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King David Hotel

KING DAVID HOTEL

Famous hotel and landmark in Jerusalem.

The "King David," the most prestigious hotel in Israel, was established by Ezra Mosseri, an Egyptian Jewish banker, in the late 1920s. It was opened to the public in January 1931, and over the years became the site of many important historical events. It is located in the center of Jerusalem overlooking the ramparts of the 3,000-year-old city and an impressive landscape of the Judean Desert, the Dead Sea, and the mountains of Moab in Jordan. The simple symmetric rectangular edifice, clad in reddish stone, was designed by Emile Vogt, with interior decoration by G. H. Hufschmidt, both Swiss architects. While the exterior, with its roof crenellations, echoes the old city walls, the interior is an eclectic mix of motifs from Ancient Near Eastern and Islamic art, meant to evoke the atmosphere of a biblical palace.

During its first two decades it hosted myriad international dignitaries such as Winston Churchill, Haile Selassie (then exiled emperor of Ethiopia), King George II of Greece, Amir Abdullah of Transjordan, King Faisal of Iraq, and many other kings, princes, artists, generals, and diplomats. In 1938, with a world war on the horizon, the British sequestered more then half of the space to house the Military Area Command and the Secretariat of the Mandatory administration. On 22 July 1946 the Irgun Zvaʾi Leʾumi (IZL), a Zionist extremist underground organization, blew up the entire southern part of the hotel's six stories, which housed the Secretariat, killing ninety-one peopleBritish, Arabs, and Jews. This bloody operation put an end to the loose coalition of the three Zionist underground movements and triggered severe repressive measures by the British authorities. The entire hotel was then put to the use by the British and remained so until their departure from Palestine on 14 May 1948.

During the ArabIsrael War of 1948 the King David Hotel briefly housed various officials of the Red Cross and the United Nations, including Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations mediator, and eventually the Israeli army, which used it as a front-line stronghold. After that war the hotel, which remained on the Israeli side of the divided city, was rebuilt and once again became a luxury residence that hosted many state guests of Israel, UN and U.S. peace mediators (such as U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and James Baker), and prominent writers and journalists. In 1977 it played host to President Anwar al-Sadat and many of the diplomatic meetings that led to peace between Israel and Egypt.

see also irgun zvaʾi leʾumi; terrorism.


Bibliography


Clarke, Thurston. By Blood and Fire: The Attack on the King David Hotel. New York: Putnam, 1981.

Comay, Joan. "Fifty Years of the King David Hotel." The Jerusalem Post Supplement, 14 October 1981.

"Notes on the Interior Decorations of the King David Hotel." The Jerusalem Post, 9 August 1975.

mordechai bar-on

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