Brits, the Mandate and Missionaries: Can They be Forgiven?

At a screening in Jerusalem tonight of the film The Forsaken Promise, an indictment of British conduct toward Jews during the mandate period, the British producer, Hugh Kitson, thanked a list of 22 Christian groups involved in the making of the film.


He chose to mention one by its initials only–the CMJ. Hmm…wonder why? Well, those letters stand for the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People, the modern name for the venerable London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews founded in 1809.

Pretty obvious from their title what their mission is/was, right? These are the upstanding Brits who came to slum it among the Jews of Palestine, so that they would see the light.

In 1836, two physician/missionaries were sent to Jerusalem: they opened a clinic that provided free medical services. By 1844, it had become a 24-bed hospital and soon after, there were 250 British missionaries operating in Jerusalem.

Kitson’s film, which was screened with Hebrew subtitles,lays out in stark detail the horror of the British attitude toward the Jews in Palestine and the policies that shut off immigration of Holocaust survivors. It’s a project of the Christian Hatikvah Fund (not to be confused…or perhaps to be confused, with the very Jewish Tikvah Fund)

In his remarks after the screening, Kitson did an al cheyt for the sins of his forefathers and government and told the audience he was “sorry” for those actions.

But neither during the film nor in the remarks following the screening, was there any mention of the long history of British missionary activity in Israel that by 1913 had claimed 5,000 converts. [Schaff, Philip (1914). The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. p. 177.]

No mea culpa uttered about that destruction of Jewish souls.

A week prior to the screening, the UK branch of the International Christian Embassy posted a bulletin about the Jerusalem event.  Amongst other things, it asked adherents to pray for “The Lord to be very present by His Holy Spirit at the reception and the screening.”

In the row in front of me tonight, a friend struck up a conversation with the white-haired American gentleman sitting next to her.  Before the evening was out, she was handed a copy of a book about the end of days and the Jews’ role in it.

Al cheyt, anyone?

About the Author
Author of Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times and Jerusalem Diaries II: What's Really Happening in Israel plus reams of blogs since 2001. Former host of the Jerusalem Diaries Show on I try to shed a little light on the quixotic, inspiring, frustrating and amusing aspects of life in the holy city.