Breadcrumbs Freemasonry in Israel > Articles > Featured > Jubilee of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel (1953-2003)

Jubilee of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel (1953-2003)
Ephraim Fuchs
PGM, Grand Lodge of the State of Israel
Chairman of the Jubilee Committee

Reprinted from The Israeli Freemason

The Grand Lodge of the State of Israel was consecrated on October 20th, 1953. A delegation of high-ranking Officers of the Grand Lodge of Scotland attended the event, led by the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, accompanied by Dr. G.L. Colenso-Jones, area Superintendent of Scottish Lodges in the Middle East and by Dr. Alex F. Buchan, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and others.

The event took place in the hall of the Y.M.C.A. Jerusalem. Lord Elgin and his Installing Officers first consecrated the hall in the special ceremony of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and then opened the working of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. This event of great significance took place for the first time in Jerusalem, the Cradle of Freemasonry.

During this working of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Lord Elgin rose and in a loud and clear voice, read the proclamation establishing our Grand Lodge. Thereafter the ceremony of installing our First Grand Master, Shabetai Levy, the Mayor of Haifa, took place. During the ceremony Lord Elgin came to the floor of the Lodge and conducted our first Grand Master to the chair of King Solomon.

What is the importance of this occasion?

In addition to the fact of the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Israel, it must be emphasized that this also marked the unification of all Masonic Lodges in Israel. In order to appreciate the importance of this, we must examine briefly the history of Freemasonry in Israel.

Looking at these beginnings during the "new era," the first Masonic Lodge in Israel met in 1868, when Bro. Robert Morris was resident here in the course of his research work. He was a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, U.S.A. In his book "Journey of Research on Masonic Life in the Near East," he writes that after arriving in this country, he sought Masonic activity here. He found no Lodge but met Freemasons. He founded a Lodge known as "Reclamation" (the name meaning betterment, since we maintain that we accept good men into the Order, so as to make them even better men). He and the Masons then in the country conducted their first Lodge meeting under the aegis of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, in Zedekiah's Cave (King Solomon's Quarries) in Jerusalem, by candlelight. This was the first Masonic event in the country (in the new era) and can be seen as the beginning of Freemasonry in Israel.

There existed two more pioneer Lodges: one was "Suleiman El-Moluki" consecrated in 1873 on the roll of the Grand Lodge of Canada and the second was "Gate of Solomon's Temple," consecrated in 1891, on the roll of the Egyptian Order in Paris. The latter was founded by the French engineers who built the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. Its Temple was in the residence of the Litvinski family in Jaffa. The "Barkai" Lodge, which was erected in 1906 under the aegis of the Grand Orient de France, originated from this Lodge after it became dormant. The Grand Orient de France was closed down when the Germans occupied France and in 1942 "Barkai" severed its French connection and came under the Jurisdiction of the National Grand Lodge of Palestine. Today "Barkai" is considered the oldest active Lodge in Israel. As with "Barkai," there were other Lodges in the country belonging to different Jurisdictions - Egypt, France, England, Scotland, Germany, and others.

Another important chapter of Masonic history here were the Lodges founded under the aegis of the "Symbolic Grand Lodge of Germany," which had moved from Germany to Jerusalem and added to its name the words "in exile." The first Lodge thus founded was "Ein Hashiloah" in 1931, in Jerusalem. As the different Lodges in Palestine belonged to different Jurisdictions, seven Lodges combined in order to found a local Grand Lodge and signed an appropriate petition to establish a National Grand Lodge of Palestine. These Lodges were "Jerusalem" founded in 1926 and working in French; "Har Zion" founded in 1927, Hebrew speaking; "Moriah" founded in 1928, French speaking; "Pax" founded in 1928, English speaking; "Hiram" founded in 1929, Hebrew speaking; "Har Sinai" founded in 1929, Hebrew speaking; "Heichal Shlomo" founded in 1929, Arabic speaking; all seven Lodges were under Egyptian Jurisdiction. In 1932, a delegation from these Lodges traveled to Egypt having received the approval for this from the National Grand Lodge of Egypt. The Grand Master designate of the proposed Grand Lodge was Brother Shukri Churi who passed away suddenly. The Consecration was therefore postponed to January 1933.

On the 9th of January 1933, the National Grand Lodge of Palestine was consecrated in Jerusalem by the National Grand Lodge of Egypt represented by its Grand Master, Fuad Bey Hussein and a delegation from Egypt. Brother Marc Gorodisky was installed as Grand Master and presented with the founding charter. It transpired that after the founding of this Grand Lodge and during its activities, many difficulties mounted up and Masonic life here was not harmonious. Doubts were cast in the Masonic world regarding the National Grand Lodge of Egypt founded in 1876. In 1922 arguments arose and a new Grand Lodge was established there. In addition, there were three separate bodies in Egypt: the National Grand Lodge, the Grand Orient, and the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite. All this weakened the standing of the National Grand Lodge of Egypt in the Masonic World. Most Grand Lodges worldwide did not recognize it, the foremost being those of England, Scotland and Ireland. This led to the non-recognition of those Lodges here which were under the Egyptian Jurisdiction, and later the National Grand Lodge of Palestine. It must be remembered too that later Masonry in Egypt was forbidden by the "Free Officers" (headed by General Najib, Nasser, Sadat and others) who fomented the 1952 revolution in Egypt, unseating the Monarchy and taking over the country.

What were the difficulties of the Order in Israel?

As a consequence of their being under Egyptian Jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge and Lodges in Palestine were unrecognized by most Grand Lodges worldwide and in particular by the premier Grand Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland. There remained in the country other Lodges not under Egyptian Jurisdiction and they continued their Masonic activities under their other Jurisdictions. Thus, Masons in Palestine were divided into two groups without any communication between them. Brethren from either group were unable to visit Lodges in the other. There were no visits between Lodges as unrecognized Lodges were considered as being "non existent." There developed a separation amongst Brethren which is contrary to the principles of Masonry. There arose many difficulties regarding initiations and visits by foreign Masons who could only visit recognized Lodges. This situation was absurd and embarrassing.

Because of the spirit of the newly born State of Israel, renewal, revival and growth were felt also among Masons. The Masters and Brethren of the five Lodges under Scottish Jurisdiction, which were recognized Lodges, took the initiative and steps for the establishment of an independent sovereign Grand Lodge in Israel, recognized by all other Grand Lodges and unifying all Freemasons in Israel. These Lodges were "Reuben" of Haifa, "Mizpah" and "Holy City" of Jerusalem, "Sharon" and "Aviv" of Tel Aviv. After much debate, serious efforts on the part of the Brethren and their overwhelming desire for linking of units, an agreement for unification was signed. Agreement for sponsorship was received from the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the stage was set for the establishment of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel. This took place on the 20th of October 1953.

This was the historic occasion of the unification of all Masonic Lodges in Israel and the importance of the establishment of this Grand Lodge. It is not out of place here to mention that within a short time the Grand Lodges of England and Ireland extended recognition to the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel, followed by most other Grand Lodges, well over a hundred.