Victory celebrations, 1945
1800 – 1915 – BFBS in the Holy Land under Turkish rule
1918 – 1948 – BFBS in the Holy Land during the British Mandate
1948 – 1979 – The Bible Society in Israel based in Haifa
1979 – today – The Bible Society in Israel based in Jerusalem
Directors of the Bible Society work in Israel
1818 – 1905 – BFBS cooperation with different British ministries
1905 – 1915 – Moshe Chaim
1915 – 1918 – Mr. Whelan
1918 – 1919 – Amin Nusr
1919 – 1920 – T.P. Bevan
1920 – 1921 – A.O. Neve
1921 – 1922 – T.E. Bugby
1922 – 1948 – M. Siraganian
1950 – 1976 – Magne Solheim
1976 – 1981 – Ole Christian Kvarme
1981 – 1985 – Terje Hartberg
1985 – 1992 – Ray Pritz
1992 – 2005 – Doron Even-Ari
2007 – present – Victor Kalisher
1800 – Mary Jones walks to Bala.
1804 – The British and Foreign Bible Society is established in London.
1818 – The first “Bible Man," Cristoph Burckhardt, pays a short visit to Jerusalem where he sells and distributes bibles.
1820 – The BFBS establishes an agency in the Levant and James Connor visits Jerusalem. James Connor promotes the Bible cause in cooperation with BFBS.
1822 – Joseph Wolff, a Jewish believer in Jesus and son of a rabbi, known as an “eccentric pioneer," comes to Jerusalem with 20 camels loaded with Bibles, most of which he had received from the BFBS. He has discussions with local Moslem leaders and rabbis before he continues his journey through the Holy Land. He writes that he prayed that he could share the gospel “without hurting the feelings of persons who are of a different opinion."
1823 – Since there is still no possibility for foreigners to settle permanently in Jerusalem due to Turkish regulations, a “Bible Society room” is set up by Pliny Fisk in Mar Michael in Jerusalem, but Fisk dies a year later.
1824 – Benjamin Barker, the newly appointed BFBS agent for the Turkish Empire, establishes an agency in Beirut and sends scriptures to Jerusalem.
1825 – Benjamin Barker visits Jerusalem. This is the first visit of a BFBS representative to the Holy Land. He says about the Bible Society room that “I found that there is always a good supply of the Sacred Scriptures under the care of the missionaries who have the key of the room they are placed in, and when they quit Jerusalem, after Easter, they leave with the Superior of the convent a certain number to dispose of during their absence." On Barker’s return he passes through Ramle and notices a Bible at the convent where he stayed. The local bishop informs him that “many Bibles and Testaments have been distributed here by the English and American missionaries … the best thing the English ever did was the institution of the Bible Society, for the country was ever before destitute of the Sacred Scriptures." Barker concludes his visit to the Holy Land with the remark that “…I found that all my work was already done by the missionaries, especially in Palestine, where those worthy fellow-labourers have so often travelled."
1829 – Wolff visits Jerusalem again, with Lady Georgiana, and uses the Bible Society room as a center of distribution.
1831 – John Nicolayson, working for another organization, closes The Bible Society room and “cleans up the chaos into which Mr. W[olff] had thrown all the things." The Bibles are sent to Beirut for distribution instead. Bible distribution to Greek pilgrims is entrusted to Papas Ysa of the Greek Orthodox Church, and Nicolayson sends him Bibles in Greek and Turkish.
1833 – John Nicolayson is the first foreign missionary to get permission to settle permanently in Jerusalem.
1838 – A British Consulate is established in Jerusalem, which facilitates the Bible Work.
1841 – The Protestant bishopric between Britain and Prussia is established, and they send a Jewish Protestant bishop to Jerusalem, Michael Solomon Alexander. Alexander was accompanied by the Jewish believer Frederick Christian Ewald of another organization. Ewald was “adopted” by BFBS and worked distributing Bibles among the Jewish population. He received Bibles from BFBS in Arabic, Greek, Syrian, Russian, Armenian, German, French, Italian, and Hebrew.
1844 – Ewald’s organization opens Bible shops in Jerusalem and Jaffa. Ewald reports that the chief rabbis pronounced excommunication on every Jew who visits the shop. Despite this, Ewald reports that he has many opportunities of telling his fellow Jews about the way of salvation.
