Community News

Exploring the history of CMJ and their influence in Israel

Paul Calvert spoke with Dr. Garth Gilmour, the Executive Director of CMJ, about their work pioneering modern medical treatment in Jerusalem, and Christian education.

Paul: What is CMJ?

Dr. Gilmour: CMJ stands for the Churches Ministry among Jewish People.

It’s a ministry that has been in existence for over 200 years. It was founded in the East End of London in 1809, when a collaboration between wealthy gentrified British men and women, collaborated with Jewish believers in Jesus, to reach out to the Jewish population in the East End of London.

At that stage, the East End was desperately poor.

They had two aims. They wanted to serve them from a Christian perspective and help them integrate into British society, and they wanted to help them become more standing on their feet financially. They wanted to train them with jobs. In other words with good works.

At the same time they saw a people that had no access to the gospel whatsoever. They had compassion for them and wanted to take the gospel to them as well.

It was called the London Jews Society back in those days.

Paul: How did they come here to Israel?

Dr. Gilmour: In 1825 a doctor came over here associated with the ministry, in order to reach the people living inside the ancient walled city of Jerusalem. At that stage it was entirely confined within the walls of Jerusalem.

It was a place of very poor sanitation and lots of disease.

He was joined in January 1826 by a young missionary sent from London by CMJ called John Nicolessen. He was Danish, but had been recruited by CMJ and had a call to take the Gospel to the Jewish people.

Unfortunately within a month of Nicolessen arriving, the doctor was dead. He contracted the plague, which was well known here. About one third of the population of the city contracted this illness every year. Many of them died.

Nicolessen did the only sensible thing being a stranger in a land where he didn’t speak the language, didn’t know the people and had no contacts, he left.

In 1833, eight years later, the circumstances were such that he was able to return as a British citizen. He purchased a piece of land just inside the Jaffa Gate in the Old City on the slopes of Mount Zion, and he built the first Protestant Evangelical church in the Middle East, called Christ Church. It is still there today.

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