Tourist, Pilgrim, Migrant, Settler: Rethinking the Modern History of Ashkenazim in the Levant Through Sites of Hospitality


  • Yair Wallach SOAS, University of London



settler-colonialism, Tourism, Hotels, migration, Ashkenazim, Palestine, Zionism


This article looks at Ashkenazi-operated hotels in Tiberias, Beirut, Jerusalem, Jaffa, Cairo, Alexandria, and elsewhere, in the late Ottoman period and under British rule, to consider the confusing ambiguities that these stories reveal. Ashkenazi presence in Palestine is typically understood in terms of either the pious, zealot pilgrims, or the nationalist settlers. And yet the story of the hotel owners and operators could also fit into a different category, that of migrants, who sought to integrate within existing social, economic, and political structures. The tourism and hospitality industry, which relied on flows of people across borders and on a diverse customer-base, was to some degree at odds with the segregation associated with Zionist Yishuv. Such stories, which have been forgotten and erased by the history of Palestine in the twentieth century, prompt us to rethink our understanding of Ashkenazi history in the region.

Author Biography

Yair Wallach, SOAS, University of London

Yair Wallach is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Israeli Studies at SOAS, the University of London, where he is also the head of the SOAS Centre for Jewish Studies. He is a social and cultural historian of modern Palestine/Israel. His book A City in Fragments: Urban Text in Modern Jerusalem was published by Stanford University Press in 2020 and won the Jordan Schintzer Prize in 2022. 


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