Mandelbaum House, Jerusalem
Focus on Israel is a Pentecostal charity, which has been operating in Israel (previously Palestine) and the UK, since the 1920s. It is our heart to serve and reach out to men and women on both sides of the cultural divide. We currently have a worship/study centre in the heart of Jerusalem and we are in the process of developing a vision for a new Study Centre, in the north of the country.
How it began
It all began in 1920. Miss Elizabeth Brown, was commissioned by AOG to become their Israel/Middle East Representative and based herself in Jerusalem. Initially, due to the influx of Jewish people property was difficult to acquire, but she persevered. Despite the difficulties between the opposing factions in the land her efforts proved quite positive. She soon had a growing Sunday school and developed a positive work within prisons throughout the land.
It was not long before she needed reinforcements. She approached AOG, US for workers, but none were forth coming. However, following adverts, two other ladies shortly joined her, a Lebanese Lady, Swalfi, who concentrated on villages south of Beirut, and the other, a Laura Radford chose to stay and support the work in Jerusalem. Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem Laura Radford wrote:
“All about us are ‘souls in the dark, undone’—the orthodox Jew, the bigoted Moslem,The educated Syrian, the proud Arabian and Egyptian, the wandering, homeless Bedouin, all alike deeply religious, but how few with a ‘living hope.’ Bound by a spirit of fatalism that is as oppressive as idolatry, and as ignorant of the power and love of the living Christ as are the heathen in the heart of Africa, their lives are indeed hopeless. The great poverty and degradation throughout the land would greatly discourage, were we not able to lead hungry men and women to Christ ‘in whom are hid all the riches of God, the God of an all-bountiful supply.’”
Miss Laura Radford, “In a Dry and Thirsty Land,” Pentecostal Evangel, February 16, 1924, p. 4.
In 1924 – Elizabeth Brown managed to acquire a property between Mamilla St. and King George V Street (It is now the site of the Great Synagogue), which was large enough to build a school and a meeting hall. After a short while, they had to divide the work between the young girls, and the efforts that had grown with male adults.
So in 1926 Laura Radford, purchased mandelbaum house on the border of the green line. This was also big enough to include ameeting hall, offices and accommodation. She registered the Bible Evangelistic Ministry (BEM) with the AOG, Louisiana USA. At the same time Elizabeth Brown sought to register BEM as an official charity in Israel. Together, Elizabeth and Laura began to make a big impact in the area among the desparate, the lost and the lonely.
In 1931 an Anglican minister with a Pentecostal experience felt moved to set up a ministry that would focus attention on Israel and the Jewish people, most of whom were still scattered around the world. Rev Leonard Pearson was well known throughout the UK and many parts of the world for his 'Bible through an Eastern window' exhibitions, having spent much of his life in what was then Palestine and the Middle East.
He strongly felt that Pentecostal churches should be involved in this vital ministry and so formed the Pentecostal Jewish Mission to fulfil this vision.
Over the years, although PJM was an independent ministry it drew most of its support and workers from the Assemblies of God and Elim in particular. The very first worker was a Miss Herne who worked out of Southend on Sea and then later more workers were added with centres in major locations.
Rev. George Jeffrey, Elim
Also in early 1930’s George Jefferys visited the land unannounced with a small team, and held an impromptu crusade in Jerusalem with Laura Radford.
He was impresssed by the work and following this event stronger links were
forged between BEM and Elim.
With the commencement of World War II, it was advised for the work to
cease, but Laura Radford ignored those calls and remained in Jerusalem.
A New Era
Shortly after the war, Laura Radford took a step back and the work was headed up by John Whitfield Foster and his wife Evelyn. They arrived in the Land Just before the end of the British Mandate and it would appear that they exercised a fruitful ministry for 11 years. Although we do not have a great deal of detail about their time in Israel, we do know that a Bible bookshop was opened in East jerusalem, which grew in popularity, and through which thousands of Bibles were distributed in more than 20 languages.
