Thursday, November 20, 2008

The "Coliseum" in...Jerusalem

(Photo Credit: Y. Medad)

This is a picture of the new Jerusalem Waldorf-Astoria, located just across the David's Citadel Hotel, at the bottom of Agron Street.

They purchased the old Palace Hotel, former location of the Ministry for Industry and Commerce, gutted it and, while saving the beautiful facade, will be constructing a hotel and, I think, a luxury apartment complex.

The funny thing is that the Palace, built in 1928-29, was done so with the connivance of the Mufti who facilitated the purchase of the plot due to simple venality. He wanted the money. He even cleared the area of all cemetery sanctity as it is near the Mamilla Cemetery (which is now across the street - Independence Park).

See here:

The old Palace Hotel, constructed in 1928-29 under the order of Jerusalem’s Supreme Muslim Council and supervised by the infamous Mufti of Jerusalem, was completed after just 11 months, by over 500 Arab workers, supervised by one Jewish engineer named Baruch Katinka. Since Katinka was secretly working for pre-state Jewish military organization the Hagana, the Palace was a tricky project to say the least. Upon opening, the hotel was the most luxurious in the Middle East, with elevators, a central heating system and even private bathrooms – practically unheard-of at the time.

Due to a hardcore rivalry, much deceit (during the excavation, it was revealed that the site was an old Muslim cemetery – the Mufti covered this up) and a dash of sabotage between the British-appointed Arab mayor and the Mufti, the hotel was destined to fail. Management of the hotel was handed over to a local corrupt hotelier, but it was eventually forced to close its doors once the King David opened down the block.

And see here:

The once splendiferous structure at Rehov Agron 30 is slated to become a Waldorf-Astoria in 2010. Called the Palace Hotel when completed in 1929, the grandiose structure was the brainchild of the Supreme Muslim Council and meant to counter Jewish expansion outside the Old City walls.

Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini put out a tender for construction. It was taken up by an Arab contractor and two Jewish architects: Chaim Weizmann's brother-in-law Tuvia Donia and Hagana member Baruch Katinka.

Considering that the mufti visited daily and that most of the laborers were Arabs, it is astounding that the hotel walls contained two built-in hiding places for Jewish-held weapons.

Forbidden by the British to bear arms of any kind, the Jews had no choice but to prepare secret caches for weapons that they could use in self-defense. Called sliks, these hideaways were located all over the country; the two at the Palace Hotel were designed by Katinka.

When the British Peel Commission came to Jerusalem in 1936 to discuss the "Palestine problem," they held a number of their meetings at the fabulous Palace Hotel. Incredibly, Katinka managed to plant microphones in some of the electric wires so that the Jews could keep abreast of current events.

Built in medieval Spanish style, the Palace Hotel was an architectural delight. Four stories high, it boasted graceful staircases and intricately grilled railings, shiny marble floors and magnificent columns.

I wonder, could this be considered "illegal settlement construction" given that the US State Department doesn't recognize Israel's sovereignty over even West Jerusalem?


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Jerusalem is a place that I hope to be able to know in my lifetime, so many history there. said...

Quite worthwhile information, thank you for the article.