From hospital to hotel

Plans are in the works for the historic Shaare Zedek building on Jaffa Road.

The Shaare Zedek hospital's building (photo credit: SIR KISS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The Shaare Zedek hospital's building
Within less than three months – by March 31, to be exact – the renovated building on Jaffa Road that houses the management offices of the Israel Broadcasting Authority will be evacuated.
According to sources at the municipality and the Jerusalem Development Authority, the building, which was originally built as Shaare Zedek, the first Jewish hospital in Jerusalem outside the Old City, may be turned into a boutique hotel within the framework of renewal projects for the city center.
Shaare Zedek, the city’s first modern hospital, was built in 1890, its path smoothed by a special permit from the Ottoman governor. The structure was inaugurated in 1902. The director, Prof.
Moshe Wallach (who held the position until 1947), was a haredi man who had studied medicine in Germany before establishing himself in Jerusalem. Almost a century later, in 1980, the new Shaare Zedek Medical Center was inaugurated at the corner of Ramat Beit Hakerem and Bayit Vagan.
Shaare Zedek was built because Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews didn’t trust each other in regard to obtaining the best medical treatment.
There were already three Jewish hospitals in the city: Rothschild; Bikur Holim (founded in the second half of the 19th century and moved in 1925 to Straus Street); and Misgav Ladach (built in 1959). All three were built inside the Old City, with Shaare Zedek being the first outside the walls, on Jaffa Road.
Bikur Holim was founded and managed by a Sephardi organization, and Ashkenazi Jews felt mistreated, so the decision was made to establish a modern hospital of their own. The building, planned by German architect Theodor Zandell, comprised two wings connected in the middle by a third part, surrounded by a garden in which medicinal herbs were grown, with its own wells and 20 cows that provided dairy products for the staff and patients.
Shaare Zedek was also the site of the first political murder in Israel. In the early morning of June 30, 1924, Jacob Israel De Haan – a Jew from the Netherlands who had come to the Land of Israel as a Zionist but became haredi and an extreme anti-Zionist – was shot. De Haan had planned to go to London the following day with a delegation of the Eda Haredit to testify against the Zionist Movement and try to cancel the Balfour Declaration of 1917 – a project that in the eyes of the haredim gave official standing to the Zionists. The murder has never been solved, but most scholars and researchers of the time agreed that two prominent figures in the Hagana – Avraham Tehomi (who later became a founder of the Irgun Zva’i Leumi) and Avraham Giora – shot the three bullets that killed De Haan.
Since 1980 the beautiful Shaare Zedek building had been abandoned, despite its being classified as a historical structure designated for preservation, as it served as collateral for the loans the hospital management had to take from five banks to meet its financial needs. In May 1995 the rights to the estate were given to the IBA, which began a major renovation project within the limitations of its classification, and moved its management offices there. And now comes the next stage in the building’s history, with its being handed over to the Israel Lands Authority as part of the large operation to refurbish the IBA.
Deputy Mayor Ofer Berkowitz, who has been deeply involved in the IBA’s decision to relocate after closing down and reopening as a new authority, says his major concern was to prevent the IBA from moving out of Jerusalem.
Following heavy pressure from Mayor Nir Barkat and Berkowitz, as well as other considerations, the new IBA will debut on March 31 and remain in the city.
Berkowitz explains that the old Shaare Zedek building was a major factor in the attempts to find an alternative solution for the location of the new IBA.
“We presented plans for the future functions of the building; one of them has been approved and is, in fact, a combination solution to find a use for the building and another location for the IBA in Jerusalem. The plan approved by the Interior Ministry’s district planning committee includes a boutique hotel and spaces for business and leisure in the compound,” he says.