Luxurious hostel Sergei's Courtyard was built in the late 19th century on the orders of Romanov Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich to provide a comfortable resting place for Russian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. Now, more than a century after its closure, the hostel is reopening — and this time it's open to all.
After significant restoration under Israeli architect Uri Padan, Sergei's Courtyard will have a ceremonial reopening on 18 July, according to a report by BBC News. Its Renaissance-style buildings lie at the heart of Jerusalem's Russian Compound district, run by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (of which Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was head) after the Ottoman Sultans sold it to Russia, later rented to the British Mandate and then purchased by the Israeli government in the 1960s.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was revived and the Israeli government agreed to give certain buildings back to Russia, with the resident Israeli government agencies vacating Sergei's Courtyard in 2012. The Russian government allocated around $10 million for restoration and refurbishment of the hostel's 22 rooms.
Whereas previously the luxury accommodation was the preserve of Russian pilgrims, anyone will be able to rent a room in the reopened Sergei's Courtyard, with local newspaper Haaretz reporting that the hostel's gardens will be open to the general public.
Despite this increased inclusivity, the reopening has not been without opposition. A right-wing lobby group, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, unsuccessfully appealed to the High Court in 2008 against the return of the buildings to Russia.
“Russian pilgrims can now walk in the footsteps of their ancestors,” Boris Lemper, lawyer for the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, told the Times of Israel.
Source: BBC News