We said goodbye to our friends in Amman, with whom we had traveled across Egypt and Jordan, to board our flight to Tel Aviv. Upon arrival, our driver picked us up for the 1-hour trip to the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem. After the chaotic and dangerous roads of Egypt it was a welcome site to observe the orderly progress of vehicles along clean and well maintained roadways.
Having been recommended to us as a “special place” that was centrally located near the ancient city we were anxious to experience the American Colony Hotel. As we entered its lush grounds we were warmly greeted by the doorman and receptionist in a lobby containing a wood burning stove and a cat who appeared to be sleeping off happy hour!
With the completion of registration we were escorted to our room where we quickly unpacked and made plans to dine in the American Colony casual restaurant. Upon our arrival at the restaurant we were escorted to a table by the fireplace where we ordered Israeli produced wines, anxious to sample. They were delicious! After a dinner of fresh salad, our first of the trip due to the risk of illness in Egypt and Jordan, and salmon we wandered through the hotel learning more about its history.
Following the loss of their four daughters in a shipwreck, Horatio Spafford wrote the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.” In 1881, Horatio and his wife Anna left Chicago in search of peace. As devout Christians, they chose to move to Jerusalem where they would offer aid to families in distress. Upon their arrival, the Spaffords and 16 other members of their church settled into a small house in the Old City of Jerusalem with the goal of living as early Christians. As their charitable acts became known they established good relations with Arab, Jewish, and Bedouin peoples and were kindly referred to as “the Americans.” In 1894, the Americans were joined by 70 Swedes and an additional 55 two years later. The enlarged group required a larger home.
The home they purchased, ultimately becoming the American Colony Hotel, had been built as a palace for a pasha and his four wives. The Americans moved in and continued extending hospitality to those in need. In 1902 the community began accepting guests from Europe and America and quickly became the lodging for pilgrims whose expectations were not met by the existing establishments in Jerusalem. The American Colony Hotel is still owned and run by the descendants of the original founding community and the basement of the hotel contains a rich archive of artifacts, including the original score for “It is Well With my Soul.”
As we made our way back to our room through the festive grounds of the hotel we were looking forward to watching my nephew play in the Clemson national championship game in the early morning hours, Jerusalem time. After a 2AM alarm, I huddled under the bed covers, from 7,400 miles way, watching Clemson defeat Alabama while my husband slept peacefully beside me. After the inherent danger we encountered in Egypt I was grateful for the hospitality that the Americans had established so long ago. It was indeed well with my soul.
Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.