Shortly after their arrival in the Land the British Mandate ended and the State of Israel was reborn. Times were not easy and there was quite a lot of internal conflict taking place. When the Fosters retired, Mr & Mrs Arthur Ransome took over. Again, there is little documentation remaining of their time in Israel, because most of it was lost in 1967, as we shall explain.
During the War of Independence in 1967, because of its location, Mandelbaum House was taken over by the Israeli military and made their headquarters. Unfortunately because of this, BEM had to leave the property and following the war were unable to get it back. Miss Radford was now 82 years old and decided to retire and handed over the work to PJM, who took on the name 'Bible Evangelistic Ministry'.
The loss of Mandelbaum House was a severe blow to the work because apart from losing a meeting place there was to be no compensation from Israel or Jordan because neither would accept responsibility for this building located in what was at the time 'no man's land.’
When the Fosters retired, Mr & Mrs Arthur Ransome took over until the arrival of Rev & Mrs Lawrence Tiller in 1969. During their time meetings were held at 2 Shimshon Street until in 1975 when a church belonging to the Arab Anglicans became available and the main activities continue in the basement of that church until the present time. The main church building has not been used for a considerable time due to major renovations.
During the time of Lawrence & Aviva Tiller they exercised a very effective Bible distribution ministry throughout the Kibbutzim in Israel. Lawrence also fulfilled an itinerant ministry which was widely accepted throughout the Land and even acknowledged by many Jewish people. Another significant aspect of the Tiller's ministry was that the church in Jerusalem had more Jewish believers at any time before or since.
Following the death of Lawrence Tiller in 1979, Rev. & Mrs Ray Eyre took over for three years after which time Rev & Mrs Leslie Moxham assumed responsibility for the work along with their son and daughter, Ray & Christine.
During the I0 years of the Moxham's leadership the fellowship was revitalised and operated under the name of St Paul's Fellowship. One of the most effective ministries at that time was the coffee bar which touched hundreds of young lives and particularly young soldiers on their way to the war in Lebanon. The success of the Coffee Bar brought commendation (from the local community authorities including the police) but also fierce opposition from the orthodox Jewish community. This resulted in anti-missionary poster campaigns, arson attacks and even death threats.
St. Paul's Church, Jerusalem
After the Moxham's, other workers have played their part in maintaining the witness in Israel – including Denis & Carol Patterson, Eddie Marshall, Geoff & Sue Brice, and Greg & Tanna Olson.
In the UK the name Focus on Israel was introduced in 1987 replacing Pentecostal Jewish Mission which by now had become restrictive because of negative connotations in the Jewish mind. It was also felt that the term 'Focus on Israel' would allow a far more flexibility, and is much less intimidating in today's climate.
In recent years we have seen the focus of our ministry change within the land, due to the growing number of local Messianic Fellowships. Although we cannot claim to be a large organisation, we nevertheless believe that we still have a vital role to play alongside these Jewish ministries. One of our main burdens is to educate the church as to God's end time purpose for Israel and to teach the need for sensitivity towards the Jewish people bearing in mind the very negative legacy inherited from church history.
Rev. Mark Baker took on the function of Chair of the Israeli Charity 'St. Paul's'*, in 2014, and spearheaded important changes there. St. Paul's Centre was completely refurbished and became a small Study/worship facility enabling up to 12 people to stay. On completetion he then began to organise educational tours to Israel which have become increasingly popular and well attended. These tours are unique and incorporate a blend of Hebraic studies of scripture, meeting local believers, experiencing the festivals and dialoguing with Jewish Rabbi's. Theses tours rarely fail to make an impact on those who go.
Following his efforts with the Israeli Charity, Mark Baker in 2019, was contracted to become Focus on Israel's first International Director.
*St. Paul's is a partner Charity in Israel - Please see our page on St. Paul's for more information.