Although they do not cite it as the guideline for their business activities, Hasid Brothers, one of the leading property development companies in Jerusalem, most definitely operates in accordance with Psalm 137:
“If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
Hasid Brothers, which specializes in luxury apartment complexes, works solely in Israel’s capital. During half a century of involvement in the building of new neighborhoods and upgrading existing ones through its various projects, the company has never been tempted to expand beyond Jerusalem and its immediate environs.
But it has expanded its portfolio to include hotels. The first hotel venture, the Theatron Hotel in Jerusalem’s Talbiye neighborhood, officially opened in June, after going through a soft opening period with members of the extensive Hasid family, and then with a large group of journalists, some of whom came with spouses, parents or colleagues.
In both cases, Sharon Hasid, who has taken over from his father, Zion, who founded the company in 1973, asked to be notified of any flaws in amenities, service, accommodation or food. He aims to make the hotel, which is the first of five such projects, as perfect as possible.
Management is under the MGallery global luxury hotel brand. The general manager is Sheldon Ritz, who was previously general manager of the Vert Hotel, and before that for many years in charge of foreign delegations and diplomatic events at the King David Hotel.
The story of Jerusalem's Theatron Hotel
The Theatron Hotel took its name from its location. It is directly across the road from the Jerusalem Theater, with which according to Ritz, the hotel has already entered into cooperative arrangements.
The urban renewal construction craze that has overtaken Israel includes many hotels. Some operate under international brand names, and quite a large number under Israeli brand names. There are small boutique hotels which give guests a feeling of intimacy, and there are large, multi-story luxury hotels that offer almost every conceivable amenity.
In addition, there are relatively small hotels that are larger than boutique but are between four and eight floors high, have a friendly ambiance, and are often created around a theme.
The Theatron Jerusalem Hotel Residence & Spa Mgallery falls into that category. Though not located in either of the city’s two main hotel belts, it is within easy walking distance of places such as the President’s Residence; Hansen House, which features cultural and artistic activities and a popular dairy restaurant; the Museum for Islamic Art; the Israel Democracy Institute; and the First Station Compound.
The project, which is situated on private land – as distinct from church land on which so many buildings have been erected – took a very long time to complete. The time factor was not attributable to bureaucracy, explains Sharon Hasid, but rather to the company’s attention to detail.
This is perhaps most obvious in the impressive synagogue, with its see-through women’s gallery divided from the men’s section by an ornate grille. The ceiling is ringed with spotlights to ensure that every congregant is able to clearly see the text in the prayer books, which are edged in gold and covered in white leather embossed with gold. The seats are solid and extremely well padded for ultimate comfort.
The ark is furnished with Torah scrolls. At the opening ceremony of the hotel, the ark was consecrated by Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar, the Sephardi chief rabbi of Jerusalem and former chief rabbi of Israel. Also in attendance at the ceremony was Rabbi Eliahu Abergel, head of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, as well as the extended Hasid family and many of their business colleagues.
Another aspect of detail in the hotel was finding a way to combine the architectural traditions of Jerusalem with modernity. This was accomplished by creating one wall in the public areas in Jerusalem stone and combining it with a muted color scheme of off-white, beige, old gold and brown.
The color scheme is repeated in the guest rooms, but without the Jerusalem stone.
The journalists who participated in the soft opening agreed among themselves that the mattresses were the most comfortable that they had ever experienced. Although the majority of bathrooms have shower stalls but no bath tub, the stalls are spacious, and the water pressure is very strong. There is an option of a hand-held shower for women who don’t want to get their hair wet, and an overhead shower for people who enjoy a heavy downpour. The towels are extra large, thick and super soft. The gold-edged bathrobes are also very soft and luxuriant.
Amenities include an indoor pool, a well-equipped gym, a yoga room, a Clarins spa and Turkish bath.
Some of the rooms include a patio with a boardwalk deck, a sofa that comfortably seats four, two armchairs and a sunshade.
Among the extras in the rooms are a hair dryer, ironing board, iron, shoe horn, clothes brush and a sewing kit with threaded needles.
Point of disclosure: When talking to Ritz when the hotel was still under construction, I, who can’t thread a needle, despite the fact that my mother was an expert needlewoman, asked him about sewing kits. He assured me that there would be sewing kits in every guest room.
“But will they have threaded needles?” I persisted, and told him that whenever I found such kits in hotels, I stole them. Realizing that no guest should have to waste time trying to thread a needle in order to sew on a button that had come loose or to fix an unraveled hem, Ritz agreed to supply threaded needles.
I now have seven kits, which will enable me to sew hems and buttons that have been waiting for years.
Foodwise, we were overwhelmed. The bar in the lobby lounge was piled with sandwiches, pastries and cookies, in addition to coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages. The hotel grinds its own coffee beans.
In the evening, as we sat in the dining room, the food just kept coming, with plenty of options for the vegetarians among us. And for those who were not, fish, lamb, roast beef, turkey and an array of side dishes were in abundance.
The buffet the following morning was a vegetarian’s delight, though there was a platter of smoked salmon, and another of tuna salad. There were also assorted egg offerings, which some vegetarians eat. Included were two kinds of shakshuka, omelets, scrambled, sunny side up and boiled eggs. Plus a selection of sweet, savory and bland items to suit every palate.
The hotel has family suites and presidential suites. The latter are accessible via a private elevator in the underground garage which holds 700 cars.
There are several members of the Hasid family employed at the hotel because the family believes in hands-on understanding of its projects. There must be members of the family who are familiar with the hotel industry not merely from a theoretical standpoint but through engagement in a variety of roles within the hotel.
To anyone who wonders whether it was a good idea to build a hotel in this particular location, it should be remembered that the prestigious Genesis Prize has more than once been awarded at glittering functions at the Jerusalem Theater, and overseas guests had to come to the event by taxi or special bus. But now visitors from abroad attending any such function at the Jerusalem Theater can stay at the Theatron and simply walk across the road or via the bridge that enables avoidance of traffic.
It’s becoming increasingly popular in Israel for investors in hotels to build a luxury residential complex alongside the hotel, offering all the hotel services and amenities to buyers of apartments.
That’s also what the Hasid Brothers have done. The apartments range in size from 170 square meters to 180 square meters. The residents will likewise find it convenient to simply cross the road to get to the Jerusalem Theater for concerts, plays, art exhibitions and other events.
The Hasid family, led by Iyov Hasid, came to Israel from Iran in 1963. In 1967, they embarked on their first project, but the company as such was formed some years later. Iyov Hasid’s final request was that his children and grandchildren build Jerusalem with dignity, honesty and reliability, while maintaining the beauty of the capital of the Jewish people.
Today, three generations of the Hasid family are honoring that request. ■