Several dozen residents of the German colony in Jerusalem, as well as a number of environmental movements, protested Tuesday outside the Reich hotel in the city, where a regional council meeting was convening on the issue of building a 14-story Four Seasons Hotel in the German colony.
Residents of the German colony believe that a hotel will ruin the neighborhood atmosphere. At the conclusion of the meeting, the final decision on the building issue was postponed to a later date.
The German colony has been a social and cultural symbol in Jerusalem for years. To this date, the city municipality maintained a trend of not allowing multi-story building in the neighborhood, in order to preserve its unique character.
In recent months, the municipality was presented with a building plan for a complex of multi-story hotels at the entrance of the German colony, including a 14-story Four Seasons Hotel, with 200 rooms and 80 luxury apartments.
Protests against hotel (Photo: Merick Stern)
The hotel would be built at the entrance of the Emek Rafaim Rd, one of the lone remaining Jerusalem streets that have managed to house modern life within historic structures.
Such a placement of the Four Seasons, in additional to marring the area's historic connection, would also block the view of the Old City.
The residents of the area also had a conceptual problem with the Four Seasons' intended luxury apartments, which they claim would be rented out only by wealthy foreign residents who contribute nothing to the nation or neighborhood.
The residents believe that the hotel would not merge with the character of the German colony, not only in physical appearance, but also in relation to the existing residences and buildings in the neighborhood.
The current buildings in the neighborhood stand one to two stories tall, a far cry from the intended 49 feet above street level of the intended hotel. Residents believe that even attempting to blend the hotel in with the street, for example with similar roofs and doorways, is insufficient.
A little history
The German colony in Jerusalem was built by members of the German Templars guild at the end of the 19th century. It was one of several such colonies, in locations such as Jaffa and Haifa.
Most of the buildings are one or two stories high, with tiled roofs, and are built along two parallel streets – Emek Rafaim Rd and Bethlehem Way - with many small alleys between them.
During the second world war, the Templars were sent to Australia because they supported the Nazi regime. The Arab houses in the neighborhood were abandoned during the War of Independence in 1948. After 1948, new immigrants came to live in the colony, which, with the years, has become a highly-coveted neighborhood, with picturesque homes and pastoral charm.