November - December 2016 The archives at St. George's College in Jerusalem

Nov-Dec 2016

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The Diocese of Jerusalem includes Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.  The headquarters is in Jerusalem with St. George's Cathedral.  The property contains a guesthouse, the bishop's home, the cathedral and a college where people can stay and take courses/tours on the Holy Land.  The Reverend Dean Gregory Jenks of St. George's College Jerusalem gave me the privilege of working in the archives of the college & the Diocese of Jerusalem headquarters.  My main task was to look for evidence of the original property boundaries from when the British acquired the land.  I worked hard & found some fascinating things.

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Upon arrival, Azzam, the kind man that's head of housekeeping, told me that I was to live in the tower.  I'd been to the college & cathedral several times & never realized that there are apartments in the hundred-year-old bell tower.  I was to stay in the top one, with 66 winding stone steps to my front door.  It’s a two-story apartment with a single gothic window on all 4 sides of the living room.  My windows are the top single ones in the tower photo.

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No one had been in the archives for years.  There are 2 sections.  The first has about 375 books in Arabic, English, Hebrew, Armenian, Syriac, Coptic, French, German, Greek, Italian, Latin, Persian, Turkish & some unknown languages.  Several are very old, with the oldest being from 1563.  About half dated to 1800 & before, with most of those being in Latin.  (Thank goodness for Google Translate!) They cover bibliography, biography, culture, geography, history, language, literature, music, religion, science, & travel.  Some were gifts to the bishop.  Some from libraries that closed.  I cleaned & organized them, then made an Excel spreadsheet with tabs listed by publish date, language, author, category, etc. 

The second section has about 80 boxes containing hundreds of files that covered many years & several subjects.  Some are the Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem, Arab Evangelical Episcopal Community, Bishopric of Jordan, Lebanon & Syria, the Diocese of Jerusalem, Middle East Council of Churches, and Executive Secretary to the Vicar General.

There were lots of records kept from the British Mandate period up to the 1980’s.  Subjects include the Consecration of Church buildings, property transactions, claims for damaged properties, tenant correspondence, Cathedral plans, Gift of Episcopal Throne from Oxford England, General maintenance, Sharing a sports field with the YMCA nearby, Proposed road & widening road, School reopening 1948-50, Reconstruction 1948 & a church that closed in 1948 & reopened just recently, Property in other countries, Schools & hospitals.

I had never thought about the details and administration involved when ownership or control of land changes as it did in 1948 and 1967 in Jerusalem. As Dean Greg said, there are some PhD‘s waiting to be found in these fascinating records!

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A New Testament dictionary in the language of Jesus, Syriac Aramaic (notice the stamp from when Jerusalem was Jordan before ‘67)

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Some photos of the cathedral during Advent.