The (Imperial) Orthodox Palestine Society (OPS)

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January 15, 2009


On December 18, 2008  Mr. N.Worontsow, the Chairman of Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in the Holy Land  participated in the international scientific conference held in Tantur Catholic Institute (Jerusalem), where two statements made by Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany were read.

Pinning absurd labels, making insults, spreading ridiculous libel places even panagia-wearing clerics down into the ranks of cheap gutter press. This is for Our Lord Almighty and history to judge and administer their evaluation.

The Council of Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in the Holy Land is sadly disturbed by this incident and is praying for the spiritual recovery of those who strayed.

In regards with this, The Council of Palestinian Society in the Holy Land makes an official statement as follows:

1/ The Council confirms the full powers of Mr. Nikolai Worontsow as the Chairman of  Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in the Holy Land, elected the Chairman in strict accordance with the By-Laws of OPS and blessed by the previous Chairman Bishop A. Grabbe ( Vice-Chairman of OPS since 1969 and Chairman of OPS from1983 to 2004).

2/ In accordance with the By-Laws adopted by OPS in 1882, added to and confirmed in April 1970, Palestine Society is a secular society/ established for “ scientific and charitable purposes”. Assisting the Christian presence in the Holy Land, the Society, however, in no way is a structural part of any orthodox church, neither it is a political organization.

3/ Since the time Mr. Nikolai Worontsow was elected as Chairman, Orthodox Palestine Society has been strictly keeping all its property intact, including Viri Galilei plot of land. In fact, on February 22, 2007 the Society made official statement on this matter on its Internet site www.ippo-jerusalem.info.

4/ Under Mr. Nikolai Worontsow as Chairman, the financials of the Palestine Society were made transparent and are entrusted for the audit to the Government of Bavaria (Germany).

5/ The Council of Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in the Holy Land regrets and deplores the fact, that Rev. McGarry, the rector of Tantur Institute, yielded to an external provocation and made slandering statements about the Chairman of Orthodox Palestine Society at a recent conference. Mr. Nikolai Worontsow has already received written apologies on the matter from the organizers of the conference – Professors of Catholic University of America and Columbia Law School. 


Members of the Councile
of Palestine Society
in the Holy Land

N. Avramova, E. Chalatjan, A. Iwanow M., Dr. A. Kantor, M. Newskaja,                             Professor I. Smirnow

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THE ALEXANDER PODVORIE1

 The complex occupies a space of 1,433 square meters and includes the following:

Archaeological Excavations

 Threshold of Judgment Gate,

Remains of the city walls from the times of King Herod (first century B.C.),

The “needle's eye”,

Arch from a pagan temple built in the times of Emperor Hadrian
(around 135 A.D.),

Remains of the Basilica of Sts. Constantine and Helena (completely preserved altar, steps, walls and arch (first half of the fourth century A.D.).

 Building above the Excavations of the Orthodox Palestine Society erected in 1891

 St. Alexander Nevsky Chapel consecrated in 1896

 

History of the Excavations

 


Emperor Alexander III


Sergiy Alexandrovich


Elisaveta Fyodorovna


Archimandrite Antonin
(Kapustin)


              In 1859 the Russian Government acquired a plot of land next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. After the founding of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society by order of Emperor Alexander III on May 8, 1882, and its first board meeting, archaeological excavations began on the plot. They were financed by a personal contribution (1,000 rubles in gold) of the Society's president, Grand Duke Sergiy Alexandrovich, the brother of Alexander III. The excavations were directed by Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin), the Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, and Conrad Shik, a German archaeologist and architect, who spent almost forty years in Jerusalem. The large scale of the excavations attracted the attention of inhabitants, pilgrims and world-known scholars and the place became known as the “Russian Excavations”.


Arch from a pagan temple built in the times of Emperor Hadrian

      Archaeologists encountered the remains of a massive wall, the stones of which, with their typical finishing used during the time of King Herod, indicated that they had been placed there over two thousand years ago. The remains of the wall measure 2.5 meters.


The “needle's eye”

      However, the most important discovery of the excavations was a unique, biblical holy place; a threshold rubbed down and polished by thousands of feet and wheels that had passed over it, with holes made in it for the stakes of a gate and marks of the places where the hinges of the gate had been. On both sides of the gate one can still see the stones of an ancient road. The discovery was made not far from the Calvary and left no doubt that this was the Threshold of Judgment Gate , the edge of the city walls in the times of Christ.


Threshold of Judgment Gate

 

The Building of the Quarters above the Excavations

      “…The Council of the Orthodox Palestine Society, with the approval of its Most August President, has resolved: to call upon all pious Orthodox Christians, to whom are dear the places sanctified by the life and passion of Christ our Savior, to make donations for the building of a unique edifice on this site.” (From a letter of the Council of the OPS to K.P. Pobedonostsev, the high commissioner of the Holy Synod).

      After the excavations were finished, on September 13, 1887, D.N. Bukharov, the Consul of Russia, Archimandrite Antonin (Kapustin), architect G. Frangia and members of the OPS sent a telegram to Grand Duke Sergiy Alexandrovich, the president of the OPS, saying the following: “Cornerstone of new building solemnly placed at excavations today in presence of crowd...” The edifice was completed and consecrated on September 5, 1891. The Threshold was covered with glass in a wooden frame. Next to it was placed a large stone (which was bought for a considerable sum) from the Calvary , on which a Crucifix was fixed.

 

St. Alexander Nevsky Chapel


St. Alexander Nevsky Chapel

      Not far from the Threshold a stone altar was found, most probably part of a chapel in the Constantinian Basilica, in which several holy places were reunited under one roof. A new altar and iconostasis were erected next to the ancient stone altar. High up along the walls of the Chapel 30 majestic icons of Saints were hung; slightly lower were placed 18 large canvases depicting scenes of Christ's passion painted by A. Koshelev. On May 22, 1896, the chapel was consecrated in memory of the deceased Emperor Alexander III, the founder of the Orthodox Palestine Society and in honor of his heavenly protector St. Alexander Nevsky. During the consecration rite His Beatitude Gerasimos, Patriarch of Jerusalem, placed particles of relics of Saints Haralampos, Theodore the Stratilat and Panteleimon in the new altar.

 

Marble frame with icon of St. Sergiy of Radonezh


Marble frame with icon of St. Sergiy of Radonezh

      After Grand Duke Sergiy was assassinated by terrorist Kaliaev the general assembly of the IOPS resolved to dedicate a plaque in memory of its deceased Most August President. Architect M.T. Preobrazhensky and the granite and marble workshop of A. Barinov projected and created a marble frame with an icon of St. Sergiy of Radonezh. Silversmiths “I.P. Khlebnikov, Sons and Co.” prepared a metal frame on the basis of drawings and technical advice of M.T. Preobrazhensky, as well as an oil lamp, which was lit in Moscow by Grand Duchess Elizabeth and brought lit to the Alexander Podvorie in Jerusalem .

 

Memorial Plaques above the Threshold of Judgment Gate

 
Memorial Plaques

     The founders, donors and main members of the IOPS were given (and will continue to be given) a special honor: On the ancient walls of the excavations to the right of the Threshold hang black marble plaques a meter wide with their names inscribed in gold letters.

 

“The Tsar Room”

 
The Tsar Room

     In rooms, which used to serve for solemn gatherings, portraits with their original frames of the following emperors still adorn the walls: Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, portraits and lithographies of Grand Duke Sergiy, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, and Crown Prince Nicholas Alexandrovich. The fireplace with its marble mantle and a mirror above it with its gilded frame are well preserved, as well as the mosaic floor and some remains of the OPS porcelain service, etc.

 

(Imperial) Orthodox Palestine Society – Jerusalem and Middle East section

      

      The Alexander Podvorie is the headquarters of the OPS Jerusalem and Middle East section, a lay, archaeological-historical and charitable organization, which, since its foundation in 1882 and until this day, has been the guardian of the Holy Places on the territory of the Podvorie.

      Currently the OPS in Jerusalem is making all efforts possible to restore the building, open it for pilgrims and visitors, and return to the principle activities of the Society.

 

 

      

1A podvorie in Russian originally designated a compound of buildings where one could spend the night, and have a hot meal, a sort of pilgrim's hostel. Later on and until this day the word podvorie received the meaning of a group of buildings with a church. In the case of the Alexander Podvorie the term refers to the building complex around the Russian Excavations.

 

Picture album look here.

 

 

 

 

Palestine order in council, 1948.

Order by the High Commissioner under Article 3.

 

In exercise of the powers vested in him by the Palestine Order in Council, 1948, the High Commissioner has ordered, and it is hereby ordered, as follows:-

(Gaz : 27.2.48, p-281)

 

1. This Order may be cited as the Orthodox Palestine Society (Administration of Properties) Order, 1948.

(Citation)

 

2. The persons named in the Schedule hereto shall as from the date of this Order be constituted into a body corporate with perpetual succession having its own seal, to be known as “the Board of Administrators of the Properties of the Orthodox Palestine Society” (hereinafter called “the Board”) and shall-

(Constitution of the Board and its duties)

 

(a) administer all the properties belonging to, or in the possession of, or held in trust for, the Orthodox Palestine Society (hereinafter called “the Society”) in whatever name such properties may be registered;

(No. 31 of 1926)

 

(b) receive all rents and revenues whether due, or to become due, of such properties and apply the same, after payment of the expenses necessary in the opinion of the Board for the preservation and maintenance of such properties whether in Palestine or elsewhere, for the purposes for which the Society was established, as set forth in the Statutes of the Society, and generally for the benefit of the society as the Board may in its discretion from time to time determine;

 

(c) generally, and subject as hereinafter provided, do any act, matter or thing with reference to such properties which may be necessary or expedient in due course of administration.

 

3. The Board shall have power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and to let, lease, mortgage, charge or otherwise encumber the properties mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 2 for the purpose of improving any land or interest therein or of borrowing, raising or securing the payment of money or otherwise for the benefit of the Society.

(Power of the Board)

 

4. Such moneys as shall not be applied directly for the purposes mentioned in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph 2 shall be held or invested by the Board in any manner in which trust property may be invested under the laws of Palestine for the time being in force.

(Financial provisions)

 

5. the Board may delegate all, or any of, the powers conferred upon it by this Order, to any body or person to the holder for the time being of any office to be appointed on such terms as the Board may from time to time terminate such appointment.

(Delegation)

 

6. Any vacancy due to the death, incapacity, resignation or refusal to act, of any member of the Board, shall be filled by the continuing member or members who, notwithstanding such vacancy, may act pending the filling of the same.

(Filling of vacancies)

 

7. The Board shall act by a majority of voter of its members, and a majority of such members acting in pursuance of a resolution passed by such majority may exercise all the powers hereby conferred upon the Board:

Provided that a unanimous resolution of all the members of the Board shall be required for the purpose of-

 

(a) leasing or letting any of the properties mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) of paragraph 2 for a period exceeding three years, or mortgaging, charging or otherwise encumbering such properties, or

 

(b) delegating all or any of the powers of the Board in pursuance of paragraph 5 hereof.

(Proceedings)

 

 

8. The board may make rules for-

(a) calling of meetings of its members and regulating the proceedings thereat;

 

(b) conducting the business of the Board and the Society;

 

(c) regulating the finances and accounts of the Society and prescribing the books and the forms in which such accounts shall be kept;

 

(d) generally, for carrying out any of the purposes or provisions of this order.

(Rules)

 

9. Any action, claim or proceeding by or against, and any debt due to or by, the Administrator, appointed by the High Commissioner under the Administrator of Russian Properties Ordinance,1926, shall, as from the coming into force of this Order, be deemed to be an action, claim or proceeding by or against, or a debt due to or by, the Board, as the case may be.

(Transitory provisions No. 31 of 1926)

 

10. For the removal of doubts it is hereby declared, that the Society is also sometimes known, and in the Administration of Russian Properties Ordinance, 1926, was referred to, as the Palestine Orthodox Society.

(Name of the Society. No. 31 of 1926

 

11. The Administration of Russian Properties Ordinance, 1926 ( as amended by the Administration of Russian Properties (Amendment) Ordinance, 1936, and the Administration of Russian Properties (Amendment) Ordinance, 1938), is hereby repealed to the extent to which it in any way affects or relates of the Society or any of the properties hereinbefore mentioned or the rents or revenues, or the administration, thereof.

 

 

Schedule

(Paragraph 2)

1. Basil Antipoff.

2. Serge Staroskolsky.

3. Assaf Wahbeh.

 

By His Excellency’s Command,

H.L.G. Gurney

28th April, 1948 Chief Secretary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Translated from the Russian

 

 

 

Nikolaj Worontsow

Chairman of the OPS in the Holy Land

 

 

The History and Legal Standing of the Sergey House through the Years

 

In 1859 Czar Alexander II founded the Palestine Committee and appointed Grand Duke Konstantine Nikolayevich as its president. Its goal was to establish hospices for pious pilgrims in the Holy Land.

The Palestine Committee operated thanks to donations from individuals; it received no funds whatsoever from the State Treasury. On September 15, 1863, the Committee had gathered private donations amounting to 1,003,259 rubles and 34 kopecks.

With the collected funds the Committee purchased plots of land in different parts of Palestine, which were registered as property of the Russian Government because Turkish law did not allow organizations to own land.

In 1864 the Palestine Committee was replaced by the Palestine Commission, which was closed in 1889 and its lands and buildings were transmitted to the Palestine Society.

In a letter to V.N. Khitrovo dated March 26, 1886, D.D. Smyshliaev, a representative of the Society in Jerusalem, wrote the following: “… If I insisted, in the note I sent to you, on receiving authorization from the Palestine Commission to build on the land I chose on Meidan Square[1], I now state with certainty my final opinion, which is that, if the Society wishes to build something in Jerusalem, it must purchase a place… If the Society decides to listen to me, there is a place next to the Russian buildings, an entire block…”

A telegram came from Petersburg on April 12: “We agree with the proposal. We are sending seven thousand…”

As there were a few buyers struggling for the place, it turned out in the end that the Society had to pay much more. On May 14, 1886 the plot was purchased for 28,100 francs[2] in the name of General M.P. Stepanov[3], the Assistant of the President of the Orthodox Palestine Society. A Jerusalem banker called Valero made a loan to the Society, which, with the other seven thousand, was enough to make the purchase. The solemn placing of the cornerstone of the future hospice took place on October 29.

“…the land, where the Palestine Society is building a hospice, was bought in the name of an individual…” (A letter of A.I. Nelidov, Ambassador to

[1] Later on the Nicholas House will be built here.

2 About 11,000 rubles.

3 The purchase document (kushan) was made out in the name of Major General M.P. Stepanov. In 1898 it was transferred to the name of G.D. Sergey Alexandrovich.

 

Constantinople, to D.N. Bukharov, dated April 19, 1888 in Constantinople, concerning the process for tax exemption for the building of the hospice).

During his three year stay in Jerusalem, D.D. Smyshliaev, Plenipotentiary Representative[4] of the Society in the Holy City, traveled to Petersburg a few times to report on the construction work at meetings of the OPS.

 

“Judging from the photographs you sent, our Jerusalem house is getting along quickly.”

(From a letter of M.P. Stepanov, secretary of the OPS to D.D. Smyshliaev, Plenipotentiary Representative of the Society in the Holy City, dated June 18, 1887, St. Petersburg).

Although there was still a lot of work to do on the interior, on May 3, 1889, the birthday of Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, the “Russian Sergey flag”[5] was hoisted on the corner tower of the building. Since then city residents with love in their hearts began calling the Grand Duke “King of Jerusalem”, and foreign representatives with a slight tendency towards envy began calling him “the president of Palestine”. The building was named the Sergey House in honor of Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich.

In accordance with the laws of the Ottoman Empire, property that was purchased in the Holy Land for religious or social purposes could not be registered in the name of institutions. Therefore, it was registered in the name of private individuals. In the same way a large part of the realty of the Society was registered in the name of its president, Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich.

From a report of the Council of the Imperial Orthodox Society to the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, St. Petersburg, November 23, 1892: “…the request for a firman from the Sultan for the transfer of all these lands to the ownership of the Imperial Government may meet with difficulties from the side of the Turkish Government, as such a transfer would be equivalent to the fact that the said lands would be Russian territory outside of Russia… and so it would seem more prudent to obtain the transfer of these lands as private property to the name of His Highness Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich, who has given his consent to the transfer of these lands to His Imperial Highness’ name … M.P. Stepanov, Assistant to the President”.

On June 11, 1893, in his estate in Ilinskoe in the Zvenigorod district, G.D. Sergey Alexandrovich signed and notarized a power of attorney for V.V. Arsenev, the Consul General in Jerusalem, to purchase realty in his name. On behalf of the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the signature was confirmed by Lisovsky and A.A. Neratov and re-confirmed in the Ottoman Consulate General in St. Petersburg.

 

4 “… Having taken into consideration the report, the Council of the Orthodox Palestine Society decided on June 11 to request you to accept the title of Plenipotentiary Representative of the Society in Jerusalem…” (OPS Council to D.D. Smyshliaev, August 4, 1886, St. Petersburg).

“In the hall of the Russian House, which is entirely obliged to you for its existence, please put up your portrait with an inscription saying: The First Plenipotentiary Representative of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in Jerusalem 1885-1889.” (OPS Council to D.D. Smyshliaev, July 13, 1889, St. Petersburg).

5 The flag of the Society is at present in the building of the Alexander House. “… The story of the flag is charming. And so, the permission to hoist it has been granted and the consul and pasha must get used to it. They will not tear it down, but we will hoist it. On this basis it should hoisted every Sunday...” (Letter of V.N. Khitrovo, IOPS Secretary, to D.D. Smyshliaev, Plenipotentiary Representative in Jerusalem.)

 

In a letter to I.A. Zinoviev, the Ambassador to Constantinople, dated April 21, 1898, St. Petersburg, M.P. Stepanov, Assistant to the President of the IOPS, wrote the following:

“… since its founding 16 years ago, the Society has been obliged to purchase a few plots in the name of its employees because of the impossibility to purchase them in its own name… In 1892, through the intercessions of the Society, His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich decided to agree to the transfer of all these properties to his name with common rights according to the laws of the Ottoman Empire for the ownership of lands by foreign individuals…”

The First World War disrupted the Society’s plans to transfer the Sergey House to its legal and real owner, the IOPS. P.A. Riazhsky, the Manager of the Hospices and Inspector of the Palestine Schools, reported the following to Prince A.A. Shirinsky-Shikhmatov, the Vice President of the IOPS, on June 9, 1915:

“…after having studied the archives of the IOP Society, to submit to Your Excellency my report with a list of realty properties of the Society.

… The Sergey House in Jerusalem in the quarter of Bab El Khalil with a domain of 4252 square meters.

… These eight plots numbered 11-18 are registered in documents as owned by the deceased Most-August President of the Society, Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich.

… If we win the war, it will be necessary to demand from the central Government of Turkey that it give the order to the local authorities to re-register these properties in the name of the Palestine Society or the Russian Government, first, on the basis of a formal declaration of the Russian Embassy that these lands were purchased with funds of the IOP Society by its deceased Most-August President and were registered in his name only because of defects in the legal system of the Turkish Government, which it knows itself…”

On April 4, 1917, Prince Alexei Alexandrovich Shirinsky-Shikhmatov, member of the State Council and the Imperial Court, ex-High Commissioner of the Holy Synod, became the head of the IOPS. The bloody revolution that broke out had heavy consequences on the Society. On September 1, 1918, Prince A.A. Shirinsky-Shikhmatov, being in serious danger because of his active involvement in trying to save the Czar’s family, left Moscow with his family for Warsaw, Prague, Munich and Berlin. In the German capital, together with other members of the Council and Society who turned out to be abroad, he renewed the activities of the OPS. In 1924 the prince moved to Paris, where the Council of the Society remained until 1970.

