• 154960734

Pearls from the Pend No.16

Pearls from the Pend No. 16

Written by: Duncan McAra
Published:  5 October 2020
Created:    5 October 2020

Jerusalem – and Historia

Duncan McAra

‘There have always been two Jerusalems, the temporal and the celestial,
both ruled more by faith and emotion than by reason and facts’
Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem: The Biography (2011)


Hospital … Jerusalem. Two words that direct, influence, inspire, remind and rouse all members of our charitable confraternity, our Sovereign’s Most Venerable Order. In recent years the Librarian has been sourcing and obtaining journal articles and books on the history of ophthalmology in general and the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital Group in particular.

Our Australian confrères Matthew Glozier, Ian Howie-Willis and John Pearn are the Eye Hospital’s official historians, having been commissioned by the Eye Hospital Group Trustees in May 2019 to research and produce the Group’s 140th anniversary commemorative history A Beacon of Hope. The Librarian has printed off for deposit in the Library Vol. 6, 2020, of One St John: The International Historical Journal of the Most Venerable Order of St John (www.stjohninternational.org/faqs/historical-journal). The articles in this special ‘Eye Hospital’ edition of One St John provide a foretaste of the research that has been undertaken for A Beacon of Hope, to be published in 2022.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge and (l-r) Ahmad Awadallah, Facilities Manager,
Dr Ahmad Ma’ali, CEO, Guy Morton, Deputy Chairman of the Board,
Peter Khoury, Director of Finance, in the Cloister of the Muristan Clinic
in the Old City of Jerusalem, 28 June 2018; behind them is the Tree of Hope,
unveiled in November 2016, created by the British sculptor Mark Coreth –
a bronze olive tree with a canopy, not of leaves, but swirling swifts
(Courtesy of SJEHG)


But it struck the Librarian that members might wish to have the opportunity to consult books about the complex history of the city in which the Eye Hospital was established nearly a century and a half ago.

The irony for one of the oldest cities in the world is that there is no Hebrew word for ‘history’. Some sources suggest that the closest approximation is Zechira, ‘remembrance’. But in   correspondence, Professor Raz Chen-Morris of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, helpfully explained: ‘You can use a much better approximation than Zechira, such as Divrei HaYamim (Chronicles) or Korot HaYitim (The Story of the Times). These terms, however, do not imply the notion of research, interrogation, etc. that the word “history” contains. Thus, as an academic institution that researches and teaches the past, the Hebrew University kept the Greek word Historia.’

Of course, the past is as recent as yesterday, and with the current pandemic the situation in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas is as fraught and problematic as the political and religious schism. Order members could not help but be moved when they read the message on 24 March 2020 from St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital CEO Ahmad Ma’ali about the intense pressures COVID-19 was placing on staff and patients; by that date the Hospital had seen a 40% reduction in clinical activities and hospital income.

But quite apart from the pandemic, several sensitive issues persist, such as land ownership; the continuing difficulties relating to the sharing of holy sites; the contrast between freedom of movement and security concerns; and the need to depoliticise archaeological activities. To quote from Zechariah 12:3 ‘And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut to pieces’. As the philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich remarked: ‘Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.’ It is the certainty, the rigidity, of fixed beliefs throughout ‘Historia’ that is alluded to here and there in several of the books listed below.                 


Bahat, Dan & Sabar, Shalom, Jerusalem: Stone and Spirit – 3000 Years of History and Art, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, 1998 [First published in Israel in 1997 by Matan Arts Publishers]

From King David’s establishment 3000 years ago of the fortified citadel of Jerusalem as the unified capital of the tribes of Israel to the present day, this book combines a scholarly text with 220 magnificent illustrations comprising art and artefacts to provide readers with a narrative of the city’s complex religious, social, political and artistic history.

Boas, Adrian J., Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades, Routledge, London, 2001

The author’s combined use of historical and archaeological evidence, together with first-hand accounts written by visiting pilgrims, results in a multi-faceted perspective on Crusader Jerusalem. Chapter 15, in particular, about the Hospital of the Knights of Saint John, built c. 1140-55, and a second hospital run by the Order for female patients, is of especial interest.

Boehm, Barbara Drake & Holcomb, Melanie (eds),Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2016

Sumptuous catalogue, edited by two senior curators of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters at the Met, to accompany the exhibition of the same name held over 2016/17.

