First Hotel in Hebron

Menachem Mendel of Kamimitz revolutionized tourism when he opened hotels in Jerusalem, Hebron and other cities.

3.5.23, 20:08
Menachem Mendel Baum of Kaminitz (alternatively spelled Kamenetz) was the first hotel owner in the Land of Israel, operating the famous Kaminitz hotel in Jerusalem, where Theodor Herzl and Baron Rothchild once stayed. He also managed other boutique European-style guest houses in the country including one in Hebron, revolutionizing the tourist industry in the then-third-world country.

Born in Kaminitz , near Brisk in Lithuania, Menachem Mendel was the son of Rabbi Aharon Baum, author of the book Takanat HaChamim. At his wedding to Tzipa, daughter of a revered rabbi, Menachem Mendel insisted that he and his bride eventually move to the Land of Israel, which they did in 1834.

He published the book, Korot Ha'ayit (Book of the Occurrences of the Times to Jeshurun in the Land of Israel) in 1840 in which he described his experiences in the Jewish homeland, both moving and inspiring as well as tragic and heartbreaking. Menachem Mendel personally experienced the revolt against Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt, in which many Jewish civilians were brutally killed in Hebron and other locations. When the Egyptian general came to the Land of Israel, the Arab serfs who had toiled under Ottoman landowners revolted. “The residents of Hebron did not want to heed the Egyptian general,” Menachem Mendel wrote of the Arab peasants. When Ibrahim Pasha’s army successfully repressed the Arab peasants, “he gave his army permission to loot the city of Hebron for six hours; thus they drank the cup of wrath and the Jews of Hebron were plundered.”

Menachem Mendel also wrote of Jewish life in Hebron and its rich history.

“We arrived in Hebron safely on Sunday evening. Hebron is a large city with two kolelim of Jews: One Kolel of Sephardim and one Kolel of Chabad. The members of the Chabad Kolel are very important, practicing charity, particularly the mitzvah of welcoming all guests and providing for each. There are many stores [located] there; the avenue of the stores leads to the Cave of Machpelah. Above the Cave stand many structures and no one enters the cave; one just stands outside to pray. Above these structures, atop the cave, there is a large house which is a mosque in which the Yishmaelim enter to pray by way of steps; the Jews, however, stand and pray near the steps. There is a hole in the wall leading to the cave and it is the custom for each person to write their heartfelt [concerns] on a card and throw it into the hole, God willing. I will soon expand on the graves of the righteous ones. I also saw Abraham’s tent there as well as his tamarisk.
Described above is the character and order of behavior of those coming to pray at the Cave of Machpelah. I went there, between the stores, over the grave of Avner ben Ner and was required to pay a Yishmaeli – the grave was in his courtyard – to allow me to enter. Outside of the city I went to the grave of Othniel ben Kenaz and, next to him, are laid to rest nine students in niches in the wall of a shelter standing in a vineyard. I gave 20 pa’res to the owner of the vineyard. Also in the vineyard was a shelter with two graves: one of Jesse, father of David, and one of Ruth, the Moabite. I gave the vineyard owner 20 pa’res.”

In 1842, Menachem Mendel and his wife Tzipa opened the famous Kamimitz Hotel, a first-of-its-kind venture in the land of Israel which offered modern accommodations.

Among the famous guests that stayed there were Theodor Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Congress, Menachem Ussishkin, founder of the Jewish National Fund, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, first chief rabbi of the Land of Israel, and Kamal Ataturk, the founding president of the Republic of Turkey.

The hotel had a synagogue and kosher bakery, which sold food at affordable prices. The poor, Torah scholars, and the elderly were offered free meals. Elizabeth Finn, the wife of the British consul James Finn wrote in her memoirs that European bread could be obtained in Jerusalem only at Kaminitz. 

Eliezer Lipa Kamimitz, the son of Menachem Mendel and Tzipa, carried on the family livelihood and managed and expanded the Jerusalem hotel as well as opening several other branches. Those included the Eshel Avraham hotel in Hebron, named for the famed tamarisk tree of Abraham.

The hotel was a first in Hebron and offered accommodations for the growing Jewish community. The Eshel Avraham was later owned by Haim Shneerson. After the 1929 Hebron massacre, his son Yehuda Leib Shneerson testified to the British commission of inquiry that a mob of rioters came to the Eshel Avraham hotel and angrily announced their deadly intentions prior to the massacre.

Today the building that once housed the Eshel Avraham is located on the H1 side of the Hebron under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction. 

In 2006, Ruth Levkowitz of Petah Tikva and her cousin Haim Kaminitz of Savyon wrote to the Jerusalem Municipality suggesting that a street be named after their great-great-grandfather and 2010, the Jerusalem Municipality named a street in memory of Menachem Mendel of Kamenetz.

In 2011, David Cook, a descendant of Menachem Mendel of Kamitiz was a co-translator of his book Kolot HaItim into English.
In 2023 the guest house in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood of Hebron was renovated and renamed Eshel Avraham. 
The first Holy Land hotelier - Jerusalem Post
* Menachem Mendel of Kaminitz - Encyclopedia of Founders & Builders of Israel
Menachem Mendel of Kaminitz - Wikipedia Hebrew
* Kaminitz Hotel - Wikipedia Hebrew