Tel Aviv Hotel Built by American Settlers Gets a New Lease on Life - The Jewish Voice
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Tel Aviv Hotel Built by American Settlers Gets a New Lease on Life

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One of Tel Aviv’s most stylish hotels in located in the American colony outside Jaffa and has a most fascinating history. According to a recently published report on the Forbes web site, the hotel was founded in 1866 when brothers George and John Drisco traveled from Maine to Israel and decided to construct a hotel.  Over the last century the building has been used in various ways and now it is was again known as “The Drisco” – eponymously named for the founders.

The Forbes web site reported that the Drisco brothers were part of a group of more than 150 American Christians from Maine and New England who followed their faith across the oceans seeking to build a new life in the Holy Land, then part of the Ottoman Empire. The Drisco brothers arrived in Israel with building materials and wood to construct the kind of buildings that they were familiar with back in the United States.

At that juncture in time, the brothers needed to obtain permission to build from the Ottoman Turks who had occupied the land, Forbes reported. They were successful in getting that permission and they constructed a  new neighborhood not far from Jaffa. Because the cobbled streets and wooden buildings were reminiscent of the kind of buildings that dotted the home state of the Drisco brothers, it became known as “The American Colony,” as reported by Forbes.

Life in the Holy Land was not easy and many confronted serious challenges. As such, Forbes reported, that within a few years of their arrival, a great number of new immigrants had either decided to return to America or to relocate to Europe, Forbes reported. At about that time, settlers from the Templar Movement in Germany had purchased a lot of the property that was left behind by those who had left. Forbes reported that their objective was to redeem the Holy Land through a lifestyle that was marked by an industrious quality.

Forbes reported that in 1904, the Templars built the Beit Immanuel Hostel and the Immanuel Church. They are still standing today in the neighborhood.

As for the Drisco brothers from Maine, their plans in the Holy Land did not work out as they had envisioned and after several years of dwelling there, they found themselves in an indigent state, according to the Forbes report. They had no choice but to sell the hotel the built to Ernst Hardegg, a German Templar hotelier who completed the building in 1870, and named it The Jerusalem Hotel.  The Forbes report indicated that the hotel was considered one of the most prestigious in the region. The hotel boasted such European luxury as delicate hand painted accents on the walls of its lobby, the report said.

When World War II began, the British who had a mandate in what was then called Palestine, took over the property and changed it into a headquarters for their military operations, the Forbes report indicated. As the years passed, the hotel became a house for Jewish refugees and as Forbes reported it then transitioned into the sight of the Israeli Ministry of Education. Thereafter, the building was abandoned for more than 30 years, the report said.

Forbes reported that in 2006, a project dedicated to the hotel’s reconstruction was launched to restore the building to its former glory. The reconstruction of the classic edifice sought to breathe new life into the property as well, while taking pains to preserve the historic features and original murals on the walls, as was reported by Forbes.

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