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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Commentary Featured Sports Remembering Myra Kraft on Super Bowl Sunday

    Remembering Myra Kraft on Super Bowl Sunday

    JNS.org – I am a Dallas Cowboys fan still recovering from our playoff defeat at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, or should I say, the instant replay booth. Still, football is like life—not always fair. And even the lead-up to Sunday’s Super Bowl has lacked fairness, as the media is obsessed with deflated footballs. Fans of the sport are not enjoying the sidebar stories that always accompany the lead-up to the big game. When the Patriots and the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.