Stay Here In Style: The Stories Of Jerusalem’s Iconic Hotels
Want to know where pre-state Jews hid weapons and listened in on the British, whose table was loaned out for a peace treaty, and where Begin announced he was disbanding the Irgun underground?
When Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, the city’s most influential Moslem, put out a tender for construction in 1928, it was taken up by an Arab contractor and two Jewish architects. One of the architects was Chaim Weizmann’s brother-in-law Tuvia Donia; the other Haganah member Baruch Katinka. In his book, “From Then ’till Now,” Katinka described the conditions of the tender. It stipulated that whoever took on the project had to finish it within 13 months or pay a penalty of 1,000 liras a day until it was complete.
The Palace was finished before the deadline despite a setback in August of 1929 when Arab laborers took 10 days off work. During that period Arabs rioted all over the country; in Jerusalem they destroyed several neighborhoods and massacred some of the city’s residents.
The Palace, located on Agron Street, was one of half a dozen elegant hotels and guesthouses built outside the Old City walls in the late 19th and early 20th century. Five of them still take in tourists: the Palace, newly renovated and partially rebuilt as the Waldorf-Astoria, the King David, the Palatin and the Tel Aviv (today the Jerusalem Hostel).
Considering that the Mufti visited the construction site of the Palace on a daily basis, and that most of the laborers were Arabs, it is astounding that the Palace 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 ingenious hideaways were located all over the country: the two at the Palace were designed by Katinka.