Restoring the Jerusalem Bells

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There is only one tubular bell system in the Holy Land. Housed at the Anglican parish of Christ Church, in the Old City of Jerusalem, these bells are capable of ringing out hymns, but they have sadly been silent for decades. Now Christ Church is raising funds to restore the bells, and once again ring God’s praises over Jerusalem. Here we feature an article by David Pileggi, Rector of Christ Church.

The Sounds of Jerusalem

The Old City of Jerusalem is indeed very noisy. Within this walled city one hears the Islamic call to prayer five times a day, the enthusiastic singing of yeshiva students, shofars on Jewish holidays, the ringing of church bells, and all in the midst of the chaotic hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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Yet the Holy City was not always quite so noisy. At one time the call to prayer was not blasted through loudspeakers, and the blowing of shofars and the ringing of church bells was forbidden by Muslim authorities.

Christ Church Jerusalem

What forever changed the soundscape of the Old City was Christ Church Jerusalem – the first Anglican Church in the Middle East.

It was consecrated in 1849 and built by the London Jews Society, today the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ) to be a home for Jewish Anglicans, local Protestants and Christian pilgrims from around the world. The work had begun 25 years earlier when Anglican missionaries established the country’s first modern medical facilities, schools that taught core subjects, and services ere held in Hebrew and Arabic. Israeli historians acknowledge that during our two hundred years in Jerusalem we made a major contribution to the welfare of the local population. Our motivation has always been to sanctify the name of Jesus as the light to the nations and the glory of Israel (Is.49:6; Lk.2:32).

How Sweet the Sound

In 1854 we added a single bell to our church compound (pictured above), and the Turks allowed us to ring it to celebrate the Anglo-French and Turkish victory in the Crimean War, no doubt to express their gratitude for the invaluable European aid in curbing the insatiable Russian appetite for chunks of the Ottoman Empire. It was the first time a Jerusalem church was allowed to ring a bell since the 13th century.

In 1898 we added eight tubular bells (the only tubular bells in the Holy Land and the Middle East for that matter) which caused a great deal of excitement. They were first rung on Easter morning 125 years ago but were silenced decades ago after restructuring the Rectory which closed off the ropes of the bell tower. Recently, by reaching through a small portal we discovered that the bells were still in tune as we tapped out “Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound.”

Restoring the Bells

We are working with a firm in Belgium to install electronic hammers and a remote keyboard that will enable us to once again ring out His praises at Jaffa Gate and the Old City of Jerusalem. While the bells and supports are in good condition, the tower needs urgent renovation, and a new automated ringing system will be be purchased and installed. The costs are as follows:

  • Tower Renovation: $25,000
  • Automated Bell System: $15,000
  • Bell Cleaning & Restoration: $10,000

Ringing our bells once again in the Old City of Jerusalem will enable us to glorify God, and to highlight in a very special way, our work and witness in this city. The sweet chimes will be a unique addition to the Jerusalem soundscape, reminding locals and pilgrims alike that Jesus the Messiah is indeed the light to the nations and the glory of Israel.

Video

Here is a video about the Jerusalem Bells project, to which you can give here!

Published on

March 20, 2023

Author

David Pileggi

The Rev. David Pileggi is the Rector of Christ Church in Jerusalem. He and his wife, Carol, have three adult children.

View more from David Pileggi

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