1845 – Bishop Alexander dies and is succeeded by Bishop Samuel Gobat. Samuel Gobat works closely with the BFBS and engages colporteurs to distribute BFBS’s Bibles to Jews, Greeks, Arabs, and others.
1848 – Ewald reports that they “thankfully acknowledge the kind assistance they have received from the BFBS who have during the years supplied your agents with 1198 copies of the Bible, in whole or in part, in the English and other languages."
1851 – Bishop Gobat, who established many schools in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nablus, and Es Salt and supplied them with Bibles, states in a report that “I feel more and more that if it were not for the liberality of the Bible Society, I could scarcely do anything in this country.” Gobat encourages another well known mission organization to begin working in Eretz Israel, and they send Rev. F.A. Klein and Dr. Charles Sandrecski to Jerusalem. After a few years they establish centers in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nazareth, Haifa, and Nablus, and become the main co-laborers of the Bible Society.
1859 – Sandrecski now acts on behalf of the Bible Society in Jerusalem and asks for more bibles in “Bulgarian, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish, English, Arabic, Russian and Armenian." He realizes that Russian pilgrims will soon arrive in large numbers due to the newly established Russian church presence in Jerusalem.
1860 – While traveling through Jerusalem, the secretary of the Bible Society, Rev. S.B. Bergne, is asked by Bishop Gobat to give a “statement of the operations of the Society." He reports that “I was glad of the opportunity of delivering perhaps the first real Bible Society speech ever made within the walls of Jerusalem. There was an audience of some 60 or 70 persons." He reports that the Bible Society work is done through local schools and a Bible shop, and he states that one of the greatest challenges is with the Greek, Armenian, and Latin Christians, since their priests “keep the people in a state of wretched spiritual thraldom."
1871 – The Bible Society sets up a small book depot in Nazareth under the supervision of Dr. P.K. Vartan, and he is assisted by Rev. J. Zeller (Bishop Gobat’s son in law). Vartan also supervises a colporteur who covers the Jezreel Valley region as far south as Nablus.
1879 – Bishop Gobat dies and is succeeded.
1882 – Britain takes control over Egypt, and BFBS considers Egypt to be a better base for activities. This political event, plus a large increase in Jewish immigration, causes the Turkish administration to take a harder line against all western activity. BFBS sets up a joint depot in Haifa with another organization.
1883 – A new district of the BFBS is established in Alexandria, covering all of the southern Bible Lands, including Turkish Palestine. Rev. R. H. Weakley is appointed as supervisor, and he reports that “The whole land is mapped out from Achzib to El Arish between five laborers whose centres are at Acre, Nazareth, Jerusalem (two), and Ramleh."
1887 – The joint Protestant bishopric in Jerusalem is terminated.
1889 – The BFBS annual report describes BFBS operations in the area as follows: “The Bible Society’s work in the whole of the region is, with the exception of the Nazareth Depot and the colporteur there, associated with the different British Missions, and is left for its practical conduct to the superintendence of the missionaries." The report also explains that “in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Gaza, the Bible Society’s Scriptures are placed by mutual arrangement in the book shops. The work, including that of the colporteurs, is done by their workers, the Bible Society sharing in the expenses."
1896 – The BFBS operations in Nazareth are transferred to another organization under the direction of Rev. Henry Sykes.
1904 – The 100th anniversary of the BFBS is celebrated throughout the world. Rev. A. A. Cooper, BFBS agent of the Egyptian Agency in Cairo, receives a £4 contribution from the teachers and children at an orphanage in Nazareth as a Centenary birthday offering “with much thankfulness at heart for all the blessings which the Bible has brought to them … and is sent with sincere prayers and good wishes that the dear Bible Society may ever increase and abound in its good work."
In February a public meeting was convened in Jerusalem “under the presidency of H.B.M.’s Consul, when representatives of the various Missions gave excellent addresses”.
1905 – The joint depots in Jaffa and Nazareth are closed. The depot in Jerusalem ceases to be a joint undertaking and is opened in September as the Bible Society’s central depot for the supply of the scriptures in Palestine. It is located opposite the Jaffa Gate. Moshe Chaim, a Messianic Jew (or “Hebrew Christian," as they were called then), becomes the first fully employed Bible Society supervisor in Jerusalem.
