In December 1917, when General Allenby entered the Old City of Jerusalem on foot through the Jaffa Gate, British rule over Palestine began.


The British, who governed first by military government, and then later by Mandatory administration (until Israel’s independence in 1948), set up their administrative centre for the country in Jerusalem. During these years, Jerusalem began to transform from a provincial town of the Ottoman era to a modern administrative, political, religious, and cultural centre.


Building activity began almost immediately and Jerusalem expanded to the north, south, and west. The British determined the municipal zones, commercial areas, density of construction, use of materials and height of buildings. Perhaps their most influential contribution to the character of architecture in Jerusalem was a municipal ordinance which remains in effect to this day requiring all new buildings to be faced with stone, lending a certain romantic quality to the buildings.


Israeli journalist Lili Eylon, notes that; “While much of the public building in Jerusalem was initiated and financed by Jewish organizations, the British constructed Government House (the residence of the High Commissioner), St. Andrew’s Church, the Central Post Office and the Government Printing House.” (Lili Eylon, Focus on Israel: Jerusalem-Architecture in the British Mandate Period, (MFA, 1999

One writer describes St Andrew’s as follows: “The clean, plain lines of St Andrew’s Scots Memorial Church and Hospice standing on the edge of the Valley of Hinnom evoke images of a Highland castle and keep”.


This is appropriate since the Church was built as a memorial to Scottish soldiers who fell fighting in this region during World War I. The Church was built in 1927, designed by British architect Albert Clifford Holliday. The large, Crusader-style windows in the sanctuary use small, round panels of blue Hebron glass.


The building is a mixture of oriental and western elements. Some of the distinguishing features of the building reflect that of another building, Government House, designed by the architects A. Harrison and A. C. Holliday, including the beautiful Armenian tiles outside the entrance to the Guest House, the Church, and the Veranda.


The tiles were created by David Ohanessian (1884-1953) in his Dome of the Rock Workshop on the Via Dolorosa. During more recent years, excavations have revealed archaeological finds both in the Loggia, a roofed arcade or gallery with open sides stretching along the front or side of a building; often at an upper level, of St Andrew’s, and more recently on the land immediately in front of the grounds of St Andrew’s. Some of these further discoveries can be seen from the driveway and parking area for the Guesthouse and Church. The site of St Andrew’s has meant that it is an architectural landmark, even in the significant skyline of Jerusalem. The spacious public rooms give a feeling of tranquillity.


There is an unforgettable view of the Old City from the veranda. The whole building, Church and Guesthouse together, is a lasting tribute to the generous response of the parishes and people of Scotland and to the vision of the architect.

The St Andrew’s Church and Guest House are part of the Church of Scotland, a Christian denomination in the Reformed, Presbyterian, and Protestant tradition.


The building was built in recognition of the price paid in human lives by a disproportionate number of men from the Scottish regiments, which played such a prominent role in the Palestine campaign.


Back in Scotland the feeling grew that there should be some fitting memorial and in January 1918, not long after the capture of Jerusalem, Ninian Hill, a ship owner and Kirk elder from Edinburgh, proposed that a Scottish Church should be built in Jerusalem to act as a war memorial.


This gained widespread support and the money was raised through a nationwide campaign; and on May 7th 1927, the now Field Marshall Lord Allenby laid the foundation stone (which can still be seen outside, at the corner of the steps) on a lofty site across the Hinnom Valley, from Mount Zion.


The Church, with its accompanying Hospice, was dedicated in 1930, with the then Rev. Ninian Hill being introduced as the first minister of the Church. From its inception the hospice has been a popular temporary home for those in the sizeable Scottish population who lived and worked in Jerusalem during the years of the British Mandate.


An Israeli lady who arrived in Jerusalem in 1933 remembers the hospice as the place to stay and as being very upmarket; The Lady Warden at that time, Mrs Macrae, ruled the hospice with a firm but kindly hand. Dress had to be formal in the dining room and was compatible with military life. Ties and long trousers were compulsory, regardless of temperature. In the vestry there is a splendidly evocative photograph of the 2nd Battalion, the Cameron Highlanders, on church parade, kilts, pipes and drums and pith helmets which give us some understanding as to the lifestyle presided over by the lady wardens of pre-Second World War days.

