New City / Old City: Hanukkah in Israel

Article by: unknown author

Sat December 08, 2012 | 00:00 AM

Israel-WailingWall_0At the Western Wall, my new letterman’s jacket is looking a little better

As seen on AFAR

I guess I’m an honorary Jew. I was in a romantic relationship with an Israeli for eleven years and three-quarters of my business partners have been Jewish. The first time I visited Jerusalem was in 1991 during the time of the Arab uprising called Intifada. I arrived in this holy city and immediately sprinted to the Old City despite being warned it was one of the more unsafe areas. Despite Jerusalem being rather sedate compared to the party town of Tel Aviv, I felt at home in the Old City.

Two decades later and during Hanukkah, I figured a visit to Israel during the holidays wouldn’t be complete without a trip to this spiritual homeland for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Imagine my surprise when my friend Oren took me on Jaffa Street that used to be a boring commercial thoroughfare and is now a pedestrian mall with European-style cafes and a modern tram. Then, we went to a very stylish boutique hotel just a stone’s throw from the Old City, called the Malmilla Hotel. Looks a little like the Hotel Vitale I created in San Francisco. Next we walked through one of the most stylish outdoor malls I’ve ever seen, the Malmilla mall, where I enjoyed a sufganiyot at Rolidin, the best spot in all of Israel for these scrumptious Hanukkah treats.

By the time, we got to the Jaffa Gate of the Old City, I’d almost forgotten about the mystical exoticism of this ancient piece of contested real estate. Given my Christian origins, I had to visit the Holy Sepulchre Church where Jesus was crucified and buried. Every quarter of this city is full of history and histrionics, but no place is more coveted than the Western Wall, where I’m pictured here with an ascetic who has come for prayer.