A night at Jerusalem's newly-opened Theatron Hotel

The hotel is unabashedly Shabbat-observant, which makes sense given the presumed clientele visiting the Holy City.

 JERUSALEM’S NEW Theatron Hotel. (photo credit: ASSAF PINCHUK)
JERUSALEM’S NEW Theatron Hotel.
(photo credit: ASSAF PINCHUK)

The newly-opened Theatron Hotel, directly opposite the Jerusalem Theater in Israel’s capital, would seem a perfect opportunity to create a fun, themed property. A billowy stage curtain as you enter, a tight spotlight on the dessert station in the dining hall and the front desk staff dressed up like ticket-takers.

The architects and designers behind Theatron took a different approach, however, opting instead for refined elegance with understated pastels and touches of grace in gold and gray throughout.

That’s not a bad thing: The hotel, which started taking guest reservations this week, is a stylish, 5-star property with a chef’s restaurant, spa with treatment rooms, indoor pool with dry saunas, a yoga room, a state-of-the-art gym and 70 spotlessly clean rooms.

Still, a splash of staged nostalgia would have been welcome. Just look at the Cinema Hotel in Tel Aviv. Located on the site of the former Eden Cinema, the property is chock-a-block filled with paraphernalia, posters and equipment from the hotel’s glory days as a movie theater.

The Elma Arts Hotel in Zichron Yaakov features a rotating display of artwork, as does Tel Aviv’s Artist Hotel. The NYX hired a graffiti artist to spice up the stairwells.

 JERUSALEM’S NEW Theatron Hotel. (credit: ASSAF PINCHUK)
JERUSALEM’S NEW Theatron Hotel. (credit: ASSAF PINCHUK)

To its colorful credit, Theatron has plenty of gorgeous rock walls and Jerusalem stone in the public spaces. The lighting and décor are stunning. The floors in the guest rooms are made of polished marble and the upholstered furniture is imported from Italy.

But instead of an artistic rendering of, say, Tevye from a performance of Fiddler on the Roof at the nearby theater, the sole painting on the wall of the room my wife and I stayed in was an abstract composition all in white.

A Shabbat-observant hotel

The hotel is unabashedly Shabbat-observant, which makes sense given the presumed clientele visiting the Holy City. There’s even a “Shabbat” button on the controls for the bathroom. We weren’t there over a weekend, so I’m not sure what it does.

Another religious touch: Our room had two twin beds for my wife and me, rather than a queen or king. (Although a colleague who stayed there had a king bed for her and her mother. Growing pains?)

Our stay at the Theatron was part of a preview for local journalists. So, we were all seated and served together, wedding style, in the main restaurant for the evening’s multi-course gourmet meal. It was delicious, but not rock-your-socks-off outstanding. The lamb was tender, but you can find just as good in the Mahane Yehuda shuk.

The biggest culinary hit was a warm kohlrabi appetizer on a bed of cashew cream.

 THE MOST impressive space in the hotel was the synagogue.  (credit: BRIAN BLUM)
THE MOST impressive space in the hotel was the synagogue. (credit: BRIAN BLUM)

BREAKFAST WAS more successful, in my opinion, with all the usual buffet items, a custom omelet station (I had green shakshuka) but strangely no fish (other than a tuna salad).

The Theatron sits on what was for decades an open-air parking lot. That’s now been moved underground, with room for 600 cars – a definite step up from the situation beforehand where vehicles circled the upscale Talbiye neighborhood to find parking when the lot filled up.

General manager Sheldon Ritz worked for 19 years at the King David Jerusalem Hotel and afterward oversaw the rebranding of the Vert Hotel (formerly the Crowne Plaza Hotel).

Ritz told me that he wants the Theatron to be on a par with the King David Jerusalem or the Waldorf Astoria in terms of both quality and guests, the latter of which he says will consist of businesspeople, diplomats and overseas visitors during the week, with Israeli tourists opting to stay on weekends.

This keeping-up-with-the-Davids also means the price will be similar to the Theatron’s high-end competition; opening prices for this summer start at $500 (NIS 1,831) a night, double that for one of the hotel’s 20 multi-room suites, some with their own private infinity pools.

In addition to the Jerusalem Theater, the hotel is kitty-corner from the Hansen House arts center and the Islamic Museum, and is within easy walking distance of the First Station entertainment complex, as well as Jerusalem’s weekend demonstrations in front of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s presidential residence, if that’s your idea of a touristy thing to do.

In addition to the hotel’s 70 rooms, there are 21 private apartments whose owners will be able to enjoy the hotel’s services and facilities. Half of those apartments are already sold, with occupancy starting in September.

The Theatron is part of the M Gallery luxury brand collection, which is itself part of the Accor Group, an international hotel chain with 5,500 different properties including prestigious names, such as Sofitel and Movenpick.

The most impressive space in the hotel was not a guest room or the lobby bar with its irresistibly crumbly croissants, it was the synagogue. The Theatron’s shul is small but is hands-down the nicest I’ve seen in a hotel. Cushy seats, a Persian lattice wood motif, two Torah scrolls (one Sephardi, one Ashkenazi) and subtle track lighting should make davening as aesthetically pleasing as it is spiritual. But, hey, could they at least put a theatrical spotlight on the bimah?

For more information, visit: https://theatron.co.il.

The writer was a guest of the hotel.