The glowing neon red prayer hands radiating on the stone wall signal that you have found the right place. You’re in Jaffa, Israel’s ancient port city now serving as a quieter southern attachment to Tel Aviv. But more specifically, you’re at The Jaffa, a new luxury hotel housed inside of a 19th century complex.
It took thirteen years (almost double the time originally estimated) for New York-based property developer Aby Rosen to realize his dream of opening The Jaffa. There was no telling what the team would discover underground when they began excavation on the hallowed grounds of the property. “If you dig in Israel you will find just because there is such history there and so many layers of people went through the country—from the Turks to the Muslims to the Jews to the Romans,” says Rosen. “You will dig, you will find. I wasn't aware that it would take that long, but that's one of the risks I had to take.”
The Chapel is one of the most glorious parts: If you get there before the sun goes down, you can see every inch of the stunning interior, the massive stained glass windows throwing soft colorful light into the cavernous space. It’s an ethereal glow, one you expect in a church, but here you are in a bar. Follow the checkered marble floor to the front of the room where you’d traditionally find an altar, and there’s still an altar—this one’s dedicated to alcohol. A grey marble slab bar sits front and center. Above it where you might find an organ, there’s a DJ booth.
While the church once served the School of the Sisterhood of St. Joseph, today it serves as a place for you and your friends to drink and dance on a night out in Tel Aviv. You might even have a religious experience.