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...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →