At the American Colony in East Jerusalem, a palace revolution

By Louis Imbert

Posted at 3:35 a.m. yesterday, updated at 6:16 a.m. yesterday

Children creep between the legs of Palestinian workers at the American Colony. Their footsteps echo the marble cobblestones of this historic hotel, renowned for its international clientele. A haven of peace nestled in a former Ottoman master’s residence in East Jerusalem, the Arab part of the Holy City. Their parents, Israeli, stroll around the crowded swimming pool, under a perimeter wall above which points the minaret of the mosque of Sheikh Jarrah. Elderly Israeli women joke in the hallways, briefcases over their shoulders. At the garden bar, a disoriented European diplomat couldn’t get over it. We only speak Hebrew around him.

The only large hotel in East Jerusalem has been undergoing a revolution since it reopened in June, after fourteen months of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreigners usually make up 90% of the clientele, along with residents of Jerusalem and a few Jewish and Arab Israelis from across the country. Again authorized to enter Israel since 1is November, tourists do not rush there yet. For lack of thrushes, the hotel then tried to attract a local clientele. He succeeded beyond his expectations.

During the two summer months, the American Colony did full rooms. Again in September, over the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, the establishment run by Guy Lindt posted an unexpected occupancy rate of 65%, “With almost 100% Israeli customers”. This institution of the Arab city, refuge for a century of foreigners, whether they are pilgrims, diplomats, aid workers, journalists, artists or simple tourists, has become, because of the health crisis, an Israeli hotel like any other.

“PLO hotel”

There is nothing obvious, however, that Israeli Jews are flocking to this establishment overlooking the valley of Sheikh Jarrah, a place of painful conflict, where riots between Palestinian residents and Israeli settlers have inflamed the country in the month. of May and caused a war in Gaza. The daily Haaretz called itself, in August, the American Colony of“PLO hotel”. The newspaper of the Israeli left recalled that, as early as the 1980s, representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization, then chaired by Yasser Arafat, had conducted discreet negotiations there. They led to the Oslo peace accords in 1993.

At the American Colony, the employees are almost all Palestinians. “Everything here speaks Arabic, the walls as well as the people, Mahmoud Muna, the hotel bookseller, notes. A large proportion of international clients work with Palestine themselves. ” This jovial intellectual, in his forties, says to himself ” torn up »Between his desire to welcome these unexpected clients with open arms and his desire to make them understand that they are “In a special place, both in the same country and in a different country”. Because East Jerusalem, a city conquered by Israel in 1967 and then annexed, remains, according to international law, the future capital of a hypothetical Palestinian state..

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At the American Colony in East Jerusalem, a palace revolution

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