Inaugurating the Orient

The Orient Hotel, which took more than four years to construct, and still requires a few finishing touches, is certainly one of the most spacious in the capital.

AN AERIAL view of the Old City of Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AN AERIAL view of the Old City of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
THE BIG question is whether Julian Lewis, the president and owner of the Isrotel Hotel chain, chairman of its board of directors, will do for Jerusalem what his late father, David Lewis, did for Eilat. London-born David Lewis, the quintessential English gentleman who died in August 2011, opened his first hotel in Israel, the King Solomon , in 1984. At the time, it was the largest and fanciest hotel in Eilat. It was the first of nine hotels in Eilat that are links in the Isrotel chain.
The 18th Isrotel, the Orient, which is bordered by the German Colony’s Emek Refaim Street on one side and Bethlehem Road on the other, was inaugurated last Sunday night with the affixing of the mezuza by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall. The fact that men and women were sitting together and that several of the women had sleeveless tops or dresses, didn’t seem to bother him. Nonetheless, out of respect for his sensitivities, the a capella choir, which goes under the name of Kippalive, was strictly male and confined itself to songs about Jerusalem.
The Orient Hotel, which took more than four years to construct, and still requires a few finishing touches, is certainly one of the most spacious in the capital. Whether staying at the Orient or just visiting, going to the 10th floor where the rooftop patio surrounding the infinity pool, offers panoramic views of the city in all directions, is an absolute must.
As impressive as the view is by daylight; at night it’s pure magic. It was suggested to Mayor Nir Barkat by one of the guests at the opening that if he went up to the tenth floor and looked down at Emek Refaim, he would change his mind about running the light rail through there.
Barkat grinned and replied: “Or I might decide to have two tracks…” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said that his ministry was now looking at the possibility of having a cable car transport people from the hotel to the Old City and the Western Wall. Emphasizing that this was the 18th Isrotel project, and the first in Jerusalem, Julian Lewis stressed the importance of Jerusalem, and said that he was convinced that in the coming years more than a million foreign tourists would go through the doors of the Orient and become ambassadors for Israel’s capital. When asked later by this columnist what his next project in Jerusalem would be, he said he couldn’t talk about it yet, but confirmed that there is definitely something in the works.
Master of ceremonies for the opening was veteran radio man Menachem Perry, who has been associated with Isrotel for more than 20 years, but who was thrilled to be introducing the speakers at this particular event as compared to anything he’s done with Isrotel in the past, because Perry is a Jerusalemite. After working for Israel Radio for 42 years, and occasionally hosting television programs as well, Perry retired from the Israel Broadcasting Authority just over three years ago, but remains a broadcaster. These days, he can be heard on Radio Jerusalem.
THE LESSON of Tisha Be’av is to refrain from humiliating other people and to treat all human beings with respect and with concern for their sensitivities. That’s one of the reasons that Meir Panim which started off as a small restaurant behind the Central Bus Station, providing free, nutritious meals for people who could not afford to pay, was always known as a restaurant and not a soup kitchen. Founded well over a decade ago by Rabbi Dudi Zilbershlag and his wife Rivka in memory of their son Meir, the purpose was to brighten the lives of Jerusalem’s poor, especially the children, by providing hot meals free of charge on a daily basis. Within five years Meir Panim had expanded to include not only restaurants but a network of relief centers providing household goods and other amenities for people in need.
At the restaurants, diners are served by volunteers, and are treated like customers in any regular restaurant so that their dignity remains intact.
During the nine-day period leading up to Tisha Be’av, additional volunteers through the organization of Israel 365, which is dedicated to promoting the beauty and religious significance of the Land of Israel 365 days a year, additional volunteers have been and will be serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 12 noon at the Meir Panim restaurant at 78 Yirmiyahu Street, behind the Central Bus Station. Among the volunteers on Monday, July 31, will be Deputy Minister and former Israel ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who has previously reached out to lone soldiers. When he first came to Israel, the American-born Oren was a lone soldier himself, and understands what it means to be be away from home and family. Now, he’s reaching out to Israel’s poor.