Russian Orthodox Church

This Russian Orthodox Church established a presence in the Holy Land during the period of the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century. The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was founded in Russia in order to promote the protection of the Holy Places and sent its first mission to Jerusalem in 1857. The Society erected the Holy Trinity Cathedral just west of the Old City of Jerusalem and numerous pilgrim hospices for the thousands of pilgrims that started to flow to the Holy Land in the second part of the 19th century. Schools and medical clinics followed as the Russian Empire sought to carve out for itself a place in the Holy Land. A number of monasteries were established, such as St Mary Magdalene and Ascension on the Mount of Olives, Ein Karem and Magdala along the Sea of Gailee.

After the Russian Revolution, the Russian Orthodox Church split into two. The Moscow Patriarchate was controlled by the Soviet authorities and was dubbed the “Red” Church whereas Russian exiles established a Church with its center in New York, dubbed the “White” Church. All churches inside the 1949 borders of the State of Israel are in the hands of the “Red” Russian Orthodox whereas those in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories are controlled by “White” Russian Orthodox. After the fall of Communism, the two Patriarchates of Moscow and New York, continue to function independently although dialogue has begun to reunite the two parts of the Church that differ only in their attitude towards Russian history.

The number of Russian Orthodox Christians in Israel has been greatly boosted by thousands of Russian Orthodox among the immigrants that arrived in the 1990s from the former Soviet Union. It is not yet clear exactly how many among these immigrants are practicing Christians. Pastoral work among this population is coordinated by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.