Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

The Hebrew Bible As Common Ground

January 29, 2013 2:10 am 1 comment

A launch event for the People of the World Inscribe the Bible initiative in Singapore. Photo: Jerusalem Bible Initiative.

Followers of the three great Abrahamic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which comprise more than half the world’s 7 billion people–frequently spend more time focusing on their differences than their similarities. But a new Israel-based organization wants to bridge those divides and unite the faiths’ shared heritage through the Hebrew Bible.

Amos Rolnik, a secular Jew, launched the Jerusalem Bible Initiative in late 2012. In the 1960s Rolnik had a chance to meet with Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion. Ben Gurion told Rolnik that one of his dreams was to see a Bible museum constructed in Israel for all the nations to enjoy. Ben Gurion, despite being largely known as a progressive secular leader, considered the Bible to be the most important gift the nation of Israel has given to the world.

Raphael Harkham, the Jerusalem Bible Initiative’s communications director, told JNS.org that Ben Gurion’s wish resonated deeply with Rolnik. After a lengthy career in printing and publishing, Rolnik began a drive to launch several projects that would realize Ben Gurion’s vision; that vision is at the core of the Jerusalem Bible Initiative.

To celebrate Israel’s 50th anniversary, in 1996 Rolnik launched the Children of the World Illustrate the Bible project. With help from the Israeli government, Rolnik was able to collect more than 800,000 paintings by children in 91 countries. The success of this initiative allowed Rolnik to start another organization called Bible Valley, whose goal was to build a Bible Museum in the Holy Land.

In 2006 Rolnik launched the People of the World Inscribe the Bible initiative as part of his Bible Valley organization, aiming to translate verses of the Bible into more than 100 languages. To date, more than 45 countries have hosted the project, and 25 Bibles have been completed.

More recently, Rolnik’s Bible Valley was incorporated into the newly created Jerusalem Bible Initiative, in order to consolidate all the energy and success in the initiatives, and channel it into a global community.

Abraham on his family's journey from Ur to Canaan. The Jerusalem Bible Initiative aims to help the three Abrahamic faiths use the Hebrew Bible as common ground. Photo: József Molnár/Wikimedia Commons.

Under this new mission, they launched another project called Tanakh B’Mirshetet (Bible on the Net). It hopes to have people from all over the world select one of the Bible’s 23,127 verses and personalize or dedicate it to someone.

A major component of this project includes a focus on utilizing social media outlets like Facebook for outreach. Since its launch in late 2012, the Jerusalem Bible Initiative has garnered nearly 1,600 “likes.” The initiative’s goal, however, is not just to build an online community, but to also “create a network where we can bring prominent figures from all sides together,” Harkham said.

Harkham believes that the Hebrew Bible can serve as a basis for interfaith dialogue.

“The goal is to have different cultural events, to reassert the Bible’s place in dialogue…There are many things to argue about, [but most people would agree] that the Bible is a great source of contribution to the world,” he said.

With the Israeli Knesset announcing in late 2011 that a Bible Museum will be built in Jerusalem in the coming years, Harkham said that his organization hopes to play a key role in populating the museum with the work of the Jerusalem Bible Initiative.

Despite the organization’s mission of unity, Harkham admitted that outreach efforts can be stymied by leaders of other faiths who may be skeptical of its connection with Judaism and Israel. While the group has generally enjoyed broad support from Christians, especially Evangelical Christian groups, connecting to other Christians and Muslims has at times been difficult.

The divide between the three great faiths is growing more rapidly than ever, especially in the Middle East. According to the Pew Research Center, Christians comprise only 4 percent of the region’s population, down from more than 20 percent a century ago. Like Middle Eastern Jewish refugees in the mid-20th century, Christians today are being driven from their homes throughout the Middle East and North Africa by the revolutions and radicalization of their Muslim neighbors.

Nonetheless, Harkham remains optimistic that focusing on the common bonds between the three Abrahamic faiths will ultimately bring change.

“The Jerusalem Bible Initiative is all about bringing people together,” he said. “In such a tumultuous era, a project like this is needed to highlight that there are things that we can find common ground on.”

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →