From the Commander (November, 2011)

posted May 23, 2015, 1:59 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 23, 2015, 2:00 PM ]

Joseph  DaSilva
Brethren all, 

THE HISTORY OF FREEMASONRY IN ISRAEL (part 4)

Also at that time, the five German-speaking lodges of the Symbolic Grand Lodge of Germany in Exile and the 26 lodges of the National Grand Lodge of Palestine continued to operate.
It was at this time that thoughts of overall consolidation were taking shape. It was incredible that this land, in which the idea of Freemasonry was born; where the first Masonic Temple was built; which was the cradle of those religions that gave Masonry its sublime precepts of morality and justice; and which produced the Holy Bible that adorns every Masonic Temple, should not have its own Grand Lodge. 
A strong desire was voiced by the Brethren of these five Scottish lodges that steps should be taken to establish a Sovereign Grand Lodge which should be recognized by the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland and Ireland.  
Early approaches were made to the Grand Lodges of England and Ireland to consecrate a Grand Lodge for the new State of Israel. However, when those approaches proved fruitless, it was decided to submit a petition to the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
It was agreed that the Grand Lodge of Scotland would sponsor the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel, to be composed of those lodges which held charters from the Grand Lodge of Scotland. The proposed new Grand Lodge, however, faced a considerable number of obstacles before it was finally established on October 20, 1953. These problems were made worse when the National Grand Lodge of Palestine declared itself to be the governing Grand Lodge of Israel and succeeded in gaining recognition from the Grand Lodge of New York.
However, when it became apparent that the Grand Lodge of Scotland was going to sponsor the new Grand Lodge and that this new Grand Lodge would be recognized as the Grand Lodge of Israel, the National Grand Lodge of Palestine desired to be affiliated with the new Grand Lodge. It was then that the National Grand Lodge of Palestine realized that the Grand Lodge of Israel would only be composed of those lodges which held charters from the Grand Lodge of Scotland. 
The Grand Lodge of Scotland, at first, refused to admit the 26 lodges of the National Grand Lodge of Palestine but later a compromise was reached. It was agreed that the five Scottish lodges would surrender their charters before the Grand Lodge of Israel was formed and that they would be admitted at the consecration ceremony. It was further agreed that the 26 lodges of the National Grand Lodge of Palestine would surrender their charters after consecration of the new Grand Lodge of Israel, immediately applying for and receiving their new charters at the same meeting. In addition, the Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge of Palestine would become Immediate Past Grand Master of the new Grand Lodge.
Masonic unity was finally achieved on October 20, 1953 when, in a ceremony conducted at the Y.M.C.A. in Jerusalem, which had been specially consecrated for that purpose, by The Right Honourable the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, the Immediate Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, the Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Israel was consecrated. 
At the end of the Consecration Ceremony, the Consecrating Grand Chaplain blew the shofar, the ancient ram’s horn, to signify that a new Grand Lodge had emerged in the State of Israel, the cradle of Freemasonry. Shabetay Levy, the Mayor of Haifa was installed as the first Grand Master.
On the morning of the day of the consecration, the five Lodges working under charters from the Grand Lodge of Scotland surrendered their charters and that afternoon, the 26 lodges working under charters from the National Grand Lodge of Palestine surrendered their charters and applied for new charters from the Grand Lodge of Israel. 
Thereafter, 31 lodges, together with the five German-speaking lodges were admitted to the new Grand Lodge which, conforming to the ancient traditions of Freemasonry and being regular in all respects, quickly established fraternal relations with regular Grand Lodges throughout the world. 
It should be noted that, due to the bitter relations between the British Government and the new State of Israel, relating to the British Mandatory Period, the Grand Lodge of England did not recognize the new Grand Lodge of Israel until November, 1957. This recognition came about only after many years of correspondence and diplomacy between the Grand Lodges of Israel, Scotland and England.
A major problem arose during the period of preparation for the consecration of the new Grand Lodge. The Government of Israel would not allow funds to be sent abroad to purchase the furnishings and regalia for the new Grand Lodge. Several lodges in England including the Montefiore Lodge of London No. 1017, desired to provide grants of funds for that purpose. Unfortunately, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of England prohibited the use of lodge funds because the Grand Lodge of Israel had not yet been recognized by the Grand Lodge of England.
Nevertheless, the new Grand Lodge received generous gifts of regalia and equipment. For example, King Solomon’s Chair and Pedestal, carved in Scotland and flown to Israel for the consecration, was a gift from the widow of Bro. Henry Solomon of Leeds. The Grand Master’s gold Chain was presented by Lodge Montefiore No. 753, Glasgow. This Chain was made up of 12 links, signifying the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and surmounted by the Two Tablets of the Law with the Ten Commandments and the Seven Branched Candlestick or Menorah.
One of the first formal acts of the new Grand Lodge was to adopt a Seal, unique in design, symbolizing the local multi-faith membership of the Craft. It incorporated a Square and Compasses enclosing the emblems of those three great faiths to which the vast majority of the brethren in the Holy Land belong - the Cross for the Christians; the Crescent for the Muslims; and the Star of David for the Jews. This multi-faith aspect is also evident by the three Volumes of the Sacred Law which are placed on the Altar - the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran.
The number of lodges on the roll of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel has grown during the years, reaching some 70 active lodges at this time and includes some 3,000 Masons. 
Although there are no records of religious affiliations, our lodges are composed of Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druse. An Arab lawyer, Jamil Shalhoub, was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel in 1981 and was reelected the following year.
Israel is a country of immigrants and the diversity of language of our Brethren is evidenced by the fact that our ritual work is conducted in eight different languages - Hebrew, English, Arabic, Turkish, French, Spanish, Romanian and German. 
The lodges in Israel differ not only in the language they use, but in their rituals as well. Hebrew and Arabic-speaking lodges work according to the standard ritual approved by the Grand Lodge, which are largely based on the rituals of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Most English-speaking lodges work according to the basis of the standard ritual approved by Grand Lodge with variations of Scottish and English rituals. There is one English-speaking lodge, Lodge Ra’anana No. 70, which was founded by immigrants from Rhodesia and South Africa, that uses the South African ritual, based on the Netherlandic ritual of the Grand Orient of the East. The German-speaking lodges work in the Schroeder ritual and the Spanish-speaking lodges work in the Scottish Rite ritual widely used in Latin America and Spain.  
This then is the “History of Freemasonry in Israel”.

Fraternally,
Joseph Da Silva
Master of Kadosh