Elma is a hotel and arts complex in Zichron Ya’acov with unique architecture in a well-preserved building functioning as a living museum with art exhibits and concert halls. It is a luxury hotel with two swimming pools, a spa and lush green grounds featuring stunning views of the coastal plain with a great summer breeze!
ELMA, which stands for “Elstein Music and Art,” was established in the restored iconic building of the Mivtachim Convalescent Home, designed by renowned architect Ya’akov Rechter, who won the Israel Prize in 1972 for its design. Lily Elstein bought the building when it was slated to be demolished and in a complex and expensive effort that took years, she restored and refurbished the property entirely, preserving the special qualities of the original architecture, such as reproducing the original floor design.
The building’s architecture is extraordinary, merging into the contour of the mountain, with several unique shapes and large openings and windows that allow natural light into the building. The restoration included conservation of original elements as well as aspects of modern style.
The hotel is like a museum, with artwork everywhere, giving a spotlight to aspiring Israeli artists. The décor is modern and spectacular. The corridor features a changing art exhibition. There is a modern art exhibit in a box in the upper garden. We took time to roam around the building, exploring the architecture and artwork.
The grounds boast a handsomely groomed garden and a mountain-edge promenade, romantically lit at night, with many quiet semi-secluded corners and terraces overlooking the wonderful view. The weather is always pleasant in the summer evenings because of the elevation and the breeze wafting in from the sea.
The daily guided tour of the hotel grounds gives an overview of the history, architecture, artwork and vision of the area and the ELMA complex.
ELMA HAS two musical venues: the Concert Hall and “the Cube.” The Concert Hall is a modern 450-seat special acoustic performance hall featuring a moving stage and an under-stage orchestra space. In addition to many state-of-the-art features, it has a 1,414-pipe organ worth nearly NIS 2m., plus two Steinway Model D concert Grand pianos. Israeli and International artists play here on a regular basis and many productions, such as operas and classical concerts, are staged here.
In addition, there is “the Cube,” an informal performance hall with 150 seats and an inside bar. Various artists play here almost every day; the venue gives stage to young artists as well. The night we stayed at the Elma, we enjoyed a jazz concert by two talented beginner female artists.
The schedule of performances and concerts is available on Elma’s website.
ELMA’S ROOMS are spacious and beautifully appointed with artwork. Each room, spanning two older rooms, is like a studio suite with two balconies and a large bathroom. One part is where the bed is placed – facing the open view. In the other part is a modest living room with a sofa and desk, and a coffee corner with an espresso machine. The floor is wooden and there is a closet with a large safe deposit box. The bathroom is separated by glass doors – shower and toilet, leaving a large area in front of the mirror and basin area. We were slightly disappointed that there was no full bath there, but we were so busy in the spa that it did not bother us much.
We were quite happy in the room. The bed was very comfortable, the water flow in the shower was strong and we indulged in the Israeli fashionable Sabon toiletries, especially the shower oil. Everything here is controlled electronically, such as the central light and climate control. As we sat to have afternoon tea on the balcony of the room that was facing the coastline, the sea breeze was remarkable! The structure afforded us a pleasurable and serene sense of privacy.
The hotel also offers suites and villas.
ELMA HAS two swimming pools and a spa. The external seasonal pool is large and relatively shallow with a deck-edge. It had just opened for the season when we stayed there and the water was surprisingly warm and pleasant. I was able to swim laps, as the pool had marked lanes and it was around 25 meters long. The pool is surrounded by sun beds and has a great view of the coastal plain all the way to the Mediterranean!
The spa has a small but relatively lengthy deck-edge heated pool open year-round and allows some laps swimming. It has glass walls and it is stunning to sit there! There are also large hamam and spa rooms offering body treatments, and a well-equipped gym beckons.
LIKE EVERYTHING else in Elma, the main restaurant has a unique name and décor. The name, Oratorio, borrowed from the music world, is a large musical composition. The décor, designed by Baranowitz Kronenberg, is shaped to encourage social interaction. Oratorio is elegant; it has a library and a glass-doored 700-bottle wine cooler featuring local wines, spanning the internal wall of the restaurant. There is also an open terrace. There are different seating options for couples, families and groups, including a bar area and large tables.
The restaurant emphasizes fresh, quality local ingredients with a Mediterranean touch. We had dinner and breakfast at the restaurant. Dinner has a set menu for a fixed price that includes a self-service antipasti bar. The main courses and desserts are selected from the menu and are served to the table. Since we were in Elma during the middle of the week and there was relatively low occupancy, the antipasti bar was relatively small. When I say small, the selection was ample and just the way I like it – less but the best. Every item served there was excellent.
The bar included a broad range of antipasti vegetables, mushrooms, eggplant, smoked salmon, quality cold cuts, dips and a variety of fine breads. The main course menu had a rich selection of options, including different plates of meat, fish and vegan fare. We both ordered Beef Filet, which was exceptional, especially taking into consideration that it is kosher. It was served on five creams of vegetables, which was tasty and beautiful, like an art creation emphasizing the location’s theme. From the selection of desserts we picked a variety of Alfajores and a chocolate net. The latter was superb!
The buffet-style breakfast was one of the best breakfasts I have experienced in Israel. The variety of vegetables, antipasti, warm dishes, healthy choices and desserts was exceptional. Everything was so tasty that I couldn’t decide what to eat first. We also had freshly squeezed fruit juice and fine coffee.
The relatively new chef Ohad Levi does an exceptional job here; everything looks and tastes superb.
Oratorio operates as an independent restaurant, welcoming visitors from outside the hotel.
THE AREA of Zichron Ya’acov is rich with attractions and wineries, but there was so much to do in the hotel in term of activities, dining, art and music that we did not have a reason to leave the hotel. However, if you plan on a longer vacation, you can take advantage of the sites in the region.
The price for a double room at Elma starts from NIS 1,200 midweek and NIS 1,950 on weekends, breakfast included. During July and August, the third night is free. Hotel guests receive 10% to 50% discounts on concerts.
ELMA Arts Complex Luxury Hotel, 1 Yair St., Zichron Ya’acov. Website: elma-hotel.com, (04) 630-0111 Facebook: facebook.com/elmahotel The writer was a guest of the hotel.