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Jerusalem’s St. George Hotel Reopens as a Landmark


Closed for years as a sign of a long recession that hit Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, St. George Hotel, once one of the city’s landmarks, reopened its doors but this time in partnership with Jordan’s Landmark Hotels, which will manage the hotel. The late King Hussein of Jordan inaugurated the hotel when it first opened in 1965 and pictures of that day hang on the wall inside the lobby of the refurbished hotel. What made it possible to reopen the hotel, closed for over a decade, were an investment of more than $10 million by Jerusalem Tourism Investment Company (JIT), a subsidiary of the holding company, Palestine Development and Investment Company (Padico), which bought the rights to renovate, refurbish and run the hotel from its original owners, the Qutub family, for 20 years. The new 130-room, five-star St. George Landmark Hotel, as it will be called from now on, has actually opened for business in February, even though the official opening was not done until Tuesday in the presence of the main owners of the three companies. Padico chairman of the board, Palestinian businessman Munib Masri, considered the hotel the first joint Palestinian-Jordanian investment in Jerusalem.“Jerusalem is the capital of our Palestinian state,” he said at a press conference inaugurating the hotel. “This investment demonstrates the will of the Palestinian people to stay in their city,” he said.“We came to work in Jerusalem, capital of the Palestinian state, to be near al-Aqsa Mosque, the Holy Sepulcher and the Orient House. It is a message which says: ‘we are here to stay on this land.’ We will not budge,” he said .Israel annexed East Jerusalem following its occupation in 1967 and has since worked to change facts on the ground banning any Palestinian development or growth in the city while building thousands of homes for Jews in an attempt to offset the demographic balance in the city in favor of Jews and to maintain it, in both its sections, the capital of the Israeli state.JIT was actually established in 1994, shortly after the Palestinians and Israelis have signed the Oslo Accords that was supposed to set the ground for the creation of the independent Palestinian state by 1999.When things did not go right, and with Israel not showing any sign of interest to leave the occupied territories, particularly East Jerusalem, the situation worsened, politically and economically. Life in East Jerusalem came to standstill and when Israel built an 8-meter high concrete wall around it literally separating it from its Palestinian environs, the economic situation of the city and of its more than 300,000 Palestinian residents deteriorate. Padico and JIT struggled hard against all odds to keep the city’s Palestinian life well and kicking. Renovating St. George Landmark Hotel was only one of its several investments in the city. Meters away, Padico has renovated the old al-Hambra movie theater and turned it into an all purpose hall and cafeteria. Further out, south of Jerusalem in a neighborhood known as Beit Safafa, Padico is in the process of building 240 badly needed housing units for Palestinians, who actually need thousands of housing units to solve their chronic housing crisis caused mainly by Israeli refusal to allow Palestinian construction in the city as part of its demographic war. Zahi Khoury, who has traced his family ties to Jerusalem to 1776, when the United State became independent, mocking US presidential hopefuls who claimed that the Palestinian people were invented, hoped that Padico and Landmark’s joint venture would encourage others to follow suit.“The world has not yet discovered the potential of investment in East Jerusalem,” he said. “This project is bound to improve the economy of the East section of the city neglected for years.”Aysar Batayneh, general manager of Landmark Hotels in Jordan, said the hotel has employed 150 people but its value added will serve many more Palestinian families when the hotel starts full operation. A swimming pool on the top floor of the five-story hotel is the first in the area. Also an outdoor terrace overlooks most of Jerusalem and its Old City. A Lebanese restaurant gives patrons a taste of good food. A dining room at the basement of the hotel will offer buffet breakfast and dinner to customers. One royal suite has 100 square meters of space and all the facilities a royalty needs. In addition, 30 executive suites offer good stay for top notch executives. Today, the hotel is 30% occupied but there are bookings in the next days that will bring occupancy rate to 100% as Easter pilgrims and tourists flock the city holiest to Christians everywhere.


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