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 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.
In 1920 Miss Elizabeth Brown was commissioned by the American Assemblies Of God (AoG) to become their Israel/Middle East Representative. She was joined by a Lebanese Lady - Swalfi - who concentrated on villages south of Beirut. Elizabeth Brown though, based herself in Jerusalem. Initially, due to the influx of Jewish people, property was difficult to acquire. Although there were 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. Two other ladies joined her - one quickly moved on to Egypt, while the other, Laura Radford chose to stay in Jerusalem.
In 1924 Elizabeth Brown managed to acquire a property between Mamilla St. and King George V Street (It is now the great synagogue) which was large enough to build a school and a meeting hall. After a short while, they had to culturally 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 later green line. This was also big enough to include a meeting hall, offices and accommodation. She registered the Bible Evangelistic Ministry (BEM) with the AoG, in Louisiana USA. At the same time Elizabeth sought to register BEM in Israel (then Mandate Palestine governed by Britain).
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.
In early 1930’s George Jefferys visited Palestine unannounced with a small team, and held an impromptu crusade in Jerusalem with Laura Radford. Following this stronger links were forged between BEM and Elim.
Just before the end of the British Mandate, John Whitfield Foster and his wife Evelyn arrived in the Land to join PJM and exercised a very fruitful ministry for 11 years, developing a successful Bible bookshop, 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.
During the War of Independence in 1948, Mandelbaum House was taken over by the Israeli military and unfortunately became lost to BEM and so Miss Radford retired at the age of 82, handing over the work to PJM. 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 as 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 (in the South of the City) until 1975, when a church belonging to the Arab Anglicans became available. The main activities continue in the basement of that church today. 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 ministry's church in Jerusalem had more Jewish believers than 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.
After the Moxhams, other workers have played their part in maintaining the witness in Israel – including Denis & Carol Patterson, Eddie Marshall, Geoff & Sue Brice, Greg & Tanna Olson and Paul Calvert.
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 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.
Another aspect of Focus on Israel’s ministry is the leading of tours to Israel by various members of the Home Board. To see the Land and meet the people rarely fails to make an impact on those who go.