Weddings, conferences, ancient history, and all the politics you’d ever want to discuss. They all meet here.
These are some of the elements you will find at the Orient Jerusalem Hotel. During my stay there, some of the world’s greatest thinkers and Nobel Prize winners were convening on one of the subterranean floors for a conference on neuroscience with the health sciences branch of the government of Israel. At the same time, a wedding was taking place on the hotel’s roof, affording guests a spectacular view of the old and new cities of Jerusalem.
This juxtaposition is a metaphor that captures well the diversity of this tiny country and the lovely Orient Jerusalem Hotel itself. The hotel is the newest of Isrotel’s chain of 19 across the country, including those in the Ramon crater, the Dead Sea, the Royal Beach Tel Aviv, Eilat, Carmel Forest, and Mitzpe Hayamim.
This one recently opened after four years of construction. Located in the heart of Emek Refaim, the old German Colony, it is across the street from Israel’s first train station, built by the British in 1892. The huge hangar-like space has been transformed into a cool hang-out for shows, ice cream stores and food trucks.
Because the Orient had to fit into such a compact urban area in West Jerusalem and is within walking distance of the Old City and main tourist sites, hotel staff offer a high-quality “Jerusalem experience” for their guests.
The typical lavish Israeli breakfast, served for a wonderfully longer time than usual to allow guests to sleep in, and representing foods from the city’s various neighbourhoods, is served on an underground floor called “minus two,” and outside in a lovely, sunny and airy courtyard.
The hotel’s main building descends two storeys below-ground and is 11 storeys above-ground in a relatively narrow space that permits it to fit in with the surrounding urban landscape. It’s a marvel of architectural complexity and beautiful interior-design choices. The design’s oriental theme features a Moroccan look in tiles and fixtures, a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the old and new cities, underground conference centres and an indoor spa, which has another pool.
The lobby and the bar (which is an extension of the lobby and open to the public) feature the colours, materials and crafts of Jerusalem. The drama of the building’s grand atrium of glass and Jerusalem stone is amplified by accents of mosaic tiles.
The 243 guest rooms feel American. They’re not as small as their European counterparts, and each has a balcony.
The furnishings are attractive and include huge studded headboards and colourful ceramic lamps, olive-wood table tops and original Israeli art.
The copper sinks and tiled floors in the Orient’s bathrooms are luxurious by Israeli standards; original ceramic pieces are incorporated as holders for soap and toothbrushes. There are also separate shower stalls and bathtubs.
For visitors seeking accommodations in historic structures, there are the 39 rooms in the two 19th-century Templer buildings just outside the hotel, where families can reserve entire floors and be treated to the arched windows, wrought-iron bed frames, copper-clad bathtubs and blue-and-ivory palette that harken back to Templer times. Members of the Templer sect – Christians who broke from the Protestant church and settled in the Holy Land to prepare for Messianic salvation – came to Jerusalem in 1873 from Württemberg, Germany. They bought a tract of land in the Refaim Valley — hence the name of the main street of the German Colony – Emek Refaim, or Valley of the Spirits – where the hotel is located.
The Isrotel chain wanted to connect the new hotel to the German Colony neighborhood, notable for the historic Templer buildings. The company was meticulous in its preservation of original facades, says Eyal Ziv, the architect who oversaw the project’s preservation and restoration details.
No efforts were spared in the construction and design here of the new and the preservation of the old. The Orient Jerusalem feels like a fine hotel in Europe or the U.S.
If you go:
* Take a pair of sturdy closed walking shoes (the streets are cobble-stone and it is hot).
* For spa treatments, book in advance.
* Choose a season other than summer, which is very hot.
* Pack water and fruit for sightseeing.