At 8 Auerbach Street in Tel Aviv’s American-German Colony is a fascinating historic building called Beit Immanuel constructed in 1873. Not only does it have a colorful history but it is home to the unique Messianic Jewish Congregation in Israel. Just around the corner on Bar Hoffman Street is the Immanuel Church built in 1904.
The Beit Immanuel Congregation
Beit Immanuel is a church serving the Messianic Ministry Among Jewish People or CMJ. They are affiliated with the Anglican Church and are evangelical. The church is also associated with the Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem. Messianic believers aim to bring Jewish people to accept Jesus as the Messiah without losing their Jewish identity. The CMJ are dedicated to the return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land and the hope for Jewish recognition of Jesus as the Messiah. The Beit Immanuel congregation is made up of Jews and gentiles.
The congregation of Beit Immanuel is one of the earliest Messianic congregations in Israel. It is an active community with regular prayer services and community outreach. The congregation consists of Israelis and some guests from abroad. There are many from the former Soviet Union, families and young people. There is a Friday night service at 6pm and a Saturday School (like Sunday school) for kids. The congregation also gathers in private homes during the week for prayer and study and holds a weekly youth meeting.
The Beit Immanuel Baron’s Palace Heritage Center
In 1866 American Christians from the Church of the Messiah arrived in Jaffa in the hope of helping to return Jews to the Holy Land. They established a colony of houses here which would become the American-German Colony of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. By 1868 most of the Americans had returned home. At the same time a group of German Templers of the German Protestant Temple Society arrived and occupied the American houses. The Templers erected Beit Immanuel in 1873 and used it as their school, community hall and national headquarters overseeing Templer communities in Haifa, Jerusalem and Serona. It was one of the first buildings constructed outside the walls of ancient Jaffa.
The building was sold by the Templers in 1878 to Baron Ustinov, grandfather of actor Peter Ustinov. He made renovations and added an immanuel-church3additional floor then opened the building as the Hotel du Paris from 1895 to 1914. The hotel hosted guests like Kaiser Wilhelm II while the Baron lived on the top floor and had the hotel garden turned into a menagerie of exotic plants and animals. He also opened a museum of Holy Land Antiquities on the hotel’s first floor. Ustinov’s widow sold the property in 1926 to the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews which became the Ministry Among Jewish People also known as CMJ. The building was used as a school for girls of all faiths and under the British Mandate the building was briefly used by the Palestine Police. During World War II many of the German Templers, were suspected of being Nazis and deported. The Israeli Army took over the strategically located building in 1948 and in 1954 it was returned to CMJ. In the 1970s a Hebrew-speaking congregation of Messianic Jews and Arabs began using the building as a place of worship.
Today Beit Immanuel’s heritage center occupies one of the grand rooms in the former hotel. The palace-like room holds exhibits about the history of the building and the history of the German-American Colony in Tel Aviv. The exhibits highlight the gentile contribution to the establishment and development of Jaffa. As part of the museum you can see historic glass slides using a glass slide projector.
The building also houses the restored Baron’s Garden Coffee Shop; a guesthouse for pilgrims; a mission and community center. Guests staying at the guesthouse can enjoy the peaceful garden, the sun terrace, the blue lounge and join in Messianic worship services in Hebrew (with English translation) on Friday evenings at 6pm.
The church on Hoffman Street was constructed in 1904 as a German Protestant church. Later the Lutheran World Federation took care of the former German Protestant missionary property in Israel including the church. In 1951 the church came to an agreement with the State of Israel gaining compensation for lost property and in 1955 the Immanuel Church was handed over to the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel; a Lutheran movement with the purpose of making Christians aware of their responsibility for the Jewish People, preaching the gospel to Jews and serving them in Christian love. Today the church is used by a number of congregations including the Lutherans.
The church was constructed using two kinds of stone, sandstone from near Jaffa and limestone from the Bir Nabala Mountains. The red roof tiles came from Marseille. The interior has a high cross vaulted ceiling; there are stained glass windows made in Quedlinburg, Germany and most of the church furniture was imported from Germany. The church clock was donated by King William of Wurttemberg and Queen Charlotte. The large olive wood crucifix was donated by Baron Ustinov and the altar and pulpit were also donations. The church pipe organ is located in the church loft and on the side of the church is a tower with a staircase leading to the belfry which holds the main bell donated by Prussian King William II. The church organ is one of the best in the country and there are regular musical concerts held in the church.