For its 70th birthday, Israel is receiving a new Bible: The Israel Bible.
The Israel Bible is the first Orthodox, English-translated Bible published in more than two decades. It focuses on the Land of Israel, the People of Israel, and the connection between them.
“Every generation needs its own Bible,” Rabbi Naphtali “Tuly” Weisz said. “This has been true for the last 500 years. We need a new Bible that focuses on how the modern miracle of Israel has affected both Jews and Christians as the materialization of God’s covenant and prophecy.”
Rabbi Weisz edited The Israel Bible. He said modern Israel is a wonder among the nations, known as a source of innovation . The Israel Bible will help place Israel in its rightful place, as the teacher of God’s word, a light unto the Nations.
And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, Let us go up to the Mount of Hashem, To the House of the God of Yaakov; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For instruction shall come forth from Tzion, The word of Hashem from Yerushalayim. (Isaiah 2:3)
“Much of the religious strife between Jews and Christians and Jews has been due to us not taking on this role,” Rabbi Weisz said. “They have been learning a gentile version of the Bible. For example, the King James version of the Bible, the basis for all English translations, was written at a time when Jews were exiled from England. As a result, it is full of mistakes, since no Jews were consulted in translating the Hebrew.”
The Israel Bible is a 2,200-page, 929-chapter book. It was published by Menorah Books (a division of Koren Publishers Jerusalem), and includes contemporary commentaries, maps, charts, and illustrations.The original Hebrew text appears alongside a modified version of the New Jewish Publication Society translation.
Rabbi Weisz founded Israel365, a nongovernmental organization, in 2012 to serve as a bridge between the Jews living in Israel and the nations of the world. As part of that vision, he began working on The Israel Bible with the expressed goal of “convincing a divided Jewish people, Christian Zionists, and what sometimes seems like an anti-Israel world that Israel belongs to the Jewish people.”
The Israel Bible has already begun to accomplish its mission.
At the first joint Christian-Jewish Bible Study at the Knesset in February, Rabbi Weisz taught a section of Isaiah from the hardcover edition, in which he explained that the Torah belongs to the Jewish people, as well as the entire world.
“The Torah will bring Jews and non-Jews together and become the source of unity for all people,” Rabbi Weisz said. “We are at a pivotal time in history for relations between Jews and non-Jews. For the first time, non-Jews are asking Jews to teach them Torah. We are responding to that and the Israel Bible is the first Tanakh (Bible) created with that in mind.”
Rabbi Weisz believes the Bible is the realization of the vision of Zechariah.
Thus said God of Hosts: In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold—they will take hold of every Yehudi by a corner of his cloak and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that Hashem is with you.” (Zechariah 8:23)
One of the first differences readers will notice is that many words in English are transliterated from the Hebrew. This is especially true of the names of locations and cities in Israel. Rabbi Yaakov Beasley edited and commented on the later prophets. He said this detail, using the Hebrew names of the cities, was subtle but significant.
“I found it challenging to transliterate the Hebrew words, more difficult than simply translating. But it is necessary for Jews and Christians to have a common language when it comes to the land,” Rabbi Beasley told Breaking Israel News, giving an example. “‘Jerusalem’ does not have the same emotional impact or connotations as Yerushalayim, which goes straight to the heart.”
“The Nevi’im teach us to never take Israel for granted,” Rabbi Beasley said. “This is an essential teaching for our generation when so many people don’t relate to how much of a miraculous realization of prophecy modern Israel actually is.”
Rabbi Avi Baumol, who is currently serving the Jewish community of Krakow Poland, wrote the commentary on Psalms. While working on the project, he envisioned King David “composing Tehillim (Psalms) while roaming around Israel.”
“The words of the Bible are the same, but the setting is part of the message,” Rabbi Baumol told Breaking Israel News. “When I visited the caves of Ein Gedi, I was better able to understand what he was going through. This helped me understand the text even better, taking it to a new level.”
“Sometimes, Bibles are intended for one specific religion, but the message is really universal,” Rabbi Baumol said, noting that this universality is expressed in the Land of Israel itself. “It is clear that Israel is not simply a place for one people. All people should come and experience walking on the stones the forefathers tread upon.”
Ahuva Balofsky wrote the commentary on Mishle (Proverbs), which “at first glance, seems more conceptual and not necessarily connected to the land.”
“God’s promise of the Land of Israel is not just in the places where it is explicitly stated in the text,” Balofsky told Breaking Israel News. “From beginning to end, the Bible is seen through the lens of the land.”
Balofsky cited one case in which the connection to Israel was implicit but powerful.
For the upright will inhabit the earth, The blameless will remain in it. Proverbs 2:21
“The word eretz, translated here as ‘earth,’ also means ‘land,’ Balofsky wrote in her Israel Bible commentary, citing Yehuda Keel, author of the Da’at Mikra commentary on Sefer Mishlei. “This is a reference to the land of Israel. In this verse, King Shlomo reminds us of Hashem’s promise to the Israelites in the desert, that if they walk in His ways, they will remain in the land which He has given them. Eretz Yisrael is promised to those who remain steadfast in their commitment to God’s words, not only in deed, but also in thought.”
Josh Even Chen worked on the commentary on the books of Ezra and Nechemiah. He said he found this task particularly challenging.
“Ezra and Nechemiah essentially deal with the Babylonian exile and seem less Israel-centric,” he told Breaking Israel News. “But they can only be understood from an Israel perspective.”
To illustrate this point, he referred to the commentary he chose on a verse in Ezra which reflected his trailblazing sensibilities.
In all, 5,400 gold and silver vessels. Sheshbatzar brought all these back when the exiles came back from Babylon to Yerushalayim. Ezra 1:11
“The beloved Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach would quip, ‘Did you know that Jerusalem is the highest city in the world?’” Even Chen wrote in the Israel Bible. “Many were skeptical, but he was correct – in the spiritual, if not topographical, sense. The Bible states that “Avram went down to Egypt” from Canaan (Genesis 12:10), and when the people returned to the land of Israel from the Babylonian exile, although translated as “the exiles came back,” the more exacting translation is “the exiles ascended.” Ever since the magnetic north has dictated the directional illustration of maps, people have said things like, ‘I’m going down south,’ or ‘I’m heading up north.’ However, this verse teaches that no matter where a person is in the world, his ‘spiritual compass’ should always indicate that Yerushalayim is always ‘up.’”
Even Chen works as a tour educator and his job had a profound influence on his commentary.
“Israel is an open textbook and the main text of the Bible is, of course, the land itself,” he explained. “Bible can be read anywhere in the world but the full depth and meaning can only be understood when learned directly from the Land of Israel.”
Even Chen has great expectations for The Israel Bible.
“I have seen many tourists change their relationship with the Bible after standing on the actual spot the Bible is referring to,” Even Chen said. “In the same manner, The Israel Bible can take this experience out into the world.”
The Israel Bible can be purchased on the Israel365 website.