We’re staying for the first time in the National Hotel (in Arabic, al-Funduq al-Watani, which means the same thing but which will be much more useful when asking directions). I’d seen it many times before, since it’s in the part of the city where I’ve spent the most time, but had never been inside.
Our Russian-Jewish taxi driver, by the way, who brought us up from Ben Gurion Airport, was rather nervous when he realized that he had to bring us into the Arab section of Jerusalem.
How I regret these endless tensions and hatreds.
The hotel is really quite unexpectedly nice. The staff are extraordinarily pleasant, and the food in the fourth-floor restaurant is excellent. We just finished breakfast there. Last night, we had lentil soup, a selection of mezza, and, to top it off, the first basboosa that I’ve ever really liked.
The National Hotel is located not too far from Damascus Gate, which is, in my view, the most interesting portal in the early-sixteenth-century Ottoman wall built by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. (In Arabic, it’s called Bab al-‘Amud, “the gate of the column,” a name that goes back to the day when the Roman Emperor Hadrian established a gate here, in a previous city wall, that had . . . well, a distinctive column.) Thus, the hotel is in an excellent location from which to explore the Old City of Jerusalem, to enter which is, in a very real sense, to go back to late medieval times (at least).
Why am I giving such a commercial? I like the hotel, I like the people in it, and I want the Palestinians to prosper. There’s plenty of money in the Jewish sectors of this city already.
Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.