Across the world, YMCA centers have offered a refuge for any and all who might need refuge during hard times, and establishing such a center in the often divided Israeli cultural climate was no easy feat, yet the Jerusalem YMCA has inhabited its historic spot for nearly 100 years.
While the YMCA organization has had an Israeli presence since the 1800’s it was not until the opening decades of the 20th century that its current incarnation was established. This was thanks to the efforts of one Dr. Archibald Harte. The good doctor made it his later life’s work to create a YMCA in Jerusalem that was not only large enough to service the entire city but also a non-discriminatory public center for any of the population’s conflicting religions. After seven years of construction, Harte’s vision was completed in 1933, on the occasion of which Harte dedicated the center with the words, “Here is a spot whose atmosphere is peace, where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten and international unity be fostered and developed.”
The center itself is a large, architecturally iconic building with a large central tower that rises well above the surrounding buildings. It is outfitted with all of the modern fitness amenities and still offers low priced hotel services. Today, almost a century later the Jerusalem YMCA continues to welcome guests of all religions and walks of life. In such a conflicted city, it remains a civic and cultural landmark that would have made Dr. Harte proud.