A BFBS representative in the area, Alexander Hope, reports that “The depot stands in an excellent position near the Jaffa Gate, a short distance outside the walls. On its shutters the Society’s name is painted in English, French and German, so that when the depot is closed no one who passes can fail to learn where he may obtain a Bible. On two of the windows the name is inscribed in eight different languages, whilst in a third window copies of the Scriptures are shown in sixteen languages. Gospels in the six languages most widely known in Jerusalem are placed in the window so that they can be read by passers by; and it has frequently inspired us to prayer when men were heard reading aloud--perhaps for the first time--the story of the meeting of Christ and Nicodemus."
1909 – Many Jews and Christians leave the land after a new law for the first time makes Jews and Christians eligible for military conscription in the Turkish army.
1910 – Large arrival of Jews, especially from Russia. As Russian citizens they were extempt from conscription to the Turkish army. Joseph Manasseh, Messianic Jew from Persia, is employed as a colporteur. Manasse faces difficulties when trying to distribute the Scriptures among the Zionists. The BFBS reports „Colporteur Joseph Manasseh, a converted Persian Jew, has been most untiring in his efforts to reach the Jews with the Scriptures: much bitter persecution has been bravely borne by him, and not in vain. Among the Jews of Palestine over 2,700 volumes have been distributed in Hebrew, or Hebrew in diglot form.”
"At Jaffa I entered the office of a Jewish merchant and offered the Scriptures for sale. 'No, we do not want your books,' said one. 'But it is the Word of God, your own book, and we all need it,' I said. 'We do not read our own book, and why should we read yours? All we want is to see our own people, the Jews, back in Palestine,' he replied. 'God will fulfil His own promises, but you will not hasten the fulfillment by refusing Him and neglecting His Word,' I answered. After much conversation with several Jews in this office I sold two Arabic Bibles, two French Bibles, one Turkish Bible, and the Psalms and some Portions in Hebrew
It is interesting to note that one of the chief Jewish schools in Jerusalem has added to its curriculum the study of the Scriptures in Arabic, and that our depot has been asked to supply 20 Arabic Bibles--both Old and New Testaments--to the pupils.”
1913 – Joseph Manasseh reports:
"'Offering the Scriptures to the Jews, many came round me and requested me not to visit the Jewish quarter with Christian books. I replied, 'These books contain the Word of God, which makes wise the simple and enlightens the eyes. Besides, I am a servant of Jesus Christ, Israel's Messiah.' At this they at once became angry and rushed upon me. Snatching away my books, they brought petroleum and threatened to burn me and the volumes together. A Moslem policeman came to my rescue, but they shouted, 'This man is a Protestant Jew, and according to the law, we must kill him.' After examining my editions in Arabic, the policeman pronounced them good and had them restored to me. That experience cost me 5 francs, which they stole from my pocket, and the price of a few books which they destroyed.
"In the Jews' quarter at Jaffa one of the crowd bought a Bible from me. As he was paying for it, a prominent man came and struck his hand, causing him to drop the volume. I asked him why he acted so roughly. He replied, 'Because this book came from the English, and it is unlawful to read in it.' Seeing he was well-dressed, I said to him, 'Will you please take off your shoes, and this hat from you head, and this suit of clothes?' 'Why?' he asked. 'Because,' I replied, 'they are all of English manufacture, and it is unlawful to wear them.' The people were greatly amused, and began to laugh, while the objector, ashamed, walked away. Then my customer paid for his Bible.”
1914 – Joseph Manasseh reports:
"One morning I was sitting by the roadside near a Jewish school, as is my custom. When the bell rang the boys came out and began to purchase Portions. Then the principal appeared and inquired from the boys what books they were buying. On hearing their reply he became very angry, and began to beat me with his stick. One of the teachers then came out and also attacked me, kicking, beating, and throwing stones at me. They scattered my books along the road, saying, 'If you come here again we will treat you worse and burn all your books.' I reminded them that I was on the highroad, which did not belong to them. I also said, 'You are commanded in the law not to vex a stranger, but to love him as yourself.' They replied, 'But you are not a Jew now, so we must stone you till you die.' I was greatly cheered by a dear boy from the same school, who came after me and said, 'I am sorry that they beat you, but this is not God's will; they do not understand.'
"When the schools opened again I went to the one where they had beaten me about eight months before. When they saw me a controversy began in Hebrew between the teachers and the boys, some wanting to give me a great thrashing, while others said it was not manly, and that God had commanded us to love our neighbours as ourselves. These latter voices prevailed, and they did me no harm. I went among them with some Hebrew Old Testaments in my hand. I sold eleven copies, and they asked me to come again.”
