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Section IX: Middle East Missions

Part 3: Palestine, 1880-1934

The period covered by these papers, 1880-1934 saw CMS work in Palestine expand rapidly from its modest beginnings, notwithstanding some restrictions imposed by the Ottoman government. There followed a period of frustration during the First World War when most missionaries had to work in Egypt and a period of sustained but slow growth after the war.

CMS work began in Palestine in 1851 in response to an invitation by the Bishop of Jerusalem, Samuel Gobat. Rev F A Klein, a brilliant linguist was sent to Jerusalem in 1851 and other men soon followed, opening more stations, chief of which was Nazareth.

The winning of the Crimean War of 1854-1856 enabled the British and allied governments to obtain from the Sultan of Turkey a decree which secured religious liberty throughout the Ottoman Empire. Two missionaries were sent to Constantinople and for a time carried out evangelical work securing a number of converts.

In 1875 a conference on Missions to Muslims was called by CMS in London which gave great impetus to their activity in the region. Educational work was extended and medical work and work amongst women began. In 1899 they took over the work of the Female Education Society.

By 1899 the main stations were Jerusalem which included Ramallah, Nazareth which included Haifa and Acca, Nablus, Jaffa which included Ramleh, Gaza and East Jordan which included Salt and Kerak. By this time there were 59 missionaries in Palestine, of whom 28 were single women and three were doctors.

Medical work took place at all the stations and in particular at the hospital at Gaza where Dr Robert Stirling worked from 1893 to 1917 and at Jaffa which was founded by Miss C A Newton and bequeathed by her to CMS in 1908.

The chief educational institutions maintained by CMS were the Preparandi Institution and Bishop Gobat’s School in Jerusalem; a girls’ boarding school with teacher training at Bethlehem; an orphanage at Nazareth, the Jerusalem Girls’ College and some forty-eight elementary schools, of which the largest was at Gaza.

The Palestinian Native Church Council was established in 1905 to give Palestinians more say in the running of their church and this led to around eleven Palestinian clergy serving in the diocese. The Council hoped for and worked towards independence but this was not granted by CMS as they wanted to see complete diocesanisation of work in Palestine.

During the First World War there were major outbreaks of typhus and cholera and the internment and deportation of foreign nationals by the Ottoman government. Western missionaries had to temporarily cease work in Palestine during the war and spent the time serving in missions in Egypt. It was not until 1919 that they were able to recommence work in Palestine.

In 1924 the Jerusalem Conference for Workers in Moslem Lands recommended that there should be an inter-mission education committee to cover Christian education in the Middle East missions and stressed the importance of special training in linguistics and Islam. It believed that missionaries should concentrate on reform in infant welfare, child marriage, child labour, industrial conditions, temperance, traffic in women and children and cruelty to animals. Its recommendation for the publication and distribution of Christian literature in a three hundred page report, “Christian Literature in Moslem Lands” resulted in two missionaries, Temple Gairdner and Constance Padwick being sent out to start work in this field.

The Near East Christian Council was formed in 1927, membership of which was open to any church body, missionary society or other Christian agency. Its committees advised on evangelism, education and medical work.

Background to political events in Palestine up to 1934

By 1880 about 24,000 Jews were living in Palestine, out of a population of around 400,000. Around this time the Ottoman government began to place severe restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchase even though persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe was making “the homeland” an ever more popular choice for immigration. The Ottoman rulers also made it as difficult as possible for western missionary societies such as CMS to carry out their work.

The Zionist movement, which believed in the tradition of living in the land of the Jews, became a formal organization in 1897 with the first Zionist congress in Basle, organized by Theodor Herzl. The Zionists established farm communities in various parts of Palestine and founded the city of Tel Aviv, north of Jaffa. They did not worry too much about the Arab population which continued to grow.

