The YMCA Building

October 11th 2013

Considered by many to be the most striking YMCA building in the world, the Jerusalem YMCA stands directly opposite the world-class King David Hotel on King David Street in the city center. It houses the YMCA Three Arches Hotel, an indoor swimming pool, squash courts, a library and an in-house restaurant.

Designed by Arthur Louis Harmon, the same architect who designed the Empire State Building, there is much religious symbolism in the building itself. The inscriptions on a welcoming plaque, “Here is a place whose atmosphere is peace where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten and international unity can be fostered and developed,” sets the tone for the YMCA’s mission.

YMCA JerusalemVisitors can find a great deal of Christian symbolism throughout the building. For example, two columns in the building’s entrance are decorated with an image of the Woman of Samaria, a reference to a passage in the Book of John, and a figure of a lamb, representing Jesus. Aware of the significance of Jerusalem as a city vital to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Harmon wanted the building to reflect all three religious faiths.


As a result, there are 40 columns in the courtyard that represent both the 40 years that the Israelite slaves wondered in the desert before entering the Land of Israel and the 40 days of the temptation of Jesus. The 12 Jewish tribes, the 12 disciples of Jesus and the 12 followers of Mohammed are collectively symbolized by 12 cypress trees that grow in the building’s garden. Also noteworthy is the sculpture of a six-winged celestial being, described in the Book of Isaiah, which sits atop a 150-foot-high tower.

Different architectural elements in the building echo Byzantine, Roman, and Gothic styles and the Islamic neo-Moorish style. Additionally, the stones in the building’s foundation are said to have come from quarries that provided stones used in the construction of the Second Temple.

The YMCA Three Arches Hotel Jerusalem hotel, with its distinctive arches, domes and tower, opened to abundant fanfare in 1933. Today, the elegant building offers 56 basic, non-smoking hotel rooms and a superior location, close to the Mamilla shopping center, the Old City of Jerusalem and the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall.