If you enjoy ghost stories, then you will find that Jerusalem is home to plenty of material to feed your imagination. If you look back on this blog, you will find that we already have a post dedicated to Jerusalem ghost stories, but there are so many of them that we thought a second post is in order.
The spooky history of Jerusalem dates back to biblical times when the Valley of Hinnom, just outside the city walls and today known as Gehenna, was a place where child sacrifice took place and it understandably, very quickly became associated with the idea of hell. The valley continued to attract the morbid and it is home to a huge number of cemeteries, dating from as early as the 7th century BCE to far more recent ones.
A more modern story that is popular in Jerusalem is one that dates from the 1970s. To this day, you will find long-term residents of Machane Yehuda market who are convinced that they saw an exorcism take place and witnessed flames shooting out of the toe of a young girl who was possessed by a demon.
If you are interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict, then you may well have heard of Orient House. It is a stone mansion that was built in East Jerusalem in 1897 for the al-Husseini family. In recent years, the building has become best known for its association with Palestinian nationalism; however, it has been a notorious building ever since Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm II came to visit Jerusalem in 1898.
According to reports, the al-Husseini family was busy preparing to welcome the Kaiser and his wife when tragedy struck. Ruwaida, the daughter of the Ottoman Minister of Education in Jerusalem, had been asked to present the Kaiser’s wife with a gift. While she was helping servants light lanterns along the rooftop, her dress caught fire and she burned to death. Nonetheless, the official visit went ahead as planned.
Over the next few decades, the al-Husseinis continued to welcome important guests to Orient House. Then, between 1948-50, it because the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). After that, the building became a luxury hotel until the Six-Day War, after which the hotel was closed and the building was neglected.
Orient House then became the unofficial headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1983. However, it was periodically closed by the Israeli government and was finally closed for good in 2001 following the bombing of Sbarro. While the building is no longer in use, there are those who claim that the presence of Ruwaida can still be felt there today.
These are just two more of Jerusalem’s many famous ghost stories. There are many more, in particular surrounding The Russian Hospital in the Russian Compound. To this day, there are many who are convinced the location is haunted and if you do a search in Israeli newspaper archives then you will find numerous stories. However, it is perhaps a tale best saved for another blog posts at some point in the future.