Country living in Jerusalem

Hotel Yehuda in the Masua hills near the Biblical Zoo triples as a tranquil hotel, tech-savvy conference center and full-frills banquet and event facility.

The grounds of Hotel Yehuda (photo credit: Courtesy)
The grounds of Hotel Yehuda
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s less than a five-minute drive from the urban sprawl of Malha Mall, Teddy Stadium and the multi-lane Begin superhighway, but the Hotel Yehuda is a world away.
Nestled on the forest-covered slopes of Jerusalem’s Masua hills, the stately stone structure blends into the lush and green landscape – a far cry from the blight of the nearby Holyland monstrosity. That rare occurrence of finding rural tranquility so close to the city center (and within walking distance of the Biblical Zoo) has helped make Hotel Yehuda one of the capital’s most attractive destinations for travelers from Israel and abroad.
Housing 129 rooms and suites, over a dozen multimedia equipped conference rooms and banquet facilities that can accommodate weddings, bar/bat mitzvas and conferences, the inviting facility was originally built in 2006 by Hadassah as a center and hostel for its Young Judaea student programs. However, in the post-Madoff financial realities, the organization downsized the Young Judaea facilities to the Baka neighborhood and sold the building to a Canadian family with strong ties to Israel.
Following an investment of NIS 80 million, the four-star-plus Hotel Yehuda is positively regal. On the day we visited, for a morning-long Jerusalem Post staff yom kef, the tastefully designed, upscale hotel’s rooms were fully occupied. But the atmosphere was laid-back and as homey as the country vista that burst through every picture window.
“We see every guest as a person, and treat them accordingly. People think they’re coming to a place they can call home – that’s why we have so many returning customers,” explained the hotel’s deputy manager Hila Atari, as she proudly showed visitors around her spacious “home.”
Each of the boutique rooms on the first four floors are spacious and suitable for two adults and up to two children. The fifth floor is devoted to larger suites and the showcase Canadian Suite for VIPs. All rooms are furnished with satellite TV, mini-bar, safe, air conditioning, spacious bathrooms and free-of-charge Internet access. Most of the rooms overlook the ample and beautiful gardens outside the hotel and the Jerusalem landscape, and many rooms come with garden access or private balconies.
For the next two months, the hotel is running a special deal offering the rooms for NIS 580 per night per couple, including breakfast. Rooms with garden access and porches have an additional fee.
Child-friendly, the hotel boasts an extensive Gymboree area, and arranges ATV excursions in the expansive hills in the vicinity. For adults, there’s a state-of-the art fitness room.
“This is a hotel where there’s room to roam outside, you don’t leave the hotel and find yourself on a busy main street,” said Atari. And indeed, the well-kept and expansive outdoor area is a natural magnet, inviting visitors to stroll, sit and enjoy coffee in any number of landscaped sitting areas, or take advantage of the semi-Olympic size outdoor pool. The pool area borders the outskirts of the nearby zoo, and Atari reports that breakfasting elephants are a common morning sight for early risers.
For hotel guests, breakfast is also an event – with the de rigueur Israeli spread, including cooked-to-order omelettes, available for diners of all tastes. The dining room transforms into a dinner buffet center with the usual plethora of appetizers, entrees and desserts, all prepared under the masterful supervision of famed Jerusalem chef Gili Ben-Moshe. For guests that prefer a more intimate atmosphere, the patio Patisserie café is in operation all day weather permitting, and also open to the general public.
Overnight guests are just one aspect of Hotel Yehuda’s focus, according to Atari.
A convention and events center, the hotel can host conferences, ceremonies, corporate events, bar/bat mitzvas, weddings and family events, ranging in size from eight in a “board meeting” room with state-of-theart multimedia and AV equipment to 350 around tables for a gala wedding or event and 600 for a conference.
“We have 15 conference rooms of varying sizes with advanced technological features, and for larger events, we can host them in our courtyard or amphitheater,” says Atari.
For the Post event, all the details were meticulously taken care of by the hotel’s events manager Raafat Hasheem. From the sumptuous breakfast to the fully equipped conference room and the al fresco lunch by the pool, Hasheem anticipated our needs by always being one step ahead.
“I love what I do and take it very personally that everyone enjoys themselves while they’re here,” he said, adding that he’s been with the hotel for the long haul, even when it was still a hostel.
So whether it’s a couple’s or family’s getaway to Jerusalem, a company’s annual meeting or a happy family occasion, Hotel Yehuda is the new guy in town that’s delivering the goods.