Old-world elegance in Tiberias

The Europa 1917 hotel oozes with charm.

The Europa 1917 hotel in Tiberias (photo credit: PR)
The Europa 1917 hotel in Tiberias
(photo credit: PR)
Call it an oasis in the desert, a diamond in the rough, a breath of fresh air.
However you describe it, the new Europa 1917 hotel in Tiberias is in a class by itself, a magnificent facility that sets a new standard for boutique hotels. From the moment you walk onto the sprawling patio that fronts the hotel, with its arched windows and ancient basalt-rock walls, you feel as if you have entered another time and place. You have been transported back to the grand hotels of Europe, oozing with old-world charm and luxury. The sweeping, panoramic view from that patio takes in both the hills of the city of Tiberias and the glittering waters of Lake Kinneret, but you feel as if you were watching from Paris, Florence or Constantinople.
The 30 elaborately appointed suites that make up the Europa are as comfortable as they are elegant. Management has thought of everything: Each room has an espresso, tea and soda bar, there is an array of artisan soaps and top-ofthe- line cosmetics in the bath; and an antique clock sits on the night table. The high ceilings are ornately fashioned, and scenes of old Tiberias grace the walls.
The only concession to modernity is the flat-screen plasma TV facing the bed and free WiFi. Guests receive gifts of sparkling water, homemade jams and a jar of local olives, and even a pack of original playing cards crafted especially for the Europa.
What makes this place so unique, apart from its attention to detail, is its rich history.
It dates back to 1917, when it was originally built. It served as a British outpost in World War I and was used by Hagana fighters during the War of Independence (the firing and observation posts in several rooms have been fully preserved). The property was purchased in 1930 by the Oved family, which has been in Tiberias for seven generations, and in Israel since the Babylonian exile. The site went through numerous transformations, at one time being an apartment house, then a facility for the elderly, and then falling into disrepair and lying empty.
Several years ago, the Oved family decided they would breathe new life into the edifice. They poured their heart and soul – and a considerable sum of money – into the project, and Europa 1917 was born. Zohar Oved, the family’s onsite owner, bubbles over with pride and excitement as he tells and retells his hotel’s history. And proud he should be. The many oil paintings that grace the walls of the Europa, with views of the Kinneret, the Jezreel Valley and the Galilee, were created by Zohar himself.
These paintings are interspersed with pictures and photos from the hotel’s past, as well as newspaper clippings from the beginning of the 20th century.
Europa has a modest, heated pool and a spa that offers numerous treatments. There is also a small but well-equipped workout area and a multipurpose room that serves as a synagogue and lecture hall. Its sun terrace and garden features pomegranate, fig, lemon, orange and eucalyptus trees, all of which, Zohar explains, were the kind of horticulture one would have seen there a century ago.
But perhaps the crowning touch to the hotel is its superb dining. The head chef is Uri Arnon, known to many for his popular Arnold’s eateries. He presides over the Victoria Chef Restaurant, which serves meals to guests and visitors and is arguably one the finest kosher restaurants in the North. It also boasts its own private wine cellar, with hundreds of choices from the many local wineries. Arnon visits each table to chat with the diners and get their feedback, but most are so suitably stuffed they can only nod their heads vigorously in approval and appreciation.
In the courtyard of the hotel patio, there is a fountain and a wishing well. Upon checkin, each guest is given two coins to throw into the well and make a wish when the stay is over. If the builders of this hotel wanted to create something that stands out as the leader of its industry, they can be assured that their wish was granted.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Europa 1917
3 Hapalmah Street, Tiberias
Tel: (04) 616-9999