Who we are
- Who Are Seventh-day Adventists?
A brief overview of one of the fastest growing Christian denominations in the world today. Seventh-day Adventists add a new member by baptism every 35 seconds, and organizes five new congregations daily.
Membership today exceeds 17 million people (baptized adult members). Adventist population in the world (family members included) is more than 20 million.
For more information, you can read the Seventh-day Adventist booklet, clicking on your preferred language:
- Seventh-day Adventists in Israel
A state in the Middle East bounded on the north by Lebanon, on the east by Syria and Jordan, on the south by the Gulf of Aqaba, on the southwest by Egypt and on the west by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is 425 kilometers (265 miles) long, 110 kilometers (70 miles) wide at its widest point, and 20 kilometers (12 miles) at its narrowest point.
The total population was 8,132,000 December 31st, 2013.
“The Jewish population makes up 6,102,000 (75.2%); 1,682,000 (20.6%) are Arabs; and, those identified as “others” (non-Arab Christians, Baha’i, etc) make up 348,000 people (4.2%). When the state was established, there were only 806,000 residents and the total population reached its first and second millions in 1949 and 1958 respectively.
The overall population grew by approximately 147,000 people (1.8%) since the secular New Year 2013- a growth rate similar to that of the last decade.
The Jewish population grew 1.8% (similar to past years) while the Arab population grew 2.4% (a rapid decline from the 3.4% annual growth rate in the 1990’s). The Christian population grew 1.3% and the Druze population grew 1.7%.» (According to The Jewish Virtual Library; www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org).
In addition to the areas known as Galilee, the Valley of Jezreel, the coastal plains of Sharon and Philistia, Judea, and the Negev, at the time of the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967(the Six-Day War), Israel gained the Golan, Samaria (also known as the West Bank), the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai.
On March 26, 1979, a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed, and on September 13, 1993, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on recognition of each nation, bringing autonomy to the Gaza Strip and Jericho.
The territory has been the home of the Hebrews from the period of the gradual conquest of the land following the exodus from Egypt in the mid-second millennium BCE. Then the brief united kingdom under David and Solomon (about 1000 BCE) was divided into the kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. It was lost to Assyria and Babylon (eighth to sixth centuries BCE) then ruled successively by the Persians, the Ptolemies, and the Seleucids. In the second century BCE it was the seat of an independent Jewish state ruled by the Hashmonian priest-kings. The Roman Republic conquered the country in In 63 BC, and organized it as a Roman client state which was ruled by Herod the Great from 37 BC after three years of fighting.
Judea remained the homeland of the Jews until the dispersion by the Roman emperors of the first and second centuries when it was renamed Palestine. The area was conquered by the Arabs in the seventh century, and Jerusalem became one of the centers of Islam. Groups of Jews remained in the country through the centuries under Muslim rule (on the same basis as the Christian minorities), but there was no large-scale immigration of Jews until modern times. In the Middle Ages, for several centuries, the Crusaders struggled for control over the country, but eventually in 1417, the land came under the rule of the Ottoman Turks. The Turkish Empire held it until World War I, after which Palestine was made a mandate of Great Britain.
In the course of WWI the British government issued the Balfour declaration recommending “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. This declaration encouraged the Zionist dream of an independent Jewish state in Palestine, and spurred large-scale immigration of Jewish settlers into the area. When the British mandate lapsed, and the United Nations voted for the partition of Palestine in 1947, the ensuing Jewish-Arab war resulted in an armistice line between Israel and Jordan and Israel and Egypt. Thus the history of the present-day state of Israel dates from 1948 when Great Britain surrendered its mandate over Palestine and an independent Israeli state was proclaimed.
The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. Most of the people, speaking the various languages of the countries from which they came, had to learn Hebrew almost as a foreign tongue.
Although Israel is a Jewish state, religious freedom is accorded by law. Many Christian monks and pilgrims throng the monasteries established to preserve various traditional sites of the Holy Land.
- Seventh-day Adventist Statistics
Church work in the territory of Israel constitutes the “Israel Field” and is attached directly to the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The headquarters of the Israel Field are located in Abraham Lincoln Street 4, Jerusalem with King David Hotel and YMCA as close neighbors.
There are approximately 800 members in 20 groups and congregations. These are served by four ordained pastors and two licensed ministers. In addition there are volunteers, administrative staff and departmental directors.
- Seventh-day Adventist Work
Beginnings in Israel
The first Seventh-day Adventist to come to Israel (which was then Palestine) was Clorinda S. Minor, who came from the United States in 1849. She lived with some other Adventists working at rehabilitating the land, planting groves, and helping people, especially Jews, who were among the first arriving in the land. She believed that this work was part of God’s plan for the last days of human history in the return of Yeshouah in glory.
According to extant records, another of the first Adventists to visit Palestine was G. C. Tenney in 1892 (Review and Herald 70:106, Feb. 14 1893). However, no work was begun at that time. Abram La Rue, the pioneer Adventist lay worker in the Far East, visited Jerusalem sometime between 1890 and 1897, but there is no record of any work conducted there by him. Adventist work in Palestine, in the area of Israel, began with the visit of Henry P. Holser, the Superintendent of the European Field, to Haifa, Jaffa, Sarona (near Jaffa), and Jerusalem early in 1898. He made the acquaintance of some of the German colonists settled near these cities, distributed literature among them, and took subscriptions to an Adventist health journal.
