Jerusalem's 'nightmare labyrinth': Inside the Clal Building

Jerusalemites share their horror stories about one of the most infamous landmarks found in Israel's capital* "That place is a nightmare. It is literally a s***show."

 INSIDE THE ever-more confusing Clal Building. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
INSIDE THE ever-more confusing Clal Building.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

“Walking through the doors of the Clal Building, I felt like I was ripped out of Jerusalem and brought to the bowels of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. The walls looked like they were made in a demented 1970s architect’s fever dream,” noted Talya Dahan, a new resident of Jerusalem.

This is just one of the many colorful descriptors people have had of one of the city’s most infamous landmarks. 

Famously, architect David Kroyanker called the building an “architectural failure,” and it is hard to blame him.

A recent thread on the popular Facebook group Secret Jerusalem saw many Jerusalemites share their own horror stories, though supernatural they may not be, in their experiences traversing the winding labyrinthine halls of a building that could be likened to an eldritch location out of a cosmic horror novel.

And that is no exaggeration.

 The spiraling atrium of Jerusalem's Clal Building. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) The spiraling atrium of Jerusalem's Clal Building. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“I’ve always referred to it as the building from The Twilight Zone,” wrote Nomi Roth Elbert on Secret Jerusalem. 

“Talk about parking in one side of the building and going through endless tunnels and different levels to get to the building and then, if you are lucky, eventually [you] will find your car,” wrote Varda Frank on the same post.

Indeed, the mall is often seen as being impossible to navigate – something that has recently become a lot worse.

As noted on Secret Jerusalem by post creator Shimshon Sam Leshinsky, the building has recently added new floors and renumbered everything. 

What was once the entrance is now the third floor and the second floor has somehow become the ninth. The top floor, once the 14th floor, is now the 21st floor. Needless to say, it has transformed an already difficult to navigate building into an even greater exercise in frustration.

To make it even worse, while one can input the floor number outside the elevator, you can’t on the inside. The buttons don’t work and they haven’t been renumbered.

Attempts have been made to update and renovate it, but, as noted on Secret Jerusalem by Madeline Abraham, “Putting lipstick on a pig won’t change the fact that it is still a pig.”

But the best description of the building might also be the simplest. 

“That place is a nightmare,” explained Nechama Eitan. “It is literally a s***show.” 

Eitan worked at a clinic in the building during her national service. “A good part of my job was just directing people how to get to the clinic, because no one can navigate that building,” she said. 

“So when I’m seeing people say it’s impossible now to navigate the Clal Building, I say, it’s not because they added floors. It’s always been like that.”