Not Exactly Fit for a King

After reopening to great fanfare, Tiberias apartment hotel forced to shut down due to serious health and safety issues.

It was all smiles when the Migdalei Hemalachim apartment hotel in Tiberias held a dedication ceremony three weeks ago to mark its opening in a building that had stood empty for 26 years. It now turns out, however, that sanitary conditions at the facility are inadequate and the hotel began operating without securing all the necessary permits.

Haaretz has discovered that the hotel is operating without a fire permit or business license, and without the approval of the Health Ministry. The ministry said hotel representatives have been summoned for a hearing tomorrow.

The hotel's manager, Yigal Menahemi, told Haaretz yesterday the hotel, whose name means Kings Towers, has been shut down and will not reopen until the management takes care of the problems. That won't be before the end of September, he said.

Dirty dishes at a hotel in Tiberias

"It's possible we opened too soon," said Menahemi. "You have to remember that we have already received an occupancy permit according to the law."

The hotel is listed online as a four-star facility, and one tourism industry representative warmly recommended it in a conversation with Haaretz: "It's a new hotel, very attractive, with good introductory rates." A group of six families from the Sharon region who stayed at the hotel over the weekend had a very different opinion, however.

Zvika Rosenzweig, whose family was part of the group, said he and others in his party witnessed the staff washing dishes in a small room off the parking lot that was not designed for washing dishes.

Menahemi called the dish washing near the parking lot a one-time occurrence that was done without his knowledge.

"The food contractor made a mistake," the manager said. "We will deal with the defects to everyone's satisfaction. We already installed a dishwasher today."

The hotel has been renting out units to tourists even though it has not received Health Ministry approval, or a business permit from the Tiberias municipality. The city did issue an occupancy permit, but the local fire department refused to issue its permit because it found serious safety hazards.

"The place was opened as if we didn't exist," said Eitan Oved, who heads the fire department in the region. "From inspections conducted on the site, it turns out fire and emergency vehicles would not be able to function at the site. We wouldn't be able to get in if there were a disaster."

He said the 27-meter building was designed in a way that makes it impossible to access the upper floors with a crane.

In a letter to the Tiberias municipality, the fire department said: "The hotel received an [occupancy permit] without the knowledge or approval or the issuance of an opinion on the part of the firefighting service." The letter concluded: "We hereby take no responsibility for any disaster or harm to persons or property caused as a result."

The director general of the Tiberias municipality, Yossi Navah, said the occupancy permit was issued after an inspection by the city engineering department and that the request for a business license was being processed.

Construction of the 256-unit facility was halted in the 1980s due to financial difficulties encountered by the project's developer, a company that has since been dissolved. Building resumed two years ago, after a liquidator was appointed.