Arranged under headings – Art and Medieval Jerusalem, Trade and Tourism in Medieval Jerusalem, Pluralism in the Holy City, Experiencing Sacred Art in Jerusalem, Holy War and the Power of Art, Patronage in Jerusalem, Seeking the Eternal Jerusalem – 42 international contributors provide incisive discussions of nearly 200 works of art, reproduced in colour, from 57 lenders and explore not only the meaning of the city to its many faiths but also the aesthetic strands that enhanced the medieval city that served as the crossroads of the known world. This reference work includes an extensive Bibliography and Index.

Downs, James, ‘Shadows of the Truth: the photography of James Graham (1808-69)’, Studies in Photography 2011, pp. 42-59 [Scottish Society for the History of Photography]

First in-depth study of James Graham of Limekilns, East Kilbride, who, having failed to complete his degree courses at Cambridge and Glasgow, quit his position as a director of a failed Glasgow bank. Having mastered the rudiments of the ‘Photographic Art’, he accepted a post with the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews and in 1853 took lodgings in a tower (soon nicknamed ‘Graham’s castle’), complete with brass-mounted telescope, on the Mount of Olives. He became Jerusalem’s first resident photographer, specialising in topographical and architectural views captured as albumen prints from paper negatives. 

Goldhill, Simon, Jerusalem: City of Longing, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2008

Aims to provide the reader with an understanding of the history of Jerusalem through the buildings and an understanding of the buildings through the history – what the author describes as ‘an exploration of the weird archaeology of human imagination, hope and disaster’.

Join-Lambert, Michel, Jerusalem [trans. by Charlotte Haldane], Elek Books, London, 1958

This inaugural volume of the series ‘Ancient Cities and Temples’ is a concise history of Jerusalem from its prehistoric origins to the fall of the Latin kingdom towards the end of the 13th century. Byzantine and medieval Christian buildings receive particular attention, but Jewish and Muslim monuments are also discussed. Fine collection of illustrations, comprising photographs, maps and old drawings, highlight the city’s antiquities.

Khatib, Hisham, Palestine and Egypt under the Ottomans: Paintings, Books, Photographs, Maps and Manuscripts, Tauris Parke Books, London, 2003

Dr Hisham Khatib was born in Acre (Akko) and spent his youth and early career in Jerusalem. For many years he served as a Minister in the Jordanian government. His rich and varied collection of paintings, lithographs, travel books, maps, atlases and photographs on Jerusalem, Palestine and Egypt is one of the largest still in private hands. An invaluable source of reference for those interested in Middle Eastern history.

Montefiore, Simon Sebag, Jerusalem: The Biography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2011

A sweeping and compelling history, full of fascinating detail and anecdote, Montefiore draws on new archival material, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s connection with Jerusalem to illuminate not only ‘the cosmopolitan home of many sects, each of which believes the city belongs to them alone’, but also ‘the only city to exist twice – in heaven and on earth’.

Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome, Keys to Jerusalem: Collected Essays, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012

The author, a Dominican priest and a professor based in Jerusalem, was a leading authority on biblical archaeology. He was invited to lecture to the Knights of Malta in Dublin and to the Order of St John in London in September 2009. Of particular interest in this volume are his essays on the Christian Quarter of the Old City, the complex evolutionary history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – from the disastrous fire in 1808 and earthquakes in 1927 and 1937 to the arrogant 1949 plan to replace the existing Church and much of the Old City with a gigantic complex – and contemporary eyewitness descriptions of the structure and running of the medieval Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, the palatium infirmorum, ‘the palace of the sick’, described by Murphy-O’Connor as ‘the finest fruit of the Crusades’.

Osman, Colin, Jerusalem: Caught in Time, Garnet Publishing, Reading, 1999

Fascinating assortment of photographs from the extensive collection of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund (founded in 1865) depicting exteriors and interiors of buildings in Jerusalem, and scenes of daily life. Many were donated to the PEF by Elizabeth Ann Finn, the artist wife of James Finn, British Consul in Jerusalem, and the patron of James Graham and William Holman Hunt.

Perez, Nissan N., Picturing Jerusalem: James Graham and Mendel Diness, Photographers, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2007

Drawing on the extensive collection in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the work of James Graham and his protégé Mendel Diness coincided with a growing fascination in the West with ‘Orientalism’, including the Near and Middle East. Graham formed a close association with such Pre-Raphaelite painters as Thomas Seddon and William Holman Hunt when they sought inspiration in the Holy Land.