Following the outbreak of World War I Turkish soldiers round up all Russian citizens (mostly Jews) and deport them forcibly to Alexandria. Joseph Manasseh takes refuge in Egypt, since he is of Persian nationality. Moshe Chaim, registered as a Spanish citizen, tries to stay, but the sign boards and other property of the depot are removed.
1915 – The Society’s depot is hurriedly closed and the workers brought to Egypt on an American warship. Mr. Whelan, an American of Irish origin, who had been residing in Jerusalem for a long time, takes possession of the depot and faces the situation. He fixes his bed behind the counter and lives there as proprietor. For 34 months he holds on bravely against many difficulties and hardships until relief arrives.
1917 – British troops take Jerusalem and discover that the depot has been kept open and its stock of 30,000 books in 50 languages cared for during the war. Immediately after the entry of British troops to Jerusalem, a high British official writes a letter to Mr. Hooper, BFBS secretary at Port Said, saying “It may interest you to know that as I entered Jerusalem with the first troops, I was met by a quaint old man of seventy years, who, telling me he represented the Bible Society, presented me with a beautiful copy of the Scriptures." All the Bibles in English that were available are quickly bought by the British soldiers.
Mr. W. Bradley, of the Egypt General Mission, one of the first civilians to enter Jerusalem, reported “The British and Foreign Bible Society impresses me more than any other Society. A Mr. Whelan stepped in to fill the breach in February 1915, and, all things considered, I think he has done nobly. Living in the depot had its difficulties. The Turks ordered the gold lettering of “BFBS” on the centre pane of the large glass door to be broken or rubbed out. Mr. Whelan got a cardboard, painted it the same colour as the framework, and tacked it on over the glass until the Turks had evacuated the city. He even sold copies of the Scriptures, and, together with the help of some sympathetic friends, managed all right."
1918 – Mr. Whelan stays in his self-appointed post until the end of the war when he is replaced by Amin Nusr.
1919 – Mr. T.P. Bevan takes charge of the Bible depot. Business returns to normal. The British/Anzac (Australia / New Zealand) troops return home, and the occupation force is mostly Indian soldiers. The Bible Society reports “One of the depot windows was filled with open copies of versions in various languages, and it was most interesting to watch the Indian soldiers, as they recognized their own tongues. At the door a notice in Urdu, Hindi and Marathi told what was to be found within."
1920 – The League of Nations offers Britain a mandate for Palestine. Britain accepts and the military regime is replaced with a civilian government led by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel. The depot in Jerusalem is directed by Mr. A.O. Neve. The BFBS reports from this year: “We have had a continual stream of young Jewish students and Jewish boys and girls from school, coming to purchase the Sacred Book for their studies. Jews have travelled to Jerusalem from all parts of Palestine and Syria, hearing that merchandise was available and that there was plenty of business to be done. Numbers of these travellers have taken the opportunity to replenish their family libraries with the Scriptures, purchasing copies in as many as five or six languages at a time. It was sometimes very difficult to sell them a New Testament in Hebrew. But, by pointing out that in all the other languages the versions they had chosen contained a portion not found in the Hebrew book, quite a number of these Jews were persuaded to buy a Hebrew New Testament. One or two Hebrew schools have lately been buying the New Testament in Hebrew and reading it in class.”
The report also notes that the resurrection of Hebrew as a spoken language is immediately followed by an increasing demand for the Hebrew New Testament.
1921 – Mr. T.E. Bugby takes over the depot. Sales are continually increasing, but colportage is down a little “due mainly to unavoidable changes in the staff and to the fact that 'Anzac', the Society’s horse, was stolen from its stable at night by Arabs."
1922 – Mr. Mihran B. Siraganian replaces colporteur Bugby as depositary for the Holy Land. Arrangements of cooperation are made in Jaffa and in Haifa with Rev. Shabtai Rohold of another organization (that later became Hagefen). The Haifa depot would eventually be very important, as we shall see.
