The King David Hotel (Hebrew: מלון המלך דוד Malon ha-Melekh David) (Arabic: فندق الملك داود) is a 5-star hotel in Jerusalem, Israel. Opened in 1931, the hotel was built with locally quarried pink limestone and was founded by Ezra Mosseri, a wealthy Egyptian Jewish banker. It is located on King David Street in the centre of Jerusalem, overlooking the Old City and Mount Zion.
The hotel has played an important role in the Israeli history of Jerusalem, from the struggle for statehood, through Independence War, division of Jerusalem, and the reunification, to this day. Among other things the hotel was known for being the scene of a bombing in 1946 during a terrorist attack led by the Zionist paramilitary group Irgun, and for its frequent hosting of heads of state, dignitaries and other personalities during their visit to Jerusalem. The hotel is currently owned and operated by the Dan Hotels group.
In 1929, Palestine Hotels Ltd. purchased 4.5 acres (18,000 m2) on Jerusalem's Julian’s Way, today King David Street. Half the construction costs were paid by Ezra Mosseri, an affluent Egyptian Jewish banker and director of the National Bank of Egypt, and another 46% by other wealthy Cairo Jews. The approximately 4% remaining was paid by the National Bank, which purchased 693 shares of the company between 1934 and 1943.
From its earliest days, the King David Hotel hosted royalty: the dowager empress of Persia, queen mother Nazli of Egypt and King Abdullah I of Jordan stayed at the hotel, and three heads of state forced to flee their countries took up residence there: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, forced to abdicate in 1931, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, driven out by the Italians in 1936, and King George II of Greece who set up his government in exile at the hotel after the Nazi occupation of his country in 1942. During the British Mandate, the southern wing of the hotel was turned into a British administrative and military headquarters.
On July 22, 1946, the southwestern corner of the hotel was bombed during an attack led by the Zionist paramilitary group Irgun. 91 people died and 45 people were injured. An earlier attempt by the Irgun to attack the hotel was foiled when the Haganah learned of it and warned the British authorities.
On May 4, 1948, when the British flag was lowered, the building became a Jewish stronghold. At the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the hotel found itself overlooking "no-man’s land" on the armistice line that divided Jerusalem into Israeli and Jordanian territory. It was purchased by the Dan Hotels chain in 1958. Multiple scenes in the 1960 film Exodus were shot at the hotel, both outside and inside, in the main lobby and on the terrace. When East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War, the hotel was expanded, with two additional floors.
The design for the hotel was commissioned from a Swiss Architect, Emile Vogt, with the actual construction supervised by Jerusalem architect Benjamin Chaiken. According to Hebrew University professor Ruth Kark, Vogt's approach was typical of European architects who, commissioned to design buildings in Jerusalem, incorporated "Eastern-style domes, arches, various kinds of different-colored stone, and interior decorations with religious symbos and inscriptions," in buildings whose strict symmetry marks them indelibly as European. The public rooms were decorated by G.G. Hufschmid in motifs taken from Assyrian, Hittite, Phoenician and Muslim buildings in an effort to evoke a "Biblical" style. Hufschmid, also Swiss, stated that his intention was "to evoke by reminiscence the ancient Semitic style and the ambiance of the glorious period of King David."
Today, the King David Hotel is part of the Dan Hotel Chain, and a member of The Leading Hotels of the World and continues to accommodate foreign heads of state and diplomats visiting Israel. Amongst the hotel's more famous guests are King George V; Jordan’s King Hussein; U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama; British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair; Charles, Prince of Wales; Elizabeth Taylor; Richard Dreyfus; Richard Gere; Madonna; and Hillary Clinton.