Rabinowicz, Oskar K., Winston Churchill on Jewish Problems, Lincolns-Prager, London, 1956

Scarce copy of a book recognising Churchill as an early proponent of two states for two peoples as a solution to friction between Jewish immigrants to Israel and the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. In 2012 a bust of Churchill by his friend Oscar Nemon was officially unveiled looking out from Montefiore Gardens over the Tower of David to Jerusalem’s Old City, which Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, first visited in 1921 with T. E. Lawrence.

Riley-Smith, Jonathan, The Knights of St John in Jerusalem and Cyprus, c. 1050-1310, Macmillan, London, 1967

Pioneering volume by the doyen of Crusader studies. The Librarian was fortunate to hear his Gifford Lecture ‘The Crusades and Christianity’ in 2007 at the University of Edinburgh.

Schiller, Ely (ed.), The Old City: The First Photographs of Jerusalem, Ariel Publishing House, Jerusalem, 1978 [in English & Hebrew]

From lemonade vendors, money-changers and water-carriers to Russian pilgrims at Easter, Jewish men and women praying together at the Western Wall, Franciscan monks and Arabs selling bread; from the interiors of the Dome of the Rock, a coffee-house in the Old City and the Armenian Church of Saint James to the cattle market in the Sultan’s Pool, Turkish guards in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and General Allenby addressing Jerusalem inhabitants after occupation in 1917 – these photographs, and many others, capture a way of life and customs, rites and ceremonies, which have ceased to exist. As Ely Schiller writes: ‘Their disappearance probably marks the end of the era of “true pilgrimage” and the start of so-called “popular tourism”.

Shalev-Khalifa, Nirit, Jerusalem: A Medical Diagnosis [The History of Jerusalem Reflected in Medicine and Beliefs], Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi, Jerusalem, 2014

COVID-19 in 2020, Spanish flu in 1918, Russian flu in 1889 struck at Jerusalem, as elsewhere. In preceding centuries, the city’s inhabitants, along with pilgrims, priests, scholars and travellers, have had to contend with the consequences of malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, typhoid, typhus, cholera, dysentery, and trachoma. In 1719 the herbal compound, mixed with alcohol, which became known as Jerusalem Balsam, was formulated in the pharmacy of the Franciscan Monastery of Saint Saviour; its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties helped boost the immune system. During the 19th century, in addition to mission schools and churches, various hospitals and clinics were established in Jerusalem, e.g. Bikur Holim (or Cholim) Hospital, Mayer de Rothschild Hospital, Marienstift Children’s Hospital and, of course, in 1882 the British Hospice and Ophthalmic Dispensary (renamed, 1921, the Ophthalmic Hospital of the Order of St John).

In 2014/15 the exhibition ‘Jerusalem: A Medical Diagnosis’, curated by Dr Nirit Shalev-Khalifa, was mounted in the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, with an accompanying scholarly, illustrated catalogue. It makes for fascinating reading. In a city divided by religious tensions, today doctors and nurses of different faiths work side by side together treating patients from all backgrounds.

Wilkinson, John, Jerusalem Pilgrims: Before the Crusades, Arris & Philips, Warminster, 1977

Hundreds of pilgrims travelled from Europe to the Holy Land between 385 and 1009. Only 18 wrote descriptions (in English translation) which have survived. Fascinating eyewitness accounts.

The Librarian is happy to donate the bulk of these publications about Jerusalem from his own collection to the Library in the hope that they further enhance the Library’s wide range of publications and encourage members, present and future, to refresh themselves at the wellspring. The Librarian wishes to reassure members that in divesting himself of these books, there is no risk of their succumbing to Jerusalem Syndrome.

The Cross of Jerusalem: the coat of arms of the Kingdom
of Jerusalem from the 1280s, its symbolism is variously
given as the Five Wounds of Christ or Christ and the
Four Evangelists
Lion of Judah: the emblem of Jerusalem since 1950,
designed by Eliyahu Koren; the inscription is the Hebrew
word for Jerusalem: Yerushalayim

This website uses cookies to manage authentication, navigation, and other functions.

By using our website, you agree that we can place these types of cookies on your device. Learn more about our privacy Policy. Learn more

I understand

St John Scotland gathers and processes your personal information in accordance with this privacy notice and in compliance with the relevant data protection regulation and law.  This notice provides you with the necessary information regarding your rights and obligations, and explains how, why and when we collect and process your personal data. Read more about our Privacy Policy

Designed and built by Mucky Puddle