English speakers say the organizers of the Houses from Within Jerusalem open house festival shut the door on them by initially failing to post online registration forms in English, leaving them locked out of many of the most popular tours requiring advance booking by the time the snafu was fixed.
The three-day event from October 26-28, which is inspired by the international Houses from Within organization, offers tours of private spaces around the city for one weekend each year. There are peeks of swanky urban villas and apartments, unique synagogues, the backstages of theaters, hospitals and other significant public buildings, with tours and walks around the city.
This year, Open Houses Jerusalem announced it would be posting the registration forms on Friday, October 20, a week ahead of the event, but the English version was not ready at the same time as the Hebrew one.
By the time the English version went online late Friday morning, many of the exclusive listings were full.
The organization seemed unaware of the discrepancy when told about it.
“There’s still plenty of other tours that don’t require pre-registration,” said a spokesperson for the event.
There are other Houses from Within events still available, such as tours of relevant exhibits at the Israel Museum and Yad Vashem, a peek at a three-floor extensively renovated apartment in the Jewish Quarter, or a tour of the Post Hostel, a youth hostel located in the landmarked and restored post office building.
Those are all events, however, that don’t require pre-registration.
It’s most of the other, more unusual locations, such as a look at long-standing trees in downtown Jerusalem, or a sneak peek at the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv railroad construction site and the tunnel at the city entrance, that got booked quickly, and were never actually made available in English before they filled up.
One Jerusalemite, Jeremy Bandler, who has been closed out of Open Houses events in the past, began checking the English website of Houses from Within at 12 a.m. Friday morning and periodically throughout the night, and by 8 a.m. Friday, found it still wasn’t open. He then checked the Hebrew site and found that all of the sites requiring pre-registration had been sold out, though the English site still had not opened.
“Talk about chutzpah. I do wonder if this is done intentionally to leave out English speakers,” said Bandler, who was trying get tickets to one of three pre-registration events. He tried contacting Open Houses on the English and Hebrew “Contact Us” pages on the website. Both were not working.
There are still many events available that do not require pre-registration, but spots fill up quickly, said a Houses from Within spokesperson, who advised getting to the events early.
Houses from Within, October 26-28, with listings available in English and Hebrew online.