Tim Boxer at King David in Jerusalem
Ivor Davis at Meadowood in Napa Valley

King David Hotel lobby
Photo Courtesy King David

For Royal Tour of Holy City
Start at King David Hotel

Story and Photos by Tim Boxer

HERE was an extra foreign flag in the lobby when I recently checked into the stately King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Besides the permanent American standard, to honor the on-site residence of the American ambassador, there was the Norwegian banner, saluting the presence of the deputy foreign minister.

During the mandate period, the British requisitioned part of the hotel for headquarters.

Ever since the country achieved independence, the hotel continued to be a magnet for royalty, heads of state, diplomats and assorted dignitaries. Those included Jordan’s King Hussein, America’s Bill Clinton and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

Benny Olearchik at historic table

During my six days at the hotel I ran into Nobel peace laureate Elie Wiesel, Edgar Bronfman and Israel Singer of the World Jewish Congress, and Yeshiva University president Norman Lamm among other notables.

Director of Sales Benny Olearchik praises Clinton as one of the most down-to-earth gentlemen of all boldface types who’ve passed through these doors.

The U.S. president was here for Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral. As he walked through the lobby he shook hands with everyone in sight, much to the consternation of his security detail.

“He called up one of our managers to his suite and thanked her personally for the hospitality the hotel provided on a last minute notice. It was very moving.

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“We always get letters of gratitude,” Olearchik added, “but to be thanked in person was not done before. That was amazing.”

Actually the King David premium service begins right off the plane. If you booked a minimum of three nights at the Presidential, Royal, Deluxe or Duplex suite, a representative will meet you at the airport and escort you to the Masada VIP lounge where your passport is processed and baggage reclaimed.

Madonna once tried to join this illustrious clientele. Of course she was welcomed at the hotel with open arms, but then the self-centered diva threw a tantrum and took to her heels.

Director of sales Benny Olearchik told me that the singing star had come to do a concert in Tel Aviv ten years ago, and naturally wanted to stay at the most prestigious lodging place in the country, even though it was an hour away in Jerusalem.

Gardens and pool at King David

“We cleared 20 rooms on the top floor for her entourage,” Olearchik said. “We gave her the Royal Suite.”

I inspected the Royal Suite on the sixth floor facing the Old City. It is huge, with connecting bedrooms, Jacuzzi bath, guest powder room, boardroom with electronic presentation screen, CD stereo system, VCR, DVD and fax.

If they give that to me, I promise I will not throw a fit.

As it happened, when Madonna went to her suite, a female guest popped out of a room and snapped a picture. How dare she!

The pop celebrity popped her cork and flew into a rage.

“She demanded that the entire floor be cleared for her personal use,” Olearchik said. “If not, she threatened to leave.”

After an hour, Madonna herself cleared out and found refuge at the Dan Tel Aviv.

Moslem Quarter is colorful

“We decided not to charge her for all those rooms they booked,” Olearchik said, “since they used another Dan hotel.” The King David is part of the Dan chain, so at least Madonna kept within the family.

You can see why the King David attracts the gold-plated traveler the moment you step into the high-ceilinged lobby. The reception desk at the right is staffed by the most courteous clerks you will find this side of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Olearchik said the hotel had recently undergone an extensive renovation that took three years and $25 million.

To the right of the lobby is the elegant Reading Room dominated by a formidable dining ensemble.

The ornate mahogany table played a key role in the peace process. It was brought to the Sea of Galilee where King Hussein and Yitzhak Rabin ratified the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel on November 10, 1994.

Dome of the Rock on the
Temple Mount

When you make the King David your base, you have all of Jerusalem at your fingertips. With a driver and a guide, I was able to explore several parts of the Holy City that I missed on previous visits – including the Tunnel Wall and Ein Kerem.

Our guide, Moshe Mor, was quite cordial and full knowledgeable.  He may be reached at 054 408 561.

He was very patient with my picture taking. When we drove past Moment Café, he had the driver back up so I could get out and record the scene. Business was normal following the tragedy. A plaque on the gate was dedicated to the 11 victims of a suicide bomber on March 8, 2002.

Across the street is the prime minister’s residence. No sooner did I aimed my camera than a soldier sprinted across the street demanding identification. My NYPD press card did not impress him. He made me delete three images in my digital camera.

Ein Kerem was formerly an Arab neighborhood, turned into an artist’s colony. We visited the studio of Yitzhak Greenfield, a native of Brooklyn. His son showed us some of the work. His father was away in New York for a showing.

Nina checks out olive press at
Yitzhak Greenfield studio in Ein Kerem

The Tunnel Wall, beneath the Kotel, caused a deadly confrontation with Arabs when it opened. We descended at the Western Wall for a long walk underground.

The tunnel is fully lighted, with descriptive plaques along the way. Behind the wall, our guide said, is the Holy of Holies from the Second Temple.

We emerged in the Moslem Quarter, where the exit was guarded by soldiers. Walking along Chain Street, we came to the Green Door, which leads to the Dome of the Rock. We were stopped by a contingent of troops. Entrance is forbidden to all except Moslems.

I look forward to the day, soon, when peace comes to the Holy City and we are welcome to walk on the Temple Mount and visit the Dome of the Rock.


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Meadowood in Napa Valley

Anyone for Croquet in Napa Valley?

By Sally Ogle Davis and Ivor Davis

N this super competitive era when hotels are increasingly expected to provide "life style experiences" rather than simply a place to lay your head at the end of the day, it's not unusual to find resorts armed with golf and tennis pros, personal fitness gurus, skin consultants and even nutritionists.

