Modern Orthodox Zionism and Arab Hotels by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

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.

Asher Lopatin

8 Responses to Modern Orthodox Zionism and Arab Hotels by Rabbi Asher Lopatin

  1. Moshe says:

    A very interesting post! When I toured Israel in 1986 with NCSY we stayed in an Arab hotel in East Jerusalem; I wonder if NCSY would still do that today.

  2. eddie says:

    Rabbi Lopatin,
    I think your Rebbe’s son is involved with a Jewish Hachnasas Orchim in the jewish quarter. I think you would have saved a substantial amount of money by staying there, as well. Kol Tuv, Eddie

    • Asher Lopatin says:

      Thanks, Eddie. Consider me an istanis (spoiled), but I do prefer to stay at hotels and not bother anyone – even when the hotel isn’t air conditioned. But we should do more to publicize opportunities – Jewish and otherwise – for people to stay in the Old City.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear Rabbi Lopatin,
    I think staying at such a place sends a wrong message.


    Joshua Nathan

    PS an example I can do business with a jew or non Jew I see my Rabbi stays at an Arab Hotel so I do not have to give my fellow jew the business I can use the non jew to fix my car or what not or what forth.

    PSS I agree with Eddie you could have stayed at the Hachanasas Orchim that you Rebbe son’s runs in the old city.

    PSS. I was appalled to learn about you psak about Abortion. You are not a Posek you received smicha but as far as I know you did not learn to be a posek. Questions of this nature should be dealt with by poskim that are steeped in learning and know the gemorah rishonim shach taz and so on and so forth.

    PSSS I am excited to hear that you will be coming to live in ISrael in 2 years.

  4. Asher Lopatin says:

    Hi Joshua,

    I think it is better to go to the car dealer that fixes your car the best – whether he is a Jew or non-Jew. Time to leave the ghetto. If Jews don’t fix cars as well as gentiles, they should go into another business. I’m a big free trade person and feel the same way about American car companies. We drive a Honda, and a Dodge – which was a gift.

    Who says that I have a p’sak about abortion. If only a posek can give a p’sak, and I am not a posek, then it was not a p’sak! I was giving some examples of the p’sak of Rav Ahron Soloveichik, zt”l. If someone was contemplating an abortion, I would definitely consult before issuing my own p’sak.

    Thanks, Eddie, for the lodging suggestion, but I prefer a hotel.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Dear Rabbi Lopatin,
    Thank you for your response I do not live in ghetto I was talking all things equal one should look to give his own the business I am not sure why that has anything to do with living in a gehtto. I still think staying where you sent sends a wrong message I am sorry you don’t understand.

    Kol tuv,


  6. David says:

    I don’t understand: There is no reciprocity between Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab residents. Ha’aretz makes the point very well in today’s editorial.

    You are correct that being in an Arab neighborhood doesn’t mean that you are in a dangerous neighborhood (how many times have American Jews used phrases like “not a nice neighborhood” or questioned if a neighborhood was safe when what they really were noticing was that there were a lot of people who aren’t white living there…) but Jerusalem’s Arabs are not equal citizens in a multicultural city. They are living under a foreign occupation that they detest and are participants in an system wherein their labor is exploited, their taxes are used to finance Jewish neighborhoods they lack the security that comes from knowing the government will enforce the law fairly.


    • Asher Lopatin says:

      Hi David,

      I agree with you – which does not mean that Israel is evil or wrong, just that the situation should not be the long term solution. The short, medium and long term solution is for Jerusalem to be the undivided capital of one country, which is a Jewish and Palestinian state (called “The Holy Land”) which contains the State of Israel (the majority state, at least for 50 years), the State of Palestine (or Al-Aqtza) and the State of Gaza. Truth be told, Gaza maybe should become like Hong Kong, which starts as part of the Holy Land, but eventually is given over to be part of Egypt.

      But there has to be equality for every citizen, and a fair government which represents everyone, and an Army which is integrated – at a pace based on security needs – which protects everyone’s security, Jew or Arab.

      Asher Lopatin

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