Review: When We Lived in Jerusalem, by Estelle Blyth

When We Lived in JerusalemWhen We Lived in Jerusalem by Estelle Blyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Estelle Blyth (1881-1983) was the daughter of G F P Blyth, the fourth Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. In this charming memoir she recalls the years she lived in Jerusalem in the early 20th Century.

Blyth has a keen eye for details, and provides fine descriptions of Muslim wedding ceremonies, the visit of the German kaiser, and aspects of Orthodox liturgy and tradition then-present in Jerusalem.

She is writing during the years of the British Mandate, so one concern of hers, which becomes very clear in the last pages, is to encourage the British not to abandon Palestine. Given that she was writing prior to WW2 this was a prescient position.

Her father was an anglo-catholic churchman, and she shared his spiritual leanings. Thus she is sympathetic to the Orthodox Church and not a little critical of the low-church evangelical missionaries who had laid the groundwork for the diocese under Bp Samuel Gobat by converting Orthodox Christians to Protestantism.

All in all the Arabs come out as being (more or less) fine people, as do the Armenians. Pure-blooded Turks are magnificent, she says, but the Ottoman Empire is rightly denounced for never really improving Palestine. Her experiences with Jews lead her to unfavorable statements which some might judge as anti-Semitic.

The book contains numerous good photographs. This book is useful to scholars of history, whether professional or amateur. Her ceaseless cheering for the British becomes a bit tiresome. Her astute observations on the relation of certain biblical images to practices then current in Palestine foreshadows the later of work scholars like Kenneth Bailey.

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Author: duanemiller

I was born in Montana and grew up in Colorado and Puebla (in Mexico). I completed a BA in philosophy at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and then an MA in theology at St Mary's University (also in San Antonio). Later life took me to Jordan where my wife and I studied Arabic, to Israel where I helped found a seminary, and to Scotland for doctoral work, among other places. I live in Madrid now where I teach and minister. I'm highly interested in the interactions of Islam, Christianity and secularism in modern contexts. My main areas of research for my PhD in divinity were religious conversion from Islam to Christianity, contextual theology, and the shari'a's treatment of apostates. I've also published research on global Anglicanism and the history of Anglican mission in the Ottoman Empire. I've had the pleasure of teaching in many places over the years: from Costa Rica to Turkey, and Kenya to Tunisia. I am associate professor at the Protestant Faculty of Theology at Madrid (UEBE) and priest at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer in Madrid, Spain. Visit my blog ( or page for more information.

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