At the beginning of the First World War and until the Turkish military command expelled the employees of the OPS from the Holy Land, N.R. Seleznieff had worked in the Management of the Hospices as an assistant to the Manager and provisions director. In February 1919 he arrived in Ekaterinodar. A.A. Neratov, a member of the Council of the Society, who was there at that time, managed to receive 20,000 “kerensky” rubles from the Military Treasury, and conferring to him plenary powers from the Superior Governor admiral A.V. Kolchak, he sent Seleznieff to Jerusalem as Manager of the hospices. Having arrived in the Holy City in the middle of summer of 1919, in the morning of the next day, together with Y.N. Farraj, the senior dragoman of the Russian Consulate, he visited the Spanish Consul, the protector of Russians in the Holy Land, and the Governor of Jerusalem. The Consul asked for confirmation of the plenary powers from A.A. Smirnov, the Russian envoy to Egypt, and the Governor requested to be informed by the consul on the proceedings. The confirmation of the plenary powers came from the ambassador in Cairo on August 15.

 

N.R. Seleznieff together with K.N. Petropulo, who had been the acting Manager during World War I, recorded what was left of the belongings of the Alexander House and moved everything to the storage rooms of the Sergey House.

 

On November 26, 1919, he wrote his first report to Prince A.A. Shirinsky-Shikhmatov in Paris, the President of the OPS, stating the following: “… At the Sergey House we have an office and three storage rooms… All our storages were ransacked by the Turks, all supplies stolen, all furniture from the rooms and pilgrims’ hospices looted or ruined. The Sergey House is occupied by the military police...”

 

On November 27, 1924, the Spanish consul, who had been until then the representative of Russian interests, received a letter from the British High Commissioner, in which he received thanks for his work in defending the interests of Russian institutions. At the same time in the letter it was said that from then on the Palestine Government would be assuming protection of the latter. In January 1925 the mandate authorities appointed G.A. Cust, a young captain, as Administrator of Russian properties. Captain Cust informed the representatives of the OPS that we “recognize the factual existence of the Society with all its properties and consider it necessary to maintain its system, internal order and activities according to its Statutes. The Administrator will be the intermediate link between the Council of the Society in Berlin and the Management of the Hospices in Jerusalem.”

 

At the beginning of the 1920’s, on behalf of the Council of the Society and its President, Prince A.A. Shirinsky-Shikhmatov, N.R. Seleznieff submitted a declaration to the Jerusalem Lands Court on the transfer of ownership of the Sergey House and other properties to the name of the OPS. The court ruled the following: to summon by announcements in newspapers the heirs of G.D. Sergey Alexandrovich, in whose name the properties were registered. Not one of the heirs of the Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich responded.

 

The OPS and its properties were under the permanent and nagging control of the English Administrator, appointed by the High Commissioner from among the high officials of the British Mandate authorities in Jerusalem. The first contract of lease registered with the Manager of Hospices of the OPS was actually for the Sergey House. For the use of the rooms of the Sergey House in 1922 the English Military Department paid the OPS 886 pounds and 59 pence[6]. The English Governmental Administration and the Housing Commission made a contract in 1927 with the Management of the Hospices of the Society in Jerusalem for the leasing of the majority of the rooms of the Sergey House. Starting from 1929 for two decades the properties of the Society were administered by V.K. Antipov, a member of the Council of the OPS and ex-Imperial Vice Consul. His office and those of most of his colleagues were at the Sergey House. The English government did not attempt to confiscate the property of the OPS, but rented many buildings and rooms, for which it punctiliously paid rent to the Society.

 

In 1947 the English authorities paid 1,500,000 Palestine pounds to the Society for the use of the Sergey House. Despite the situation of war, the OPS requested G. Vareldzis, an engineer, to study and describe the damage done to the Sergey House. The English Government was supposed to reimburse the funds needed for the repairs.

 

6 Rental fees from May 1, 1921, to December 31, 1922.

 

The Society not only owned the Sergey House and administered it, but paid taxes punctiliously and made the necessary repairs until the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

 

On the eve of the independence of Israel, the war between Jews and Arabs gave birth to a form of anarchy and the absence of power of the British Mandate authorities was strongly felt. In order to defend the owner’s rights of the Society, V.K. Antipov, the Manager of the hospices, moved to the Alexander House. The management and protection of the Sergey House was entrusted to V.A. Samarsky, a member of the Council and the Acting Secretary of the Management of the Society’s Hospices.

 

In February 1948, the British District Commissioner J.H.H. Pollock, Administrator of Russian properties, told Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, the Honorary President of the Society, who was living in Greece, that the question of the future of the OPS was being studied with great attention and that a law on the properties of the Society was being worked out. The members of the Romanov Family had previously confirmed that the Sergey House belonged to the OPS and that they had no claim on it.

 

V.A. Samarsky, under siege in the Sergey House, communicated the following to B.K. Antipoff:

 

“… I have the honor to inform you that this morning at 10 o’clock… Babich made his appearance in our rooms… showed me a paper in Hebrew and said all at once that he had received an authorization to seize the said rooms, and if someone is not happy about that, he can complain to whomever and wherever he wants. At my request Babich accompanied me to the Command of the Hagannah Police where it was confirmed to me that the authorization was legal and that Babich has the right to the rooms, as it is indicated by the Housing Commission, and if I put up resistance, I and any others will be arrested…”[7]

 

A Jewish armed detachment was positioned next to the Sergey House. In this connection, on March 17, 1948, B.K. Antipoff made an enquiry with the District Commissioner. L.D.A. Baron, the vice District Commissioner, responded that “the municipal police detachment is positioned next to the building and is on guard duty together with the British police.”

 

V.A. Samarsky transmitted subsequent reports about the unraveling events to B.K. Antipoff through women, who were living in the Sergey and Benjamin Houses and would go almost daily under fire and the explosion of grenades to the Holy Sepulchre Church and the bazaar in the Old City to buy food:

 

“… Zinaida Eliseeva at the head of 12 women living in our hospices came to the Sergey House and brought me your letter… to issue them a passport.

Despite my intervention the guards did not want to let them pass, so Z. Eliseeva and the others addressed themselves… to Babich, who was among the guards and allowed them into the office… the soldiers kept watching to see if the old ladies were not taking something outside. Babich behaved most impudently and told the old ladies that the Soviets will soon arrive here.”[8]

 

The Council of the Society took the decision to evacuate the current archive. “… The people there (at the House – N.V.) do not allow us to move our files, which

 

7 Report of V.A. Samarsky dated March 1/14, 1948.

8 Report of V.A. Samarsky dated April 4/17, 1948.

 

are still in our office. Is there some way you could help us to solve this problem?” Thus wrote B.K. Antipoff on April 16, 1948 to Marroum, Secretary to the Administrator of Russian properties.

