The approach to the King David Hotel. Photo by Noam Chen for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, courtesy Creative Commons

Jerusalem’s venerable King David Hotel, which opened in 1930, reflects several decades of the city’s complicated past. To stay here is to experience a chunk of history. The hotel played an important role in Israel’s struggle for statehood, through the War of Independence, the division of Jerusalem and the reunification, and onward.

The mot juste for the King David Hotel is grand.

The King David has hosted many a royal guest and head of state, from King Abdullah of Jordan to Barack Obama. (The hotel’s website boasts that past visitors to the hotel include “248 Prime Ministers, 53 Kings, and 102 Presidents”—and that royal head count doesn’t count the Queen of Pop, Madonna, who has stayed here multiple times.) One section of the King David served as military headquarters during the British Mandate, and its south wing was bombed by the Zionist extremist Irgun faction in 1946. The hotel’s TV channel plays a looped documentary about its remarkable history.

The mot juste for the King David Hotel is grand: from the massive lobby spaces with tiled floors, leather and gilt furnishings, and high ceilings painted in colorful Levantine patterns to its lavish sixth-floor rooms overlooking the walls of the Old City, it speaks of opulence and longstanding glories. Any visitor to Jerusalem should at least walk that august red carpet, in the footsteps of fifty-three kings (and one Queen of Pop).

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