On his return to Europe he made an appeal at a general meeting held in Hamburg for volunteers to work in Palestine. J. H. Krum, a German Adventist from the United States, responded, and with his wife went to Jaffa (biblical Joppa) in the same year and conducted colporteur work among the German colonists. Toward the end of 1899, F. Horner, a male nursing graduate of the Basel Sanitarium, went to Jaffa and opened treatment rooms there. A few months afterwards Miss Hausmann, a nurse, who later married Horner, joined him in the medical work. According to a report that appeared in the Review and Herald of Nov. 26, 1901 (78:771), in the preceding twelve months these nurses had given 1,260 treatments. By 1901 Krum had moved to Jerusalem and had begun medical work there in the Old City, joined by S. Jespersson and his wife, from Basel.
While on a visit to Palestine in 1904, L. R. Conradi, then director of the European work, baptized three Jewish people in Jaffa about the end of February and organized the Jaffa-Jerusalem congregation (Review and Herald 81:12, July 21, 1904), composed largely of workers’ families and German Jews. Four years later the total membership was about twenty.
In 1908 the medical institution in Jerusalem reported that Europeans, Arabs and Jews were seeking remedial treatments there. In 1911 a tent meeting was held in a German colony that had been established on Mount Carmel.
- Interruption by World War I
In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, several German workers (among them W. K. Ising) in Syria and Palestine were either interned, or forced to leave the field. Henry Erzberger, Superintendent of the Syrian Field from 1913 to 1917, who was a Swiss citizen, continued to live for a time in Jerusalem.
Re-establishment of the Work
Little is known about the development of the work from 1918 until 1929, when Ising returned to Beirut (in Lebanon) and took charge of the work in Palestine. In 1929 the medical institution in Jerusalem, confiscated by the Turks in the course of World War I, was re-established by Bror Farnstrom and his wife, both physical therapists trained in the Skodsborg Sanitarium in Denmark.
They found a sign “Wasserbehandlungen” (water treatments), a small electric apparatus, and a book of statistics left over from the pre-1914 institution. They opened in rented quarters in a house outside the Damascus Gate. They remodeled the interior of the house to fit it for use, but the facilities were meager. The housing and facilities were not as good as before, but the situation improved considerably when in 1934 the treatment rooms were moved into a building erected by the Field on a site acquired in 1930 near the YMCA building, west of the walled city, and hence also in what is now Israel.
The building, containing apartments, a meeting hall, and a basement for treatment rooms, was officially dedicated on April 19, 1935. A workers’ meeting was held on that occasion, attended by 35 people and other workers from the Middle East countries.
About 1934 the headquarters of the Arabic Union Field, which had been in Beirut, Lebanon, were transferred to Haifa. At Haifa another institute for massage, hydrotherapy, and electric treatments was established, and operated by two nurses, Alfred Piorr and his wife.
Along with the medical work, Erich Schubert conducted evangelistic campaigns. In 1935 the first thorough house-to-house canvassing with Adventist books was conducted by a colporteur named Hamed Abeid, a national of the country who had accepted the Adventist faith while in Cuba and had returned to Palestine. In the course of the 10 weeks that it took him to cover Jerusalem he sold 700 books in different languages, one third of them religious. He sold many copies of the book Health and Longevity, by Dr. A. C. Selmon.
In 1936 an interesting reference to Seventh-day Adventists in Jerusalem was made in a meeting of a standing committee of the British House of Commons. In the official report of the proceedings of March 24, 1936, it is stated that “in Jerusalem they are well established and well known for their works of charity, and are held in deservedly high repute.”
- World War II and After
When World War II broke out the situation in the Middle East became difficult for the Adventist congregation. Afterwards, when the British mandate lapsed and Israel became an independent state in 1948, the community lost most of its Arab members. Some continued to worship in Jordanian occupied East Jerusalem, others moved to Arab or other countries. A few Jewish Adventists remained.
For the next several years the number of Jewish Adventists in Israel increased gradually, mostly through the immigration of Adventist refugees of Jewish Adventists from Bulgaria and Shanghai. All through this period the Farnstroms remained in charge. When they left in 1952 for the Adventist hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, there were about twelve members in Israel.
In 1950, on the occasion of a visit by a Jewish Adventist minister from Europe, a general meeting of all members was convened in Jerusalem for the purpose of reorganizing the congregation and celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Many of the members could not understand each other. Having come from various countries they did not have a common language, so it was necessary to use interpreters during services. On the occasion of a visit by E. E. Roenfelt in 1951 translations were made into Russian, Bulgarian, German, and Hebrew.
This territory was part of the Central European Division until its subdivision into Sections I and II in 1935, when it was assigned to Section II, with headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. In 1937 the headquarters were moved to Washington D.C. In 1938 the Field was placed directly under the administration of the General Conference, where it remained until the organization of the Middle East Division in 1951.
Because of restrictions on travel to and from Arab and Muslim countries, a change became necessary. In 1955 the Israel Field was incorporated into the Euro-Africa Division. Since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (the Six-Day War), the Center in East Jerusalem has been attached to the Israel Field. As the result of a further realignment of territories at the time of the 1985 General Conference session, the Israel Field became part of the territory of the Trans European Division in 1986. At this time, the Center in East Jerusalem was remodeled and is now the much appreciated Jerusalem Study Center.