Monday, May 17, 2010

Pesach at the Orchid Hotel - Eilat

Since we are in the last 30 hour countdown to Shavuot, which is the Atzeret (conclusion) to Pesach, let us return to our Pesach holiday stay at the Orchid Hotel in Eilat. The Orchid seems to be just about everyone's favorite hotel in Eilat. It is outside the main hotel and tourist strips in the city, so it is relatively quiet and isolated. It is located on Coral Beach in Eilat Bay, which has the most phantasmagorical coral and tropical fish you can imagine. The Eilat Oceanarium is directly across the road, giving a fish-eye view of the splendors in the water for those who do not wish to swim, snorkel or scuba dive, all of which services are just a short distance from the hotel.

Panoramic view from the Orchid Hotel of the Oceanarium, Eilat Bay, and the Red Mountains in Jordan beyond (click for full size images)

The hotel's architecture is based  on a contemporary Thai theme with separate Thai houses built in to the side of  one of Eilat's mountains.  Each "house" has a gabled and thatched ceiling with a large bunk area above the main room, accessible via a ladder, and includes another double bed. There is also a balcony off each house, which is more useful in the winter than the summer when temperatures top 100 degrees F.

Panoramic view of the Orchid Hotel in Eilat, built into the side of a mountain

Each house has its own balcony

The grounds are heavily landscaped with palms and exotic flowers, giving a great deal of privacy and sense of isolation to each of the houses.

Landscaping adds to the privacy of each "house"

Koi ponds enhance the Asian theme

Access to the the houses is either up long flights of stairs or a very steep cobble-stone road. To accomodate guests who do not wish to walk (many) the hotel runs small motorized carts for passengers and luggage, called "tuk-tuks", that continuously or on demand travel up the steep mountain road. It's really not as difficult as it sounds, and the tuk-tuks make it a joy ride.

The cobble stone road to the houses

One odd thing about the Thai-theme was the Buddhist effigies all around the hotel, including in the rooms. This seemed to be taking authenticity a bit far for a Jewish hotel, and some people covered the little Buddhist cupids in their rooms with towels or pillow slips.

Buddhist effigy by the swimming pool

Buddha cupids in each room

Our Pesach tour was organized by Rabbi Stewart Weiss and his wife from the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana. Rabbi Weiss hosts Pesach annually at this hotel. All of the participants were anglo-speaking, many from the UK and other parts of the former British Empire, so all of the divrei Torah and talks were in English. Rabbi Weiss has a unique combination of erudition and modesty that make his divrei Torah a joy to listen to. He also hosts kosher tours to various locations around the world throughout the year. Wish I had more time and money to participate in those. His next one is in October to Ireland.

Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Rabbi Weiss' wife (right)

The hotel provided an inspirational place for us to hold services, on a covered balcony overlooking Eilat Bay and the Red Mountains in Jordan. On Sheviei shel Pesach (the seventh and in Israel last day of Pesach), when the Jews crossed the Red Sea, Rabbi Weiss led a group to the Oceanarium at night where they recited Shirat Yam Suf (The Song of the Red Sea).

Our shul at the Orchid Hotel

View from our shul

Davening during Chol Ha'Moed

There was a large, sunny and airy dining room, also with a gabled roof, together with seating outdoors by the pool, for all meals. As is usual with 5-star Israeli hotels, the food was outstanding, plentiful and kosher with many varieties of fish, meat, vegetables and deserts served at each meal.

Dining room at the Orchid Hotel

This was a Pesach to remember and definitely a place to return to many times.


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