Photo Credit: Joshua Israel Geller
Calm Elegance

Jerusalem evokes many images but opulence, ostentation and luxury are not the usual ones that come to mind, unless one is talking of the Beit HaMikdash. But not too far from where the Beit HaMikdash, lehavdil once stood, and across the street from Mamilla, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel is where history and extravagance meet as well as many Chareidi Americans who come there to vacation.

Jeremy Langford’s Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem sculpture.

Like every Jerusalem building, the Waldorf it has its share of history. Originally named The Palace Hotel, it was built by the Supreme Muslim Council, headed by Haj Amin al-Husseini, in 1929. The Palace Hotel went out of business in 1935 and was converted to offices for the British Mandate, and then the Israeli Government. It also briefly housed the studios of the British radio station, “Voice of Jerusalem.” It stood abandoned for years but it was eventually sold to the Reichmanns and was officially reopened, in April 2014, again as a luxury hotel. It is currently owned by the York Foundation.


The Palace Hotel was the most luxurious hotel in Jerusalem in its time: it had an impressive entrance hall, marble arabesque decorations, 140 guest rooms with modern amenities in every room, four-poster beds and private telephones, and was the only hotel in the Middle East with an elevator. Today, the Waldorf Astoria, which is managed by the Hilton chain is the most impressive hotel in Jerusalem.

With the outbreak of the Arab revolt of 1936-1939, the Peel Commission arrived in Palestine to investigate the events. The commission’s meetings were held at the Palace Hotel, although ironically, the members of the commission stayed at the King David Hotel. Baruch Katinka, the hotel’s builder, was also a member of the Hagganah. He was convinced to install microphones in the chandeliers so that the Zionist leadership would know what was said at closed meetings of the commission. I was told that this information helped prevent a disaster.

The Rotunda recreated in the original style of The Palace.

In the course of the repairs carried out on the building, the owners strove to stay true to the original structure, and as a result, the front of the hotel has been carefully restored. The Rotunda has been renovated to look like it did when The Palace was first constructed. It has a clock with four faces and four different types of numerals. The hotel is decorated with much art including the Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem sculpture by Jeremy Langford and paintings by international artist Yoram Raanan.

The hotel’s location is incomparable. You can see the old city from your balcony, and it’s a five-minute walk to the Light Rail. The rooms are designed to provide pampering on an international standard. I was greeted in my room with letters of welcome as well as a plate of cut up fruit, a bottle of Thinker’s Gin from the Jerusalem distillery, with all the makings for a gin and tonic, ice, a bottle of Barkan wine, chocolates, Ahava bath products, slippers, robes, a plasma movie screen and a mini-bar. The concierge also addressed me by name and title when answering the phone.

Of course, as a guest of the hotel, I received VIP treatment. But the other guests around me didn’t seem to be doing too badly.

The hotel houses many amenities such as a synagogue, a ballroom, a spa with Guerlain products, two restaurants, a heated indoor pool, a fitness room and 12 conference rooms, each with the name and theme of one of The Twelve Tribes.

The Atrium becomes a huge Succah on Succoth and handles overflow restaurant clientele.

Every Waldorf Astoria hotel has something called Peacock Alley outside the hotel. The Jerusalem Waldorf has an indoor atrium instead. On Succoth, the atrium is transformed into one of the country’s largest succahs.

Many prominent guests and celebrities frequent the hotel. While there, we caught a glimpse of Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot partaking of the cuisine.

The food at the Waldorf has the highest kashrut certification, is amazing, and priced accordingly. However, I’d be remiss if I said it wasn’t worth it. I enjoyed a fruit drink called Summer Sparkle in the middle of winter, was warmed to the core by an orange vegetable and chestnut soup and sampled some of the most delicious cookies I’ve ever eaten. The breakfast is lavish and generous and the Waldorf Hotel offers a kosher afternoon tea in the British tradition for $100 a couple with advance reservation. The Traditional English Tea offers an assortment of sandwiches, an array of delicious exquisite cakes, a choice of teas, and the usual accoutrements of butter, jams and whipped cream all served, of course on fine china.

The hotel is decorated with Egyptian linens, Swarovski crystals and components of décor imported from the four corners of the earth, and the best artists in Israel. And the beds are comfortable too. Really comfortable!

There are 226 rooms and suites in the hotel and on this cold and rainy, ordinary February weekday, it was filled to capacity.

Accommodation at this 5-star superior hotel, range in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a couple, per night, depending on type of room and seasonal availability, including the aforementioned multi-course breakfast.

Hundreds of people work at the hotel to help ensure a pleasant and pampered stay.

Clientele includes many religious Jews, business people, and one very sated journalist and her son.

Waldorf site:


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