 

“… There are reports (impossible to check) that during skirmishes the following people were killed: Barbara Shishkina, Olga Bondareva, Olga Fuss… My wife and I are literally going mad with everything that is going on here… Worst of all is the pressure from the communists, who do not allow anyone to come to us, or us to go out and although I have seen a lot of things, I am terrified by what is going on here. I am afraid to write, for the surveillance of the Soviets is perfect…”[9]

 

A military detachment of the Hagannah settled and ran the Sergey House and most probably heartily tried to fulfill instructions from the “people in charge” in Moscow. The Jewish National Council, which formed the first temporary government of Israel, was ready to make any concession, even if it was completely illegal and defied common sense. The whole mystery was hidden in the following factor: on November 27, 1947, at the General Assembly of the UN, the USSR, contrary to the example of unprincipled and zigzagging maneuvers of the USA, voted for the founding of the State of Israel. Therefore, it was able to dictate its conditions.

 

V.A. Samarsky wrote the following in a report on April 12, 1948:

 

“… I inform you that the situation at the Sergey House is becoming more and more unbearable and dangerous:

1. My staying at the Sergey House, as it has already been declared to me, perturbs security, for which reason I have been offered to move out for the time being. After lengthy talks, I was allowed to come to the office every day until two o’clock in the afternoon, as long as I live in the Benjamin House, that is to say in the Jewish part of the city…, if I will live in the Arab part of the city or the Elizabeth House, I will not have access to the office, as they want to fully isolate the Sergey House and the Jewish sector in order to avoid any possible espionage.

2. They take the responsibility of keeping watch over the things in the office and the other rooms of the Society, (but this is just talk, in reality they will try to steal everything). The organization, which is now holding talks and running the Sergey House, is evidently communist, and extremely hostile and intolerant towards me, although there are very many Russian Jews and among them many newcomers from Soviet Russia… Evidently they are in connection with the Soviets and it is in their interest to safeguard everything in its entirety in the case of a transfer. I can see this from the way they are interested in all the property and have said and threatened me that I should not dare to take or move anything from the office, (this has been said to me already twice and last time I was able to give M. Silina only five files…)”[10]

 

On April 17, 1948, J. Pollock, the District Commissioner, sent B.K. Antipoff a copy of the projected Edict on the Administration of Properties. Three days later Basil Konstantinovich informed him on behalf of the Society that the said project corresponded to the needs of the OPS in all aspects.

 

In a report dated April 28, V.A. Samarsky wrote the following:

 

“… On Saturday at three o’clock in the afternoon the Sergey House was fired at from the Arab side, shooting lasted for about an hour then was repeated again a few times during the evening and the night.

 

9 Account of V.A. Samarsky without date, (B.K. Antipoff’s hand in pencil 3/16, 1948.)

10 Report of V.A. Samarsky dated March 30 /April 12, 1948.

 

On Sunday, April 12/25 at eight o’clock in the morning after continuous shooting, when my wife and I received concussions and were wounded by pieces of glass, the defense of the building of the Sergey House offered us to leave the building immediately… there is a lot of damage done to the walls of the building, windows and doors are broken and in general the place is ravaged, but inside all the rooms are closed and all the seals are intact…”[11]

 

Despite the extremely severe measures and searches, the Russians, mostly elderly women, whom the Society had kept alive for many years with stipends, managed to smuggle out some originals of the czar family portraits; the famous “Sergey flag” of the Society and an immeasurable amount of files with the latest documents. B.K. Antipoff sent the things to be kept in Jericho. Daily explosions and the shooting at the House shook the building:

 

“… The portraits are safe thanks to the fact that I took them off the walls and put them under the table.

The icon of the Mother of God of Kazan fell, but happily, it is hardly damaged, as during its fall it got stuck on the wire and string of the oil lamp.

Due to the risk of further damage, I took the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan to the Benjamin house along with two other small icons of the Savior and the Mother of God from the office of the Manager, which also had fallen off the wall…”[12]

 

Before abandoning Palestine in great haste, the British high authorities worked out and published an Edict on the management of properties of the OPS and the founding of an Order in Council. Thus, after a decade of hassle and delay, they officially recognized and confirmed the right of ownership of the OPS on the Sergey House. The text of the Edict was published on April 28, 1948, in the “Official Gazette”, and the law was put into practice:

 

“… On the basis of the Palestine law, approved by the Council in 1948, the High Commissioner ordered and by the present, the following is ordered:

1.                The present edict may be called in references the Edict on the management of properties of the Orthodox Palestine Society of 1948.

2.                The persons named un the Schedule hereto shall as from the date of this Order be constituted into a body corporate with perpetual succession having its own seal, to be known as “The Board of Administrators of the Properties of the Orthodox Palestine Society” (hereinafter called “the Board”) and shall –

 

a) administer all the properties belonging to, or in the possession of, or held in trust for, the Orthodox Palestine Society (hereinafter called “the Society”) in whatever name such properties may be registered;

b) receive all rents and revenues whether due, or to become due …

c) generally, and subject as hereinafter provided, do any act, matter or thing with reference to such properties which may be necessary or expedient in due course of administration.

………….

………….

SCHEDULE.

(Paragraph 2)

 

 

1.      Basil Antipoff

2.      Serge Staroskolsky

 

11 Report of V.A. Samarsky dated April 13/26, 1948.

12 Report of V.A. Samarsky dated April 15/28, 1948.

 

3.      Assaf Wahbeh.

 

By His Excellency’s Command

H.L.G. Gurney

Chief Secretary

28 April, 1948”

 

The edict stimulated the growth of Israeli intelligence.

As the English had decided unexpectedly for everyone to pull their troops out of Palestine immediately and unilaterally, many institutions had been hastily closed down. In the reigning chaos and confusion the last issues of the British governmental newspaper were printed at “Ezriel”, a private printing press. Igal Kimkhi, an Israeli writer and ex-spy, wrote in his book, On the other side of the lines, which came out in 1987, that as soon as he found out that the English authorities had approved the Edict on the Administration of Russian Properties, he immediately contacted I. Rabinovich, the plenipotentiary official of the Jewish Agency for the said properties, with a proposal to destroy the newspaper issue in the hope that in such a manner the Law would not be published and would be subsequently forgotten.

 

According to the description of Igal Kimkhi, a worker of the printing press, who had been recruited by the services, left the doors of the printing press open before going home. At night Kimkhi and his henchmen entered the printing press and loaded the printed 700 copies of the British governmental newspaper onto a motorcycle with a sidecar. Next door, at the headquarters of the newly fabricated Israeli intelligence, within a few hours its first-born agents not only crossed out the title on the front page, but also destroyed the pages with the official announcement of the new law. According to Kimkhi, next morning the 700 “corrected copies” were returned to their place in the printing press.

