Grapevine: Hotel-rich Jerusalem

News from around the Jerusalem.

Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem (photo credit: PR)
Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem
(photo credit: PR)
♦ NEVER HAS hotel construction in Jerusalem been as intensive as over the past two or three years. Boutique hotels are opening up all over the place – some are being constructed from scratch while others are functioning out of converted retirement homes, or former residential and commercial blocks in which the insides were fully or partially gutted and renovated.
Within Jerusalem’s city center, there are more than a dozen hotels and hostels within a few minutes’ walk of each other. Now under construction is yet another, in Hanevi’im Court, a luxury residential project built by Africa Israel Residences.
It is not unusual to have private residences in a hotel complex or, conversely, a hotel within a residential complex. When the Leonardo Plaza was built around 40 years ago, it included private residences that in some cases were leased out when the owners were not in the country.
The David Citadel also has private residences, and the Waldorf Astoria has a separate apartment building directly across the road from the hotel, where occupants can benefit from many of the hotel services.
The hotel under construction in Hanevi’im Court will not be managed by Africa Israel, but will be sold lock, stock and barrel to a hotel chain or private investor. Africa Israel owns the Crowne Plaza, which was originally a Hilton, and it also owns the former President Hotel – the first such facility in Jerusalem with a swimming pool.
Some nine months ago, after years of wrangling, Africa Israel’s chairman Lev Leviev came to an agreement that the President, which Africa Israel purchased 27 years ago, will be partly residential and partly a hotel complex. The property briefly served as a temporary immigrant absorption center, but for the most part has remained empty and neglected and is rapidly deteriorating, to the extent that there are warning signs in the back indicating certain parts are in danger of collapse.
Since the announcement last August that Leviev and the municipality had reached a compromise, there has been no indication of progress. The municipality had initially wanted the hotel to remain a hotel, but Leviev wanted it to be a purely residential complex – and both sides dug their heels in for years until the compromise was reached. The hotel structure, with its broken windows and dilapidated exterior, has become an eyesore – and Africa Israel appears to be in no hurry to change that situation.

VETERANS OF Jerusalem who are almost heartbroken when old buildings are torn down to make way for progress can rest easy that the King David Hotel, a city landmark steeped in history, will remain intact from the outside and with the exception of necessary updates in plumbing, will not be changed by the Federmann family – who have been its key shareholders for most of its 84 years.
The most famous of Jerusalem’s and possibly Israel’s hotels, the King David is a UNESCO heritage site. It was a favorite haunt of British Mandate authorities, a venue for talks surrounding peace agreements and an architectural icon. It has hosted royalty, heads of state and the most affluent and influential visitors to Israel.
Local visitors who keep going there on a fairly regular basis are Pamela and Werner Loval, whose nuptials there 59 years ago were attended by the who’s who of Israeli society, in what was the hotel’s first kosher wedding. The Lovals also celebrated their 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries at the King David, and will be back next year for their 60th. They were among the many guests on the hotel’s lawns this week for the traditional reception preceding the meetings of the international council of the Israel Museum.

TO MARK the 50th anniversary of the death of its founding president Martin Buber, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities will host a three-day symposium from June 15 to 18 at its premises on 43 Jabotinsky Street, Jerusalem, within easy walking distance of where Buber had his home. All lectures will be in English, and the annual Martin Buber lecture will be delivered by Prof. Michael Walzer of the Institute for Advanced Study, US, who will talk about “States and Communities.”
The entire symposium will be devoted to various aspects of Buber’s philosophy and writings; this will include his biblical theology and his writings on Hassidism, religious existentialism, socialism, nationalism and Zionism. Speakers will include academics from Israel, the US, France and Germany.