I just got back from a trip to Israel to study at the Shalom Hartman Institute for a week or their Rabbinic Torah Seminar with over a hundred other rabbis from all denominations. But that I’ve done for many summers. However, this summer I did something different, which touches on Modern Orthodoxy and travel and leisure. Hotels were so expensive that I looked into a cheap hotel in a bad location and discovered that the food was not under supervision. So it prompted me to do something I’ve never done: I looked at a hotel in the Old City – happened to be owned by Christian Arabs. It was $55, including free WiFi in the room, a good fan, no A/C, but a lovely balcony and a good shower. Even a desk! The New Imperial Hotel was right in Jaffa Gate, right as you enter, across from David’s Citadel, and was surrounded by some nice pubs where jolly tourists were schmoozing and drinking beer till the wee hours of the night. Nice place. But where Morethodoxy comes in is the question: was it right to stay in an Arab hotel vs. a Jewish hotel in West Jerusalem. One side of me feels a little guilty for not giving my $$ to my brother and sister Jews. But on the other hand, I think it is important, if you really believe in a united Jerusalem – and I do – and that this is the capital city of the Jewish people, that we can walk and stay everywhere in the city. Isn’t it strange that we venerate the holiness of Jerusalem, but most of us have not stayed overnight in the Old City – unless we’ve been in Yeshiva? Why should Jews not be able to stay in the Old City? In fact, every time I am in Israel, I make a point of walking all over Yerushalayim – as long as it’s safe – especially all over the Old City, in all quarters, and even on Salah Addin street in East Jerusalem. If we believe it is our city, then we should show some commitment to it with our feet and even where we sleep.
After three days at the hotel, I can say it was a wonderful experience, a warm place where I felt comfortable and safe. And I wore my Kippa with pride going into the hotel, and in the hotel – and it added to my quest for uniting our land and our holy city.
I suggest, as a Zionist, Morethodox rabbi, to “take back Jerusalem” by showing your commitment to a united Jerusalem, where Arabs can stay in hotels in West Jerusalem – and they do – and Jews can stay in hotels in the Old City.
Israel felt safer than ever: it is for us to make the statement how much we love our Land – all of it.