Who was Herbert Samuel other than the namesake of one of the newest and most attractive hotels in the center of Jerusalem with a location that is a dream come true?
Actually, I bring up Herbert Samuel — the hotel — because during our jaunt just prior to Pesach, we were privileged to spend four nights in the swanky, chic hotel right where the bottom of Ben Yehuda Street meets the well-traveled and now carless Jaffa Road. If you could imagine a hotel in the most perfect location in Jerusalem, this is it.
I have to admit that after spending most of our stays in Israel either at a friend’s apartment, the Waldorf Astoria, or the King David, I was a little apprehensive about the switch to the Herbert Samuel, but I can now tell you that it was an excellent choice.
First and foremost, the hotel is sparkling and brand new. The rooms are spacious, many with a nice armchair and footrest as well as a desk to work at if need be. The best feature, though, is the quick ride down in the elevator and the few steps through the revolving front doors which puts you right there in front of all the shops and restaurants that dot Ben Yehuda and Jaffa Road.
Additionally, the Herbert Samuel has something other hotels in the area do not feature — their dining area is up on the 11th floor roof with a beautiful panoramic view of the entire city of Jerusalem. And what a great sight that is.
The original Herbert Samuel was not a hotel or even someone in the hotel business; he was a British politician who, by following his heart, was a catalyst in developing the idea that created the modern state of Israel. Those of you who recognize the name are either a history buff or a restaurant connoisseur, as the Herbert Samuel is also a much-in-demand kosher restaurant located in the Ritz Carlton in Herzliya. One time I was in Herzliya for a few days several years back, I could not get a reservation at the Herbert Samuel restaurant until a week later, and, of course, I was not traveling back there from Jerusalem just to have dinner.
The hotel business in Israel — and Jerusalem in particular — is booming. Construction all around the city has been accelerated, and with the planned move of the U.S. Embassy to the capital, the demand for hotel rooms and even residential apartments is already increasing at an unforeseen speed.
My best guess is that we are witnessing miracles taking place before our eyes and on the daily news, but those miraculous events are more often than not disguised as the unfolding of natural and routine occurrences.
To that end, the anticipated uptick in tourism from India and China, with a combined population of about three billion people, was a precursor to the expectation that Israel had to build hotels — and as quickly as possible. At the same time, when those plans were being developed, no one could have imagined that Donald Trump would be elected president and would soon after recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. The result is the demand for living and hotel space in the city.
So hotels are being built, but none as convenient as the Herbert Samuel right there at the edge of Zion Square. Let’s walk through this sparkling new hotel for a few minutes. The hotel features a large comfortable lobby area with ample places to either sit and chat or even dine at the hotel lobby café. If you are checking in or out, there is an area in which you can sit to wait your turn, which adds a sense of comfort and order to the process.
One of the great highlights of the Herbert Samuel in particular is the rooftop dining area as well as the extensive breakfast menu for that featured new and interesting dishes each day of our stay. Both the dining and housekeeping services were excellent. The daily room charge is moderate when compared to the Waldorf Astoria or the King David, both just a short distance away.
This is a busy hotel, with tour groups coming and going over the few days that we were staying there. The HS Hotel gets high marks on every level and is extra special by virtue of its easy and convenient location.
Now a few other observations about that quick trip to Israel just before Passover. As I mentioned in another column, for the first time in a long time we did not travel El Al. I had mixed feelings about this because to me, like they say on board the planes, “El Al is Israel.” I felt that once you were in the El Al terminal at JFK you always had a sense that this was indeed Israel. That is not the way it is when you travel to Israel on one of the many carriers that feature that trip.
So as I mentioned a few weeks ago, we were trying to explore the rumor that other airlines were more upscale and provided service that was an improvement over that offered by El Al. So while I cannot say that it was so much better than El Al, I can attest to the fact that it was certainly different.
The trip there with Swiss International Airlines and the trip back with Lufthansa was a good and even successful experiment. But next time we will probably fly El Al again, G-d willing. People have told me they travel to Israel often but have not flown El Al for the longest time; I cannot help but see it as a bit of a betrayal.
One of our colleagues here at the 5TJT just returned from Israel on Royal Jordanian Airlines. Once upon a time, that was a serious no-no, but I have heard that people do that more often these days. The round-trip airfare is only about $600, a price that cannot be beat. The only issue from my perspective is that from New York to Tel Aviv and then from Tel Aviv to New York there is a three-hour stopover in Amman, the Jordanian capital.
Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty about 24 years ago, but Jordan is still critical of Israel in public forums like the United Nations. Another matter that irks me significantly is that as the plane was flying from Amman to Ben Gurion Airport the pilot announced on the public address system that if you look out your window, “You will see Jerusalem, Palestine.”
Sure, price might be important, but we shouldn’t patronize a company that indulges in that kind of behavior.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.