Tourist detraction - the Dome Hotel

East Jerusalem construction project was started in 1967 and still isn't finished.

After 40 years, most people would have given up. But not Muhammad Nuseibeh. He is still determined to finish the six-story hotel his family began building at the corner of Salah a-Din and Isfahan streets, in the heart of the commercial district of east Jerusalem, before the Six Day War. The Nuseibeh family had almost completed construction of what they planned would be the Dome Hotel when the war broke out. "The skeleton was finished. The infrastructure was done. The interior had been partitioned into rooms. The windows were in. The plastering had even been done," Nuseibeh recalls, sitting in his office at the A-Dar Hotel, overlooking the Olive Tree Hotel. "And then the [1967] war started." After the war, Nuseibeh found himself dealing with a new, united Jerusalem Municipality. He made some efforts to complete the project but once again war got in the way. After the Yom Kippur War, tourism plunged and Nuseibeh put the project on hold. "We tried to get the designation of the building changed to a hospital," he says. The structure would have replaced the facility in the Austrian Hospice in the Old City, which was established as a military hospital in 1948 by King Abdullah's Arab Legion. Later converted to a civilian hospital by the Jordanian government, in 1985, it was closed on sanitary grounds and returned to its Austrian owners. "But this [hospital] didn't go through because funding was not forthcoming from Amman and the Arab world," says Nuseibeh. During the first intifada, the building became a sanctuary for stone-throwing youth, who would attack police and then retreat into it. As a result, Border Police removed all the interior partitions. Later drug users found refuge in the gutted-out structure. About six years ago, Nuseibeh decided to reinvest efforts to complete the project. He hired architect Dan Izraeli and lawyer Arieh Toussia-Cohen and began the process of trying to secure a municipal building permit for a 120-room hotel. "I had a Jordanian building permit but now I was told that I need one from the Jerusalem Municipality," Nuseibeh says. "However, my application for a new permit was rejected. "My client was asked to produce his Jordanian permit," says Toussia-Cohen. "Unfortunately, his office burned down and with it his copy of the permit. The municipality took over the east Jerusalem city archives in 1967 and should have a copy of the permit. But the municipality claims that it can't find the records and keeps asking my client to produce his copy. In addition, the city has said that the area is not zoned. If it is not zoned, then Jordanian law applies. According to Jordanian law, the project is complete the minute the skeleton is finished. So my client should be able to finish. It would take him less than a year to complete the hotel at a time when the city is crying for hotel rooms." In response, the municipal spokesman's office said: "Before 1967, there was a plan for a hotel on the site and a skeleton was constructed. Based on this plan, an application to complete the building was submitted to the Local Planning Committee. The committee rejected the application because the site is no longer designated for a hotel. An appeal has been submitted to the Interior Affairs Committee and its decision has not yet been received." "It is frustrating to see how many new hotels have been built in Jerusalem while the Dome [Hotel] has not been finished," says Nuseibeh.