Christ Church – Saving the Jews in Unintended Ways

By Deena Levenstein, tour by Phil

Phil, a Touring Israel guide, took me on a one-day tour of the Old City of Jerusalem with a focus on the three major monotheistic religions and their connections to the city.

Part I: Jaffa Gate – Two Stories Behind Every Stone
This is part II, about Christ Church.

christ church from the outside, old city jerusalem, photo by deena levenstein
Christ Church, the Old City of Jerusalem

Hidden inside a courtyard on The Armenian Patriarchate Street is Christ Church, two minutes inside the Old City walls from Jaffa Gate. Phil asked for permission to go in – got a yes as he always does – and we went into the church sanctuary.

“What do you notice?” he asked as we sat there in the expansive room.

Here, take a look:

christ church inside, old city jerusalem, photo by deena levenstein

I noticed many things…

There is Hebrew in a church, a Jewish menorah (the candelabra in the background), a star of David and… a strange lack of crosses.

Truthfully, what I noticed more than anything was that this church feels a lot like a synagogue.

And he told me its story.

Christ Church in Jerusalem was built in the late 1800s when Protestant Christians came to Israel in order to save the souls of the local Jews. In order to attract the target audience, the church was designed in this way.

But, Phil said, there is a cross. Could I find it? I looked in all directions. And then he pointed up…

christ church ceiling cross, old city jerusalem, photo by deena levenstein
The wooden ceiling of Christ Church is one huge cross.

The local Jewish community at the time was Orthodox and there was not much success in bringing them into the church. Other tactics included creating hospitals and girls’ schools for the Jewish community – both very needed at the time. The hope was that via this assistance, the local Jews would begin to open up to the Christian message.

But, alas, again the Jews did not take the bait. For the most part they weren’t even willing to make use of these Christian institutions. And, actually, these efforts led to an unexpected byproduct – local Jews began creating their own hospitals and schools for girls.

And that is how Christ Church saved the local Jews.

The tranquil church gardens

The peaceful environment inside the church grounds is such a contrast to that on the bustling road just outside. Phil took me to a beautiful, hidden garden behind the church:

christ church hidden garden, old city jerusalem, photo by deena levenstein

This little piece of artwork

And then he showed me one last thing – an amazing piece of art found in the church’s storage.

christ church guest house, artwork of old city jerusalem, photo by deena levenstein

It is a painting of Jerusalem before anything was built outside the Old City walls (for much of history the “Old City” was the entire city). It’s fascinating to stare at the empty hills outside the walls and the intricate details of famous buildings inside the walls. Here is a close up of the Jewish quarter in this artwork – Phil pointed out synagogues one can clearly see in the piece:

christ church guest house, close up of artwork of old city jerusalem, photo by deena levenstein
Close up of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City in the artwork

Next stop? The Room of the Last Supper. Which is also a possible tomb of King David and a once-functional mosque. Stay tuned! And meanwhile…

Please meet Phil the tour guide

Meet Phil
Meet Phil (on the right:)

Phil is a lively, fun tour guide, originally from Chicago. He truly believes being a tour guide in Israel is the best job there is, he is friendly and respectful towards everyone along the way and he takes it on as his duty to entertain and educate with enthusiasm for as long as you, his guests, have energy.

Phil can easily guide families with kids by making most anything fun. He did this for me and not only did I laugh, I also was finally able to learn things I’ve had trouble with in the past.

One more thing about Phil, in a country full of all kinds of religious personalities and a history steeped in religion, being guided by someone who has studied comparative religion makes the tour that much more intricate and interesting.

Be in touch with us to find out more about our guides and our luxury tours to Israel.

Photos by Deena Levenstein


Deena Levenstein

Deena Levenstein is a writer and social-cultural entrepreneur in Jerusalem. She creates and hosts events and runs "Things to do in Jerusalem," a Facebook group of handpicked cultural events in the city. In her spare time she blogs at

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