But in a corner of California’s Napa Valley, on 250 tree smothered acres, the Relais and Chateaux  resort Meadowood in St. Helena goes one or two better than anything even their vaunted French counterparts can provide.

Would you believe – a real live croquet pro, a wine tutor and a culture guru who, when he's not guest conducting with some of the world's great orchestras, is planning languid summer evenings of great classical music on Meadwood's green lawns.

Hidden away among groves of native oak, madrone, douglas fir and sycamores just off the Silverado Trail, the former country club, now more like a relaxed country estate than  hotel, was purchased twenty-five years ago by H. William Harlan, a former mortgage banker who first discovered the spot when he was a student at UC Berkeley.

Over the quarter century Harlan turned it into one of Travel and Leisure's Top Twenty-five Small Hotels of the World.  His aim was not to ape the great resorts of Europe but to create an all round genuinely California experience for his guests, enriching their cultural, social and sporting life.

How well he succeeded can be seen by the fact that Meadowood hosts the annual Napa auction (the next is in April) attended ever year by xenophiles from all over the globe,  that its restaurant and grill regularly makes the country's best dining; its luxurious cabins among the trees with their stone fireplaces, high beams, down duvets, and secluded decks regularly appear on Conde Nast's "Gold List" of places to stay, and that this summer a full Madame Butterfly was staged as part of its "Opera on the Lawn" series.

Sound a bit stuffy?  No way.

First and foremost Meadowood is fun. And much of that can be attributed to Jerry Stark whose province in the resort is an inviting sun dappled, impossibly smooth green lawn.

Jerry, croquet pro par excellence, is a large genial bear of a man with a curled ginger moustache – think Santa Claus in "whites."

And if you think croquet is a refined game for English ladies in long dresses, you haven't seen Jerry's sneaky jump shot by which, with ruthless elan, he knocks his opponent's balls to kingdom come!

Built like the former high school football player he once was, and now ranked 17th in the world's croquet rankings, Jerry soon had us waging a savagely competitive war – and I do mean savage – with all the machiavellian strategy of a great game of chess.

There was very little of the refined minuet about this game, and a lot of high fives and war whoops going on, fuelled no doubt by the fact that in between shots we were indulging on the sidelines in a little blind tasting of French champagne and California sparkling wines under the tutelage of John Thoreen, otherwise known as "The Wine Tutor."

A former humanities professor, before a prolonged trip to Tuscany showed him there was more to life than academic politics, John has written and consulted extensively on the wines of the Napa Valley and is responsible for the resort's some 300 label wine list.

He is one of those men who, rather than air his superior knowledge, genuinely wants to assist you in your appreciation for the fruit of the vine.

He wants you to leave Napa with a real appreciation of the region's legendary wine culture.

He takes a prominent role in the annual Napa Valley auction and delights in taking guests on tours to tiny wineries you'd never find on your own, and to show you the best places to buy selections for your own cellars.

He's a fun and erudite guy to just hang out with. Who knew that Euripides and wine go together like Napa and sunshine.

Meadowood welcomes you

Blind tasting is a humbling experience. We would have sworn our favorite Champagne was French, but when we were not aware of what we were drinking, we picked Etoile, a light crisp sparkling wine made by Domaine Chandon right there in Napa.

We had just missed director of cultural affairs Richard Williams who had left for his "other job" as a distinguished performer and guest conductor with orchestras like the London Philharmonic, National Symphony at the Kennedy Center and the Czech Philharmonic.

As Meadwoods liason to the arts community, Williams provides for guest lectures, concerts, seminars and an artist in residence program, all without ever having to leave the grounds.

Which left two essential and related ingredients of this "lifestyle" business undone: fine food and the care of the body beautiful.

There are two restaurants at Meadowood, both under the executive eye of chef Didier Lenders and the day to day management of chef de cuisine Steve Tevere.

The food, as befits its wine country location, is geared to the seasons with fresh regional ingredients, a task made easier by the resort's extensive kitchen gardens under the direction of resident horticulturalist William Kuhn. Kuhn has recently planted a small olive grove and looks forward to some day being able to press Meadowood's own  olive oil.

Dining on a beautiful balmy night on the restaurant's deck overlooking the fairways was a magical experience.

The yellowfin tuna carpaccio, the tiny tail of lobster served on fresh corn risotto, and the saddle of lamb, followed by a passion fruit souffle with crème anglais washed down with a zinfandel from a small winery down the road, was a tribute to Tevere's  feel for the area's bounty.

The next morning, bright and not too early, saw us both heading for the spa. One went for the traditional facial, while the male member of our two person team – seeking new uses for his favorite fruit – indulged in an all over body polishing with grape seeds.

He emerged looking like a well-scrubbed pink cherub, or at least one who smelled like a barrel of ripe cabernet grapes.


  • Late fall is the very best time of year in Napa when the heat of summer softens to the warm luxury of fall.

  • Meadowood is at 900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, California. Call toll free 1-800 458-8080. It's extensive website www.meadowood.com is a great way to look over the resort without leaving your home.

  • It's a popular spot for weddings on the lawn, and rates vary, again depending on the time of year.

  • Room rates start at $350 depending on the season and whether you book midweek or at weekends. You can take the entire family along if you want to book a four bedroom suite that starts at $l,890 and climbs to $3,500 at peak  time.

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