Rohold, a Messianic Jew born in 1876 in Jerusalem, is described as "well known throughout the land," and it is said that he "traversed the country on his equally indefatigable donkey, arguing the Jewish cause before British authorities and taking an active role in the exciting new phenomenon of a rejuvenated Jewish nationhood." Rohold was among those invited to participate in 1925 in the formal celebration of the founding of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Rohold often visited the work camps where the new Jewish immigrants were located, speaking to them about the Messiah. It is reported that though he went “with two large bags filled with literature, he never once came back with any books." Rohold himself describes the encounters with Zionist haluzim as follows:
“The new arrivals in Palestine--the Zionist Haluzim (i.e. 'pioneers', 'forerunners')--are mostly idealists, who come with a wonderful longing and desire to re-build Zion. This spiritual longing they themselves cannot account for. I have talked to very many during my visits to the different labour-camps, where they are building the new highways of Palestine, and I find that they have open minds. The former hatred of Christianity seems no longer to exist. I once talked to a number of young Jews of the intelligentsia regarding Christ. Their expressions varied. Some claimed that 'He is the renewal of the ancient Prophets and the fulfillment of them all.' Others declared Him to be a 'Teacher, Prophet and Guide.’ Some went further, and claimed that 'the Jewish people committed the greatest mistake in their history by permitting their greatest Teacher to be crucified.' Others went further and confessed that they 'loved Him'. When I suggested that many thousands of them would perish in their attempts to rebuild Zion, one of them replied, 'Now what better thing could we have, even though we perish, than to die in the land where Jesus died?' That this was spoken publicly in the presence of many others shows the remarkable advance that they have made. When we are asked the question, 'Can these dry bones live?' we must answer, 'Lord, Thou knowest.'"
1923 – The Bible Society purchases property for a new Bible House in Jerusalem, located on Tancred street (today part of the municipality buildings in Safra Square).
1924 – Rev. Rohold in Haifa reports:
"Our chief work is amongst the young Zionist Halutzim (pioneers). They still continue to come at the rate of 1000 a month. Haifa is the chief port of entry, especially during the winter, as Jaffa is often unapproachable. We make it our business to meet them as they arrive and we say to them 'Peace be unto you and welcome in the name of the Lord.' Very often when they land they buy copies of the Scriptures. Our records prove that we have had perhaps one of the best years in the sales of Scriptures.”
1926 – On December 22nd the foundation stone of the "Bible House" is laid by Field Marshall Lord Plumer, the High Commissioner, assisted by the Anglican Bishop, Rennie MacInnes. During the time of the building of the Bible House, the Bible Society moves and rents a shop inside Jaffa Gate, opposite the David Citadel at Christ Church.
The foundation stone of the Bible House
1928 – The Bible House (also called Connaught House) is dedicated on April 10th in the presence of the High Commissioner of Palestine and Lady Plumer.
The Bible House
Historical plaque describing
the Bible House history and
Detail from Bible House
Detail from Bible House design
with BFBS monogram
1929 – The riots and massacres of 1929 (the "tarpat" riots) start, and many isolated Jewish communities are attacked by Arabs. Jews are massacred in Hebron and Safed.
1930 – The atmosphere of threat and uncertainty after the riots played its part in preparing people to consider the truth of Jesus:
"There have been some definite conversions. One man tells us in his own simple way how, in the greatest difficulty, he and his family, not knowing whether they would be murdered or come out alive from their hiding-place, were led to pray in the Name of Jesus. His wife at first objected to his praying to Jesus at such a terrible time, when there was no certainty of life; but when she saw that he found peace, she, too, said, 'Well, if you have found peace, it must be all right.'"
1931 – The Bible Society reports that "never was the Hebrew New Testament so much read as today.... I went to one village where all the inhabitants are Jews. One young man, after examining the books, purchased a Hebrew New Testament. Then I went to the Jewish school and offered my books first to the teacher, who, together with some of the scholars, bought readily."
A colporteur who went to Transjordan reports that "in another place" the people refused his Bibles because they don’t beleive in it since "It is written that the Jews will take this land of Palestine." Rev. Rohold dies in Haifa and is replaced by his wife.
1932 – The BFBS reports: "I went to a Jewish school, as a teacher had asked me to meet him there. When he saw me, he met me gladly. I asked, 'Have you read the New Testament?' 'Yes,' he replied, 'and I believe in Christ.' And I understood from him that it was not possible for him to profess his belief openly."
1936 – The 1936 riots start in Jaffa/Tel Aviv area. The spread of the riots causes the British government to send more troops to the land and enlarge their garrison. The British are more and more seen as enemies and traitors to both the Jews and the Arabs, and the British and Foreign Bible Society has difficulties being accepted as a neutral organization. A colporteur in Transjordan is roughly handled for selling "the Englishman’s religious book."
