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A Childhood Dream Realized

16 June, 200916 June, 2009 0 comments Christian Guesthouses Christian Guesthouses


George Salfity is a shining example of perseverance and dedication. General Manager of the landmark YMCA Jerusalem, built in 1933 and one of the most prominent Christian guesthouses in the Holy land, George feels he is "where he's meant to be."


For George, the YMCA  is a part and parcel of himself. He spends much of his time each week away from his wife and 4 children who live in Jerusalem, working late nights at the property and attending to all the details of day to day management. When the building was nominated in 1983 for a Nobel Peace prize for reconciliation and co-existence work, he was proud, "this is a Christian institution and it is open to all."  The property's mission of being a place for tolerance and co-existence is reflective of George's personal philosophy. He makes it a point to recruit and maintain a diversified staff of Jews, Arab Muslims and Christians. In fact members of the YMCA board come from many backgrounds. There are 21 board members, of which 7 are Jews, 7 are Arab Moslems and Christians ,7 are Internationals.



During his 29 year tenure at the YMCA he has hosted dignitaries that used the A La Carte Restaurant including Madeline Albright, Warren Christopher, and Hillary Clinton, who visited the famous kindergarten on site. Many of the local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) use the extensive facilities of the YMCA for meetings and other events including the US Embassy, French Consulate, Turkish consulate, Red Cross and many more. The YMCA is ideally located in the heart of the Western side of Jerusalem, directly across the street from the King David Hotel and down the street from the David Citadel, the new Mamila Hotel as well as numerous shops and restaurants.


George is living his childhood dream. Some children want to grow up and be policeman while others want to become teachers, baseball players or doctors.  At the age of 21 George Salfity swore that he would one day work at the historic YMCA.


George was born back when Jerusalem was a divided city and the Mandelbaum gate physically separated the East and the West sides of the city. Movement was restricted and places like the American Colony and Notre Dame were located in what was considered "no man's land" between the Eastern Arab areas and the Western Jewish sections of the city. The Old city of Jerusalem was off limits to Jews and the western side of the city was not open to residents of the east. It would remain divided for 19 more years.


After the 1967 war, the Jewish government immediately unified the city and the physical walls were opened. George, a resident of the Old City was one of several school children to receive a scholarship to attend one of the most prominent day camps in the city, the YMCA Jerusalem, located on King David Street directly across from the prominent King David Hotel.


Children from all over the city attended (and still attend) the day camp at the YMCA, and George mixed with Jewish, Moslem and Christian children from all parts of the city. "In the beginning it was not easy to get along" said George, "there was a stigma because I was from the Old City."  He explained how the kids divided themselves into three cliques; the Israeli kids, the well to do Arab kids, and the scholarship kids, who tended to be from the Old City. " George felt himself to be firmly in the third and yet slowly the children began to mix .  How did they overcome their differences? "We played sports together", continued George, "that's what bonded us."


As summer camps often do, George's camp experience changed his life. He was exposed to new people, new cultures, and in his words "a whole new international world". It was very cosmopolitan and more glamorous than anything he'd known growing up in the Old City. 


In 1979 George graduated from De la Salle high school, a Christian school located just inside the New Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. He immediately began working part time at the YMCA as a waiter, later moving to the Kings Hotel. He continued his studies at Tadmor, the recognized hospitality management program in Israel and received his hotel management degree. George earned his degree as a Certified Hotel Manager in 1996 at the Education Institute of the American Hotel Motel Association in Lansing, Michigan. His "hands-on" training included stints at the King David Hotel and the Laromme Hotel (now the Inbal) both located in the western side of Jerusalem. He also taught hospitality management courses at the University of Bethlehem and the Hotel School at Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem. Today he feels very lucky, "it is not every child who grows up and lives his dream."



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