkelon and other sites on the
Mediterranean came under missile fire. This was a stark reminder that while the
residents of Nazareth I spoke to were interested in promoting coexistence,
however awkward it might be at times, there are still factions in the Middle
East who hate to see people living normal lives and enjoying
Some of the guests I spoke to, who had come from Jerusalem,
Beit Shemesh and Petah Tikva, were looking for an all-inclusive or package deal
in which the pool, spa, fitness room and activities for children were the main
focus. Others were using the hotel as an excellent base for trips in the North,
including nearby Tzipori and Beit She’arim. Hence, while pilgrims toured the
Basilica of the Annunciation and the “Nazareth that Jesus knew” or traveled
farther afield to Megiddo (Armageddon) and Mount Tabor, Jewish day trippers were
brushing up on the talmudic period and the life and times of Judah Hanasi or
biking and hiking along an attractive section of the Israel National
Anybody who doesn’t mind crowds can enjoy the Old City’s bustling
shuk, and Kfar Tavor offers a charming marzipan museum with workshops, if you’re
already in the area.
The full tourism potential of Nazareth and the
surrounding region is only just being realized, and the city is undergoing a
welcome growth spurt.
The Golden Crown, located along the Mount of the
Precipice, on the outskirts of the city, is part of this development.
is also the perfect place to appreciate the full beauty of the Jezreel Valley, a
somewhat neglected destination despite its fascinating history from biblical to
contemporary times. The name Jezreel comes from the Hebrew for “God will sow,”
and its fertile farmland, surrounded by mountains, can be seen from almost every
room of the hotel. I have yet to decide what was more stunning, the daytime
vista or the sunset, which I watched from the balcony, although the breeze –
atop the mountain – stopped being gentle at that point. The landscape also
provides an incredible backdrop for the swimming pool.
The food at the
hotel was plentiful and tasty, consisting of mainly Israeli-Mediterranean
dishes, with just enough Western fare for those who prefer it (or perhaps the
hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries were meant for the kids).
sign of the hotel’s mixed clientele: The kitchen is kosher (under the
supervision of the Upper Nazareth Rabbinate), and there are Shabbat elevators
and a synagogue. The hotel staff, friendly and helpful, spoke in Hebrew or
English with guests but chatted in Arabic among themselves.
attractive pool offers an anthropological study with many religious Jews,
Christian Arabs and Russian immigrants from Upper Nazareth.
Since it was
still Ramadan, the Muslims were largely absent, but the call to prayers by the
muezzins in the nearby mosques could be heard periodically – lending, I suspect,
another exotic touch to the experience of the Western guests.
consists of 243 rooms, including four suites, one of which was our home for two
nights. All the rooms were large but not as luxurious as promoted in the
publicity material (although I appreciated the fact that the suite had a
bathroom off the main bedroom and another toilet off the living
However, possibly due to the lack of staff during Ramadan, we
found the general maintenance and the cleaning service to be deficient, a
complaint echoed by other guests I spoke to.
And although it is billed as
a five-star hotel, it lacked some of the essential touches.
for example, were not delivered to guests’ rooms. A small number were provided
in the lobby, but they were not allowed to be removed.
however, was elegant by day and the pleasant venue for a mixed bag of
entertainment in the evenings. This ranged from a talent show for young guests
and a magic show for the whole family to latenight dancing for
All the guests I spoke to felt they received value for their
money. We also enjoyed our stay, although the hotel has a way to go before it
can live up to its five-star promise.
The view, location and friendly
atmosphere, however, mean it has great potential.
The Golden Crown is
still more of a diamond in the rough than the jewel in the crown, but with a
little more polish it could really shine.
The writer was the guest of the
Golden Crown Hotel in Nazareth (www.goldencrown.co.il).