Founded in a bookstore near the Old City in 1878, the YMCA was shut down by the Turks during World War I and later reopened by the British. It moved several times before construction of the current building began in the 1920s after a $1 million Christmas donation from James Jarvie of Montclair, N.J., who was inspired by plans to make the institution a center for people of all faiths.
Designed by Arthur Loomis Harmon, architect of the Empire State Building, the neo-Byzantine-style stone complex is covered with decorative elements that represent the three monotheistic faiths. The phenomenal carillon bells in the tower are played by a Jewish Israeli professor and a Mormon American.
When the building was dedicated in 1933 by British Gen. Edmund Lord Allenby, he had these words inscribed on the front in Hebrew, Arabic, and English: "Here is a place whose atmosphere is peace, where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten . . . " (For more on the building, visit www.jerusalemymca.org.)