“… Rabinovich said that he is taking care of the question of Russian properties in Palestine… and “is doing everything possible to transfer them to the Soviet Union”… With the help of a detachment from Palmach and the cooperation of workers and owner of the printing press, he destroyed all printed copies of the law. But about 30 copies of it were kept and are at the Jewish Agency…” (Record of a conversation between P.I. Ershov, Soviet envoy to Israel and I. Rabinovich, plenipotentiary official).

The command and coordination of the “censor attack” were probably supervised by Soviet agents.

 

Archimandrite Antoniy, the Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission (REM), wrote to B.K. Antipoff on April 30, 1948, at exactly 3:15 in the afternoon that he had been trying all morning to get a hold of the lawyer Goldberg to speak with the owner of the printing press and find out about the “mysterious rumors”. At 3:30 he finally reached Goldberg by phone, who confirmed that the day before in the afternoon when the printed law had already been sent to the press to be bound, armed men had stolen it, but a copy had still been delivered to the state prosecutor. Archimandrite Antoniy’s attempts to get a response from the prosecutor or the press were in vain. He then contacted Major Chicherstone, the High Commissioner’s adjutant, who responded that he knew nothing about the matter, but that he would try to find out. Soon after Major Chicherstone called back and said that the information about the stealing of the governmental newspaper with the printed law was true, but that there was no reason to worry that the law would not come into practice. A bit later the adjutant said that he had called Fox-Strangways, the director of the political department, from whom he had received the following clarification: “this incident does not abolish the law and the question should be addressed to the British representative.”

 

In May 1948 the Slavic Committee in Palestine, which appeared from nowhere and the plenary powers of which were of unknown origin, “asked” representatives of the Czechoslovak, Polish and Yugoslav consulates in Jerusalem “to take under their protection the properties of the OPS”. The Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs “agreed” that Y. Novak, the consul general of Czechoslovakia, take upon himself the “burden of temporary care”. In response to his letter sent to Prague, the Czech diplomat received confirmation on the “protection of movable and immovable properties, archives and documents, belonging to the Russian orthodox society, the administration of which is in the USSR.”[13] The mysterious Slavic Committee took upon itself the temporary “care for the properties” of a “Russian orthodox society in the USSR”, inexistent in fact and by law.

 

B.K. Antipoff received the following in a report from V.A. Samarsky: “… I am happy that you were not hurt and moved all right to the Excavations, but we did not do so well. Two shells exploded and covered us with shrapnel. We were wounded, fortunately my wife only lightly, but I was hit by a stone in the head… (… we are very badly off with food, it is true that the women go twice a day to the bazaar in the Old City, but we do not get anything because they sell to Jews for a lot of money, and they are ashamed to take so much from us, not everyone’s conscience has gone dumb). All the responsibility for the hospices has been flung onto me, and to fulfill their endless orders, which are with or without sense, Mr. Controller has been appointed – Babich… who he is, I do not know, and who invested him with plenary powers I do not know, but he is a very shitty person…”[14]

 

Because of the martial state of affairs and undetermined circumstances there was a serious lack of victuals and the food department of the Jewish Sochnut provided the Russian women living at the hospices and V.A. Samarsky, the acting Secretary of the Management, with bread and ration cards for foodstuff.

 

“… I still hope that we will meet, as this chaos cannot continue endlessly and quiet times will come, however, I am worried about the arrival of the “owners”, I would like to be in some country thousands of kilometers away…”[15] Thus wrote V.A. Samarsky to B.K. Antipoff from the besieged Sergey House.

 

The members of the Board of Administrators, the Council and Manager of hospices were forced to leave the newly founded State of Israel or were considered “persona non grata”. On July 18, 1948, B.K. Antipoff wrote the following in a letter to Sir Hughe Dow, the British consul general in Jerusalem:

 

“… As we found out, subsequently all copies of the Palestine newspaper, in which the text of the Edict was published, were stolen except for one copy that got to the office of the Chief Secretariat and, as far as we know, is in your hands…”

 

13 In the USSR the so-called RPS (Russian Palestine Society) ceased its activities at the beginning of the 1930’s. Only on January 16, 1951, was it again “reborn”. Presiding that day over the general assembly of the RPS, A.V. Topchiev, the chief secretary of the Academy of Sciences, in his introduction said the following: “Due to a whole series of circumstances the activities of the Russian Palestine Society were in fact stopped at the beginning of the 30’s.”

14 Account of V.A. Samarsky dated April 26/ May 9, 1948.

15 Letter of V.A. Samarsky dated May 9, 1948.

 

By the plenipotentiary order of the British State Secretary of Colonies in 1948 the Law of the Management of Administrators of the Russian properties in Palestine was once again published in England.

 

Archimandrite Antoniy arrived in Amman on the last day that Jordan still accepted refugees. Here he and 11 Englishmen received accommodation at a British school. On July 29, 1948, he told B.K. Antipoff that he would try to receive a visa to Egypt for his group, in which he also included Bassil Konstantinovich and his wife Vera Vassilievna. On August 7, 1948, he wrote a report about the situation to Metropolitan Anastasiy, the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, asking for the intercession of Grand Duchess Militsa Nikolaevna, who was living in Alexandria. There was no one to write in Russian, so the whole correspondence was written in English:

“Once I was freed, I found out that Mr. Antipoff moved to Jericho and that the new British consul lives in a big building at Damascus Gate… Now this place is in the center of the front line of the Arab sector, which is impossible to reach during military operations and difficult to reach during periods of truce… I went to Jericho to meet with Mr. Antipoff… Mr. Antipoff is sure that the consul cannot give us a concrete answer until the general situation in Palestine clears up… Mr. and Mrs. Kruglov[16] moved from Jerusalem to Amman and Cairo… Mr. and Mrs. Staroskolsky[17] (he worked in the OPS and lived in the Russian House at the Excavations) recently moved to Beirut… After the departure of the two above-mentioned families there were three attempts to take away our Excavations by Fr. Benjamin and some pro-Soviet Russians. For the moment Antipoff was able to stop them. In Amman there are a few Russians from Jerusalem, as well as Mr. Kharalampy Khoury[18] with his family. He left the Katamon along with all its inhabitants before it was taken by the Jews…”[19]

 

Metropolitan Anastasiy answered Archimandrite Anotniy on October 25, 1948:

 

“Evidently, there is no basis to count on Anglo-American support: for the moment you must act by yourselves as best you can and in cooperation with Antipov.”