During WW I the Ottoman Empire joined Germany and Austria-Hungary against the Allies and an Ottoman military government was put in charge of Palestine. Britain and France planned to divide the Ottoman holdings in the Middle East among themselves at the end of the war. Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 part of Palestine was to be placed under British rule, part to be placed under a joint Allied government and Syria and Lebanon to be given to France. However Britain also promised to back Arab demands for post war independence and in 1916 Arabs led by T E Lawrence revolted against the Ottomans in the belief Britain would support Arab independence.

In November 1917, as the result of lobbying by the British Zionist movement, Britain issued the Balfour declaration which stated Britain’s support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine but to uphold the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities.

After WW I, at the Paris peace conference in 1919, the Zionists put forward their plans for the area they wanted for a Jewish national home which was supported by the Arabs provided they were given Syria. Unfortunately Syria was given to France and the Arabs under Emir Feisal withdrew their support for the Zionist project.

In 1922 Britain received a mandate over Palestine which would extend west and east of the River Jordan, including Transjordan. However later that year the boundary of Palestine was limited to the area west of the river and the area east of the river called Transjordan (now Jordan) was made a separate British mandate and eventually given independence.

Under the mandate Britain agreed to help the Jews build a national home and The Jewish Agency for Palestine was set up to represent Jewish interests and promote Jewish immigration.

Throughout the discussion period regarding the British mandate there were many attacks on Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa and Haifa by Arab nationalists and as a consequence the Jewish self-defence organization, Haganah was set up.

In the 1930’s more and more Jews arrived in Palestine fleeing from persecution in Eastern Europe. By the start of WW II in 1939 Jewish immigration had swelled and proposals were made by the British to limit the amount of Jews allowed to settle.

This section of the Palestine papers for 1880-1934 contains the Original Papers for 1880-1901. These contain general correspondence sent to CMS headquarters from missionaries, bishops and catechists, minutes of meetings, reports, journals, photographs and other miscellaneous items such as plans of buildings.

A wide variety of topics is covered in the papers including:

  • Problems with the Turkish government and officials
  • Details regarding the necessity for doctors to pass a Turkish examination and details of Turkish laws regarding the opening of Christian schools
  • Report of a missionary journey through Jordan by Rev F Bellamy
  • Plans and construction of new mission buildings
  • Minutes of the Native Church Council of Palestine
  • Missionary expenses, deaths, retirement, salaries, marriages
  • Letters from Rev F A Klein regarding translation work and from Rev J B Longley Hall, Secretary of the mission
  • Notes on the Nazareth Church Endowment Fund
  • Report on the British Syrian Schools and Bible Mission
  • Work of Biblewomen
  • Report of B Hassoon on preaching tours to Bedouins of the Belka
  • Minutes of the conference of the Palestine mission
  • Medical missions at Nablus, Gaza
  • Minutes of the Palestine finance committee
  • Correspondence regarding the Coptic Church
  • Bishop Gobat’s School and Preparandi Institution, Jerusalem
  • Statistics showing the number of teachers, persons baptised in the Palestine mission
  • Reports on all mission stations
  • Photograph of the mission house at Gaza
  • Journal of a catechist in the Jebel district
  • Correspondence from Major General Haig regarding the situation in Palestine
  • Reports on the Printing Press in Jerusalem
  • Reports of native catechists’ itinerations together with their autobiographies
  • Plan of the mission compound at Nablus
  • Report on Druse schools , Mount Lebanon by Louisa Procter
  • Correspondence from Miss Edith E Newton regarding women’s work
  • Annual report of the Jerusalem Bishopric Mission Fund
  • Report on the Palestine Medical Mission and Nurses Fund
  • Plan of the English cemetery in Jerusalem
  • Report on a visit to Constantinople
  • Photograph of Bishop Gobat’s School, Jerusalem
  • Details regarding the resignation of Bishop Blyth
  • Report of the Ladies Conference with details on women’s work
  • Proposals for initiating self-support in the native church
  • Minutes of a conference of European and Native Clergy, Jerusalem
  • Annual report of Jerusalem and the East Mission Fund with photographs
  • Details regarding the Vekilate of the Protestant community in Turkey
  • Pamphlet on Miss Louisa Procter’s Mission at Schwifat, Lebanon with photographs


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