real estate sept 12 88 .
(photo credit: Eyal Izhar)
In this house in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem neighborhood, the feeling of inner calm and tranquility is almost tangible. It's a fitting home for someone who recovered from a serious illness through natural healing and a healthy way of life. Sarah Hamo, who today runs "The Natural House" as a beautiful and luxurious guest house, exudes this inner peacefulness and so does her home.
"We were living in Ashkelon, not far from the power station, and I became desperately ill with lymphoma which spread to my liver at the age of 34," she tells me. She suffered terribly from the chemotherapy and quickly abandoned it for the natural healing method of the Scotland-based Kingston Clinic, which is a treatment based on good nutrition.
"My husband decided we should move to Jerusalem, but I only agreed if it would be Ein Kerem," says Sarah. After a year they found their 150-year-old Arab house and decided to turn it into a guest house to help with the upkeep.
"These old houses are very expensive to maintain," she explains. "They are very often damp and need renovating frequently so it seemed sensible to use it for making a living too."
Driving up the winding hilly streets, one finds the house set in a tranquil garden with sounds of trickling water and birdsong the only noise except for the occasional tolling of a bell from a nearby monastery. Inside, the house is cool and comfortable even on a sultrily hot day and with no air-conditioner working. Thanks to the thick walls - in some places two meters - the house is cool in summer and warm in winter.
Sarah takes me first to look at the two guest rooms. In the upstairs room a small kitchenette is attached, while in the lower room there is a complete kitchen. Both rooms are painted white - "it would have looked idiotic to put color on these walls," she says - but the fixtures and fittings bring splashes of color into the rooms. She makes great use of unusual brocades and other fabrics which she finds in the Old City and turns into throws and hangings. The light slate floor sets off the rich dÃ©cor perfectly.
The arched windows allow light to pour in through the delicate lace curtains, while the inner arches are turned into niches. Into these she has put built-in seating covered in a rich gold fabric, while wall niches are used for displaying unusual objects or as book shelves. Both rooms have splashes of red, orange or pink to relieve the overall white and beige, while bright ethnic rugs on the slate floor strike a cheerful note. Incense wafts gently into the air.
Outside in the garden there are several artworks, including sculptures by Yitzhak Hadani, while the sauna for the use of guests is also placed at the side of the restful garden.
The family's private quarters are similarly furnished, except that the couple's bedroom doubles as a library. At the entrance, the floor is made of glass tiles so one can see down into the storeroom below, and the idea was to give the basement natural light as well as providing an unusual floor finish. The arched entrance was once covered in plaster, but they scraped it all away to reveal the beautiful stones beneath. There they found the holes in the wall which had been covered up for decades and they turned them into niches to display Sarah's own artwork.
The area used for a kitchen was probably part of the outside of the original building and so does not have the arches, but was nevertheless built at the same height as the other rooms. The front of the cabinets is made of lattice-work metal from Sarah's husband's factory.
Down three steps and past a two-meter thick wall, the living-room floor is covered in a shaggy wool carpet with a selection of ethnic rugs, and the seating around the walls is upholstered in the same Old City brocades to which she often adds her own fringing. Several African masks and Buddhas sit in between art works by well-known artists and family members.
In 1990 Sarah Hamo published The Golden Path telling the story of how she pulled herself out of illness to lead a fruitful and healthy life.
My thanks to Pnina Ein-Mor of the Ein Kerem Legend company for telling me about this beautiful home.
Do you feel you own one of Israel's most beautiful homes? Please e-mail: