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Builders of Jerusalem

March 20, 2017

by: Nathan Williams, BFP Staff Writer

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Hand Tinted photo of Via Dolorosa (Photo:Library of Congress)

Unique characters and fascinating tales fill the modern day history of Jerusalem. In the greater Ottoman Empire, Jerusalem was nothing more than a provincial town of little consequence. In actual fact it was only after coming under the British Mandatory administration that Jerusalem once again became a modern cultural center. It took the daring of many Christians to heed the call of God to come, to live and to build upon the dusty barren landscape of Jerusalem. There are those who even in Israel’s darkest hours chose to live in the biblical capital and invest in its people and future generations. The courage and foresight of these individuals has contributed to the Jerusalem we know today.

City Architect

Conrad Schick

Moving through the city of Jerusalem it is almost impossible to miss a building designed by the hand of Conrad Schick. Well-known as the city architect of 19th century Jerusalem, and a Christian, Schick was only twenty-four years old when he moved to Jerusalem in 1846. Schick was a self-taught architect and in his early days traded as a craftsman building cuckoo-clocks and creating ornate olive wood carvings. Schick devoted much of his time to the “House of Industry” based at Christ Church in the Old City. This technical school was set up to teach trade skills such as carpentry, turnery, shoemaking and different building methods to young Jewish boys.

Lutheran Guest House (Photo: upyernoz / wikipidia.org)

Tabor House, Swedish Theological Institute (Photo:Son of SMY / wikipidia.org)

The first of Schick’s blueprints was for the Lutheran Guest House in the Armenian Quarter. Soon followed by the Jesus Hilfe Leprosy Hospital in the Rephaim Valley, now a multimedia art center called the Hansen Institute. On the famous HaNevei’im (Prophets) Street, stand four of his architectural designs: the former German Deaconess Hospital now Bikur Holim, the sanatorium building at the Anglican International School and Tabor House which houses the Swedish Theological Institute. Schick also designed and planned the layout of one of the first Jewish neighborhoods outside the Old City, Mea Shearim. Talitha Kumi, the remains of a school for girls which stands on King George Street, is a memorial to Schick’s preferred building façade. Conrad Shick went on to design some of themost beautiful buildings in Jerusalem which can still be visited to this day.

Well with My Soul

Horatio Spafford

By divine intervention, Horatio Spafford and his wife Anna were spared from the trans-Atlantic shipwreck that took the lives of their four daughters. Detained by business Horatio sent his family ahead to France and thereby escaped disaster. His wife Anna, although being a passenger on the doomed liner, miraculously survived. Horatio Spafford penned the famous hymn “It is Well with My Soul” while crossing the Atlantic to be reunited with his grieving wife. This tragedy became the inspiration for radical change in their spiritual lives and put the Spaffords on a course that eventually brought them to Jerusalem.

In 1881 the Spaffords led an American contingent of Protestant pilgrims to Jerusalem. Upon their arrival they initiated the American Colony, what they believed to be the outworking of their spiritual journey. Although being branded as a sect by the American press, the American Colony was a religious community that grew to include Swedish Christians. The Colony served the residents of Jerusalem through humanitarian projects like soup kitchens, hospitals and orphanages—disregarding religion and without proselytizing. The American Colony served the Jewish and Christian communities until it ceased to exist in the late 1940s, although many individual members continued to build toward a better Jerusalem.

Heart of a Jew

G. Douglas Young

After the Holocaust as the murderous methods of the Nazi regime came to light, an awareness of the Jewish people dawned in the hearts of many Christians. The atrocities of history are not easily undone, but these individuals strived to combat anti-Semitism and called upon Christians to establish earnest and righteous relationships with the Jewish people. G. Douglas Young, the founder of Bridges for Peace, was one of these unique Christians whose heart was turned toward the Jews. Captivated by biblical studies, archaeology and the land and language of the Bible, Young had an aspiration to establish a Bible school in Jerusalem. Through providential relationships, Young gained favor with the authorities of that time and in 1958 founded the Israel–American Institute of Holy Land Studies.

Institute of Holy Land Studies (Photo: K.DeGagne / bridgesforpeace.com)

With a rising reputation as a leading educator, but more importantly as an altruist and gracious host, G. Douglas and his wife, Georgina, continued to build a deep love for Israel and its people. Never were the Young’s intentions more clearly displayed than when, during the Six Day War, G. Douglas used the school van as an ambulance transferring people between hospitals. While her husband dodged mortar fire, Georgina Young supplied food and shelter to neighbors who flocked to the Institute building looking for a safe haven from the fighting. Their righteous actions would never be forgotten by the people of Jerusalem. G. Douglas Young was honored by the city of Jerusalem in 1978, when it presented him with the Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy of Jerusalem) award, an exclusive accolade rarely given to Gentiles.

G. Douglas Young launched the Dispatch from Jerusalem in 1976 with the express vision of giving accurate accounts of events in Israel. This was the flagship publication and one of many tools that would later be used in the educational organization, Bridges for Peace, where Young would continue in his mission of building better relationships between Christians and Jews. The Youngs lived through perilous times in Jerusalem’s history but stood firmly on their God-given mandate to support the people and land of Israel. Their story stands set apart in that their enduring contribution to Jerusalem remains in the visible changes in the hearts of Christians and Jews around the world.

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