 

On September 10, 1948, V.A. Zorin, the Soviet Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a letter to G.G. Karpov, president of the Council of Ministers Committee for Russian Orthodox Church affairs, wrote the following: “Considering the situation in Jerusalem, envoy c. Ershov suggested the following:

1. To appoint and send as soon as possible a head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission of the Moscow Patriarchate, as well as a representative of the Russian Palestine Society, and to grant them the necessary legal plenary powers and powers of attorney…”

 

On October 14, 1948, I.V. Stalin signed the following order: “…give permission to the Moscow Patriarchate to send Archimandrite Leonid to work as the head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission…”

 

Not going into the theme of the total dependence of the Moscow Patriarchate on the authorities at that time, and who was making appointments, of which even these two documents talk, I would like to underline only one aspect of the order of the

 

16 A.F. Kruglov was the last consul general of Imperial Russia in Jerusalem. Starting from 1920 he lived with his wife at the Alexander House.

17 S. Staroskolsky, a member of the Council and Board of Administrators (12.04.1951).

18 Kharalampy Khoury, a member of the Khoury family, in whose name lands were purchased.

19 Letter of Archimandrite Antoniy, Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, dated August 7, 1948.

 

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs to the president of the Committee for religious affairs: “To appoint and send a representative of the Russian Palestine Society.” Without wanting it, one comes to the conclusion that not only did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not have the slightest understanding that the Society “was a private Society, absolutely independent from the Russian Government and the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy”, it did not even know where to “dig up” and “appoint” such a representative.

 

Most of the elderly Russian women left the Benjamin House and V.A. Samarsky and his wife moved there to two rooms, in which Agrippina and Paraskeva Ushakov had lived. The first socialist government of Israel “gave” all the movable and immovable properties of the OPS to the Soviet government. The only exception was the Sergey House, as the Israeli authorities regarded it “as the property” of G.D. Sergey Alexandrovich. Official Soviet representatives also demanded the transfer of the said property.

 

On May 10, 1948, B.K. Antipoff and Archimandrite Antoniy addressed themselves with a memorandum to the United Nations and described in great detail the situation of the stealing of property of the OPS and the REM (Russian Ecclesiastical Mission), emphasizing their legal rights according to the Edict on the Board of Administrators.

 

“The memorandum was transferred to the Jerusalem Committee, which is part of the Peace-making Commission,” thus responded from Lausanne, Switzerland, De Azkarate, the Chief Secretary of the Peace-making Commission for Palestine created by the UN. Not only was the property of the Society appropriated. The same fate befell V.A. Samarsky, the acting secretary of the Management of the hospices. He turned out to be a hostage of the Soviet representatives and the Israeli authorities and was obliged to continue working. In the beginning in letters, reports, etc., in addressing his “appointed supervisors”, he used the letter “s”, either “sir”, or “sire”; there can be some variations in the deciphering. And although it might seem strange, the majority of his letters were written not only on the old stationery of the OPS, but also on behalf of the Orthodox Palestine Society. As there was no such institution in the USSR, and the Slavic Committee represented an inexistent “Russian Palestine Society, whose management was in the USSR”, the legal aspect of the situation remains open. It is very probable that the State of Israel without even suspecting it “blindly” transferred the properties to their legal owner, the OPS, the direction of which was in Paris and Jordan. And the “new owners” were not in a hurry, they did not know how to behave in this unusual situation, considering that if they “got” something, it was “theirs”. The properties were divided into some groups, income was not distributed as it should have been, and even the terms “pay taxes”, “lease”, “manage properties”, for which not the state was responsible, for a Soviet person such a vocabulary was known only from books about the lives of capitalists. V.A. Samarsky confirmed that with a letter:

 

June 22, 1949

Consul of the USSR in Israel

s. Nikolai Petrovich Sergeev

Tel Aviv

 

… As the statement for June 1, 1949, shows, there are 6,832 Israeli pounds of income in the cashier of the Society. It is necessary to subtract 25% from this amount, which were used for repairs of the buildings by the Israeli Government, that is to say 1,708 Israeli pounds.

Consequently, there are 5,124 Israeli pounds effective for payment. From this amount I.L. Rabinovich paid approximately 4,486 Israeli pounds to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission.

Thus, remain for the paying of taxes 637 Israeli pounds.

As can be seen from the attached calculation of taxes due and the present report on the state of the cashier of income and expenses, the situation is on the brink of catastrophe and may end with the sale of the properties of the Society by auction.

Secretary of the Management of the hospices of the

Russian Orthodox Palestine Society.”

 

In October 1950, A.V. Samarsky asked the tax inspection of Jerusalem to exempt the Benjamin House from taxes, where a part of the elderly Russian women were still living for free. This official letter was also written on stationery of the Orthodox Palestine Society and on its behalf.

And only orders in those circumstances meaning threats with consequences could have made A.V. Samarsky order through “Averbuch”, a Jerusalem bookstore, 300 printed copies of “Pravda”, 52 copies of the magazine “Ogoniok”, 24 copies of the magazine “Bolshevik”, 52 copies of the magazine “Novoye Vremia”, 12 copies of “Sovietsky Soyuz”, etc., for the Society. Taking into consideration that over 90% of the Russian inhabitants in Jerusalem were women, it is a curious fact that that the magazine, of which the smallest quantity was ordered, was “Sovetskaya zhenschina” (“Soviet woman”). There were only 6 copies. In the following letters from 1951 the letter “s” disappeared as a title of the correspondents. Probably, V.A. Samarsky failed to recognize the “people in charge” as comrades and the comrades did not wish and were afraid to be called “sirs” and all the more “s”.

Amounts of money for rent and other fees did not reach the cashier of the Society, but V.A. Samarsky under orders was obliged to make out reports about them especially for tax returns. As it turned out, the properties were registered with different institutions.

 

April 1, 1951

Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Envoy of the

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

In Israel

According to your order, I have the honor to present the final and equalized tax amounts to be paid for the properties of the following:

1.      Russian Orthodox Palestine Society

2.      Properties transferred to the ownership of the USSR

3.      Properties of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission

4.      Properties of the Consulate of the USSR

Secretary of the Management of the hospices of the

Russian Orthodox Palestine Society

V.A. Samarsky.”

 

Attached to the above letter of V.A. Samarsky was a list, from which it becomes clear that the following properties “were transferred” from the OPS to the Soviet government: the building, garden and guard’s house of the Elizabeth House; the building, garden and barracks of the Maria House, the Russian hospital and out-patients' clinic. The Society kept the Nicholas, Benjamin and Sergey Houses. The consulate received the building of the consulate with its garden and house for the kawasses.

 

When Soviet representatives demanded that the Israeli authorities register the Sergey House as property of the Soviet government, they met with refusal on the basis that it was registered in the name of Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich and is private property.

In 1952 a Jerusalem court decided that until “final clarification of rights of ownership” the Sergey House was to be transferred to the general charge of Israel, in the care of which it remains to this day.

