A family business

Attention to detail, aesthetic décor and warm hospitality are part of what makes a small hotel in Nahariya so special.

Shtarkman Erna Hotel (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shtarkman Erna Hotel
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Orna Shtarkman, the 29-year-old proprietor of the hotel in Nahariya that bears the family name, does not like the description of her place as a “boutique hotel,” although it would seem to fit the definition.
“I think the word has been devalued, and any smaller place that doesn’t belong to a chain calls itself a boutique hotel,” she says. “I prefer to use the term ‘family hotel.’” It certainly fits into that category. The saga of the family, which established the hotel in 1959, is a fascinating one, and photo displays lovingly arranged in the entrance and dining room tell the story.
Like so many Nahariya residents, the family originated in Germany and arrived in Israel in the 1930s. The patriarch of the family, Alois Shtarkman, settled in Haifa and worked in the Nesher factory. He had twin daughters, Erna and Charlotte.
At the beginning of the 1950s, the family moved to Nahariya, and Alois was persuaded to buy a dunam (quarter acre) of land.
“It cost my great-grandfather three months’ salary,” says Shtarkman. “He built two houses, one in front of the other, for the two sisters. Each married and had a son. Erna’s son is Uri Bendheim, a wellknown veterinarian in Jerusalem. Charlotte gave birth to my father, Mickey, 10 years later,” she recounts.
Charlotte’s family had moved to America to work, but Mickey was unhappy and, at the age of 13, returned to Nahariya to be cared for by his aunt Erna.
The second house – Charlotte’s – was empty, so they began to rent out rooms.
When Charlotte came back from the US, the two sisters opened Beit Erna in 1959.
After Mickey had completed his army service, he took over running the business.
It became a home away from home for the many United Nations servicemen stationed in Nahariya, who knew it as Mickey’s Place.
The two houses were combined into one hotel. In 1982 Mickey married Hannah, and they had four daughters, all of whom are involved in running the business.
Mickey died in 2001, and last year the five women – Hannah and her daughters – decided to upgrade the hotel.
They hired designer Batya Buchnik to create a modern, aesthetic and comfortable décor to give the feeling of a classical European hostelry.
With careful attention to detail and the choice of high-quality materials and furnishings, the Shtarkman Erna Hotel is a very pleasant place to stay. Quiet and positively genteel, you could forget you are in volatile Israel. Classical music plays quietly in the background, the hotel’s library offers books in several languages, and the welcome is warm and friendly.
The guest rooms have coffee and tea facilities, bathrobes and slippers and free Wi-Fi connections.
Although there is no swimming pool, guests can use the municipal seaside pool free of charge. Only breakfast is served, but there are vouchers for a 10 percent reduction on meals in Nahariya, which has a multitude of good kosher and non-kosher restaurants.
The hotel has several meeting rooms that can be rented for business or family gatherings and has a pretty and well-tended garden. Rental bikes are available for whoever wants them, and the hotel can also provide massage and other treatments, as well as babysitting services.
We were very impressed with the cleanliness of the city’s streets and assumed it was because of the Yekke origins of the Nahariya inhabitants.
No, we were told by a waiter in an excellent restaurant, Breshit, on the Ga’aton main road – it’s because of the mayor, who is Moroccan!
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Shtarkman Erna Hotel 29 Jabotinsky Street, Nahariya Tel: (04) 992-2832