The character of St Andrew’s changed dramatically in 1947/48 with the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of the State of Israel and the associated war, which led to a division of both Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Scottish population of the city plummeted with the withdrawal of the British military administration and St Andrew’s found itself just on the western side of the Green line that divided the city, cut off from most of the Jerusalemite Christian community and the majority of the Holy sites, which were in the part of the city controlled by Jordan. The minister of St Andrew’s used to ring St Bride’s bell at a fixed time each day to indicate that he was still alive; there was no more conventional contact between East and West Jerusalem.


The hospice during this time was operating only intermittently. The Rev Clark Kerr, who was in charge, was often the only person at church for the Sunday morning service. On his departure, the Church and hospice were left in the care of the sometime Session Clerk and Treasurer, a former policeman and founding member of St Andrew’s named Mr John Reid who volunteered as guardian while his wife Mary worked as Lady Warden of the hospice. With the Rev Hall they maintained worship at a time when this proved to be of great spiritual and religious value, and Mrs Reid relied on her resourcefulness to keep the hospice serviceable and prevent it from falling into complete disrepair. Mr Reid was awarded an MBE for his efforts, a recognition which reflected also the innumerable services to the Church of Mrs Reid and their children Melville, Mary, and Catherine, through this time of political turmoil, acute danger, and socio-economic problems. In 1955 the Rev and Mrs William Gardiner Scott took over the care of the Church and hospice.


Bill and Darinka recorded that the hospice was a terrible mess. Junk was stored everywhere, rooms had been let out to missionaries, orange boxes were piled high to the ceiling, only primus stoves were available for cooking, and laundry had to be washed in large metal tubs heated over stoves on the floor. As reliable domestic staff proved difficult, so the Gardiner Scott’s did most of the work themselves.

During the 1967 Six Day War, St Andrew’s was placed in a dangerous position as it was in the firing line between the Israeli and Jordanian forces and the bullet marks on the outside of the building still bear witness to the fierce fighting that took place.


Although there were other wardens that took their turn at St Andrew’s, the Gardiner Scott’s came back for a second stint and soon faced the short but grim Six Day War. Catering for the hospice guests (plus eight people who had been decanted from the British Consulate) was, to say the least, difficult. The result of the Six Day War was that Jerusalem was once again physically, if not socially united, with access again to the Holy sites and the wider Christian community.


As a result, there was a considerable increase in the pilgrim traffic coming to the Church and Hospice and while there continued to be a small local congregation, made up of Palestinian and expatriate Christians living in the city, a ministry to Pilgrims became the central focus of St Andrew’s.

In recent years, the Church of Scotland, through its local congregation at St Andrew’s and at the level of its World Mission Council, has become conscious of the need not only to minister to pilgrims from overseas, but also to engage more fully with the people and problems of this troubled land.


As a result, several steps have been taken, including the creation of two formal partnerships between the Church of Scotland and, the Diocese of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and another with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.


The Church is seeking to develop a greater educational emphasis, by organising programmes and alternative pilgrimages that will enable visitors to meet local people, especially local Christians, and so deepen their understanding of the contemporary problems of the Holy Land.


Sunbula, a non-profit organisation which markets handicrafts from self-supporting women’s groups was located at St Andrew’s in 1988, founded on principles of justice and fair-trading. The organisation has a shop in the Guesthouse which is open to visitors and guests at specific times of the day.

St Andrew’s Scottish Memorial Church and the Guesthouse are administered, owned, and managed by the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland. There is also a Society of Friends of St Andrews’ which exists to support the Church and Guesthouse, alongside the World Mission Council. The society helps by praying for the peace of Jerusalem and by providing practical help where necessary. Their help over the years has been invaluable.


The Friends of St Andrew’s also have a published booklet by A K Goodwin, which provides additional information and pictures of our history, together with a personal portrait of many who have contributed to the life of St Andrew’s. More information on the Society can be obtained from the World Mission Council, 121 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4YN.

The St Andrew’s flag on top of the Church tower proclaims that there is a warm Scottish welcome within, and in spite of the difficult political situation, the Guesthouse is always a happy home for its guests and visitors.


By prayer and through the building of relationships and friendships with people from the local community, St Andrew’s seeks in a small way to be a witness and a bridge for reconciliation.