 

Until the rupture of diplomatic ties between the USSR and Israel in 1967, representatives of the Palestine Society of the Soviet Academy of Sciences had the use of a few rooms at the Sergey House. They also sent the greater part of the old archives and the unique library of the Society to the USSR

The Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia sent the following instructions to Archimandrite Antoniy, the Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, who, at that time, was also the vice-president of the OPS:

 

On January 30/ February 12, 1971, the following was heard: Your report with a detailed description of the legal status of the properties of the Mission and the Orthodox Palestine Society… The circumstances of the issue: in 1948 properties of the Mission and the Orthodox Palestine Society on the territory of Israel became subject to the Israeli authorities. As is known, these properties were given to the Soviet government by Israel, with their re-registration in the name of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and a part of which was later purchased by Israel from the Soviets. Both acts were absolutely illegal and should be designated as theft and the purchase of stolen property…

Therefore, the Synod of Bishops has decided the following: to entrust you to take all possible steps to clarify the orientation of the policy of the Israeli government… to approve the filing of a court case within the Israeli court system…

President of the

Synod of Bishops

Metropolitan Filaret

Secretary Bishop Lavr

 

On October 22, 1975, Edward Emerson Kay, the consul general of Her Majesty in Jerusalem, confirmed with his signature and seal the legitimacy and the publishing of the Edict of 1948 on the Administration of Russian Properties.

 

At the end of the 1970’s Israeli newspapers wrote that during repair work at the Sergey House a large quantity of hidden documents of the OPS was found. General M.G. Khripunov, the President of the Society in the Holy Land, entrusted Tal Shakhar to take the necessary steps with the authorities, “as the documents belong to the OPS and we, as the lawful owners of the found documents, demand that they be returned.”

 

The court case, which was begun by the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission (RES) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) against the State of Israel, lasted for many years. Although the Patriarch of Moscow Pimen was summoned as a witness by the Israeli legal authorities, he refused to come on the ground that the properties did not belong to the Church, but were registered as owned by the USSR. In the end the government of Israel agreed to pay the RES of ROCOR and the OPS a compensation of seven million dollars for the loss of property, transferred to the USSR. Among the transferred and sadly lost properties the Sergey House is not mentioned.

 

Today the Department for the Protection of Nature of the Ministry of Agriculture is based at the Sergey House. It pays rental fees to the general custodian. The Orthodox Palestine Society never denied its ownership rights and never handed the Sergey House in Jerusalem over to anyone. The Society always firmly sustained its demand for the return of the Sergey House to its legitimate owner, the OPS. Guided by national and state interests in 1948 the Israeli authorities made, to say the least, “a serious mistake of illegal ex-appropriation of properties”, which was recognized 35 years later. Efforts were made, as much as possible, for a peaceful solution.

 

This “standing in one place” can not and must not go on. The responsible Israeli authorities must repair a historical injustice. The uninterrupted succession of the Council and Presidents of the OPS, the cited and listed documents, which confirm unquestionably the OPS’s ownership of the Sergey House in the Holy Land, the recommendations that speak for themselves, all these factors, which leave no doubts for advocates, should make it perfectly clear to the authorities and inspire them to recognize that the actions of 1948 were illegal and to give the Sergey House back to its legitimate owner – the OPS in the Holy Land.

 

The State of Israel is a democratic country and its legal system is considered independent and just. Paragraph 11 of the Edict on the regulations of exercising authority and legal activities in the newly founded State of Israel, dated May 19, 1948, stated the following:

 

“The right that existed in Palestine on Iar 5, 1948, will remain in force inasmuch as it does not contradict the present Edict…”

The said Edict maintained the majority of Turkish and Mandate laws. The Edict of the English Law of 1948 / Order in Council, point 2 (a)/ approved and signed by the British High Commissioner in relation to the OPS and its properties, including the Sergey House, states the following:

 

“to manage all properties, belonging to the Orthodox Palestine Society… or under its ownership, or as a property under a power of attorney, in whosever name such properties might be registered.”

 

 

 

Conference 02 – 04.07.2006

THE RUSSIAN PRESENCE IN THE HOLY LAND AND THE ARCHEOLOGY OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY”

 



[1] Later on the Nicholas House will be built here.

[2] About 11,000 rubles.

[3] The purchase document (kushan) was made out in the name of Major General M.P. Stepanov. In 1898 it was transferred to the name of G.D. Sergey Alexandrovich.

[4] “… Having taken into consideration the report, the Council of the Orthodox Palestine Society decided on June 11 to request you to accept the title of Plenipotentiary Representative of the Society in Jerusalem…” (OPS Council to D.D. Smyshliaev, August 4, 1886, St. Petersburg).

“In the hall of the Russian House, which is entirely obliged to you for its existence, please put up your portrait with an inscription saying: The First Plenipotentiary Representative of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in Jerusalem 1885-1889.” (OPS Council to D.D. Smyshliaev, July 13, 1889, St. Petersburg).

[5] The flag of the Society is at present in the building of the Alexander House. “… The story of the flag is charming. And so, the permission to hoist it has been granted and the consul and pasha must get used to it. They will not tear it down, but we will hoist it. On this basis it should hoisted every Sunday...” (Letter of V.N. Khitrovo, IOPS Secretary, to D.D. Smyshliaev, Plenipotentiary Representative in Jerusalem.)

[6] Rental fees from May 1, 1921, to December 31, 1922.

[7] Report of V.A. Samarsky dated March 1/14, 1948.

[8] Report of V.A. Samarsky dated April 4/17, 1948.

[9] Account of V.A. Samarsky without date, (B.K. Antipoff’s hand in pencil 3/16, 1948.)

[10] Report of V.A. Samarsky dated March 30 /April 12, 1948.

[11] Report of V.A. Samarsky dated April 13/26, 1948.

[12] Report of V.A. Samarsky dated April 15/28, 1948.

[13] In the USSR the so-called RPS (Russian Palestine Society) ceased its activities at the beginning of the 1930’s. Only on January 16, 1951, was it again “reborn”. Presiding that day over the general assembly of the RPS, A.V. Topchiev, the chief secretary of the Academy of Sciences, in his introduction said the following: “Due to a whole series of circumstances the activities of the Russian Palestine Society were in fact stopped at the beginning of the 30’s.”

[14] Account of V.A. Samarsky dated April 26/ May 9, 1948.

[15] Letter of V.A. Samarsky dated May 9, 1948.

[16] A.F. Kruglov was the last consul general of Imperial Russia in Jerusalem. Starting from 1920 he lived with his wife at the Alexander House.

[17] S. Staroskolsky, a member of the Council and Board of Administrators (12.04.1951).

[18] Kharalampy Khoury, a member of the Khoury family, in whose name lands were purchased.

[19] Letter of Archimandrite Antoniy, Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, dated August 7, 1948.