Though it has quickly become a fixture high above the seaside village of Zichron Ya’akov, Elma wasn’t always a given. It took all of Elstein’s patience and a good deal of her personal wealth to bring about what she describes as her “biggest dream”. In 2006, just before the famed building that now houses Elma was about to be demolished for a neighborhood of villas, Elstein bought it for $20 million—double the initial tender price. Her motivation stemmed from the fact that her grandparents were among the founders of Zichron Ya'akov and her family members still live here. Thus, with the building’s resurrection, she is completing her own personal and historical journey.
“The architects will have to display sensitivity to this beautiful place,” Elstein said at the time. “They will need to know how to blend the old with the new and understand my ideas. Everything has to be done thoughtfully and with respect.”
From the beginning, these architects understood that they were dealing with someone who had a very strong vision. “When I first saw it,” Elstein explains, “I said to myself ‘This is a place for art!’” During the time that she renewed the property, she says, “I asked artists to come to see the space and to think about it from the perspective of it being a place for art. And I felt instantly that they loved it.”
Elstein also insisted that the hotel’s design include just one entrance. This means that people going to a concert, hotel guests returning to their rooms, or locals heading to the hotel restaurant all enter through the same door and intermingle. It was Elstein’s plan, now fully realized, to make Elma a place where people interact with both artists and fans of the arts.
Perhaps the biggest fan is Elstein herself. “Throughout my life, I have bought art and I have a big collection. I think I have a good eye,” she notes with a smile, adding that “you can find a good part of my collection here.” This includes three or four pieces of art in each room in the hotel.
How does Elstein define Elma within the scope of her rich life? “It is my dream,” she says. But then, looking around at what she’s created, at the art and the joy it provides, she rethinks. “No! It’s not a dream. It’s a dream come true.”