ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT, Shimon Peres, who can turn a phrase or two, turned to his hosts with a huge smile. “This,” he declared, “is the Taj Mahal of the Negev.” Since the Taj Mahal i s famously Shah Jehan’s architectural declaration of love to his wife, the president might have exaggerated slightly. But David Lewis’s magnificent new hotel, the Beresheet, is certainly a love letter to the Negev desert, and though it has only been open since Pesach, it seems likely that the embrace will be wholeheartedly reciprocated.
It’s more than 20 years since the Brit-
WHERE TO STAY: TOURS: My Wine Tours offer specialist Negev tours ish hotelier was invited by Israeli leaders to help open up the Negev, fulfilling David Ben-Gurion’s famous dream of making the desert bloom. But Isrotel, David Lewis’s company that built the Beresheet, would readily admit it has not been plain sailing.
Not the least of the difficulty in opening the hotel, whose name means “Beginnings”, was opposition from Israel’s Green lobby, anxious that it would bring all sorts of environmental problems to the area.
In fact the father and son team who designed the hotel, Yehuda and Yoel Fagin, have achieved something really special. It is almost impossible to see Beresheet from the main road,