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Building Palestine
Hotels / August 2000

By Larry Luxner

BETHLEHEM -- According to the Bible, Jesus Christ was born in a manger because there was no room at the inn.

If Jesus were to return to Bethlehem today, however, he'd find plenty of rooms -- 250 to be exact -- at the newly inaugurated Jacir Palace Inter-Continental Hotel, about a mile down the road from Manger Square.

"This is the first five-star hotel in Palestine," says General Manager Olof Jurva. "This will be the calling card for Palestine. This is a boutique hotel in a 100-year-old palace, built on 30 hectares of property, and surrounded by 30,000 trees and bushes."

The Jacir Palace, which represents a $50 million investment on the part of its owners, Palestine Development Co., isn't the only luxury hotel under jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

Kingdom Holding Co., based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is developing a 250-room Movenpick hotel in the Gaza Strip, according to executive vice-president Ramsey Mankarious. Other chains are also interested in Palestine, which could declare statehood as early as this September.

"We now have 1,500 rooms in the West Bank and Gaza," said Bajis Ismail, director-general of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. "By year's end, we'll have another 1,000."

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