1938 – Hebrew is for the first time reported as the most sold Bible language in Jerusalem.
1939 – The outbreak of World War II temporarily stops the local troubles. The operations are toned down.
1942 – The Bible Society reports a "cloud of gloom" over the Jewish community, following the news of the slaughter of Jews in the Nazi-occupied countries of Europe.
1945 – Great Britain celebrates victory of the allies over the Nazis.
1946 – The United Bible Societies is officially founded in a convention in the town of Elfinsward in southern England. The establishment of the UBS gives an official expression to the cooperation that already exists between the different Bible Societies.
1947 – Britain surrenders the Mandate to the United Nations, which suggest a partition to a Jewish and an Arab country. The vote goes through on November 29th, but the Arab leadership rejects the decision. A few days after the vote, rioting starts in the Mamilla district of Jerusalem, very close to the Bible House. Jerusalem becomes a battle zone and a divided city.
1948 – Israel is declared an independent state, the war of independence breaks out, and the fighting within Jerusalem intensifies. The Bible House is caught in the middle and is hit by a bomb, but it is not destroyed. The building is ransacked and looted and the four employed colporteurs in Jerusalem become refugees. Eventually they are transferred to Amman, Beirut, and Cairo, and Mr. Siraganian to Ramallah, where he sets up a sub-branch. He returns to East Jerusalem in 1950 and continues to work from Jerusalem for the newly established Jordanian Bible Society, centered in Amman. The work of the Bible Society in Israel is handled by Rev. Ronald Adeney in Haifa of another organization; he had arrived to Israel in 1947.
1949 – The Bible Society is officially registered in the company registrar of the newly established State of Israel. The Hebrew University rents the Bible House for its Medical School, and Bible work is delayed due to the lack of a depot.
1950 – Rev. Magne Solheim arrives in Haifa. Solheim had previously worked in Romania among Messianic Jews, but he was expelled by the new communist regime. He saw the newly established Jewish state of Israel as the next stage in his ministry. After his arrival in Israel he toured the country and then took lodging with Rev. Adeney, whose father had served in Romania. Solheim decides to set up in Haifa, partly because he met there some members of his former Romanian congregation, but also
because the BFBS approached him and asked if he was willing to re-start the Bible work in Israel. In the BFBS report of 1950 it is reported that "The services of Rev. Magne Solheim are secured as Honorary Assistant Secretary through the generosity of the church of Norway."
1951 – Another organization makes their shop in Haifa available to the Society for use as a depot, and so by the end of 1951 the Society has both depot and staff, and supplies of books begin to arrive. It is decided not to return to Jerusalem, but to base the Bible Society of Israel in Haifa, since the isolation of Israel among the
Arab nations has made Jerusalem a "dead end" on Israel’s transport routes. Haifa is more convenient; it is close to Israel’s main port, with easier access to imported books. The Bible Society is back in operation. It has a different staff and a different location, but it is still the same Bible. The Bible Society in Israel (BSI) has been formed. In its first few months of operation, scriptures are sold in thirty languages. The annual report in 1951 shows 19,014 scriptures distributed, compared to 8,776 in 1950 and 2,696 in 1949. Still, Solheim complains that they cannot meet the demand due to a shortage of Hebrew Bibles.
1959 – Following the decision of the Ministry of Finance that all Hebrew books sold in Israel must be printed in Israel, Solheim finds a printer who is ready to print Hebrew Bibles. The first ever full Hebrew Bible including the New Testament is printed, running to 1850 pages. Twelve thousand full Bibles are printed and 2,000 books each of the Old and New Testaments. Solheim visits the President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and presents him with the first Bibles ever printed in Israel. Copies are sent to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, and Ben-Gurion sends a letter to Solheim expressing pleasure that "we can now print the Bible in the Land of the Bible."
1961 – The shop in Tel Aviv is opened on Ben Yehuda street, and Eli and Karen Bøgh become the first shop managers. Another printing of Bibles is needed. The printer is not ready to print more Bibles due to pressure from orthodox Jewish groups, but he changes his mind when he sees the letter from Ben Gurion and the many positive press comments made after the first printing. Thirty thousand Bibles are printed.
1967 – As a result of the Six-Day War, the two Bible Society offices in East Jerusalem, which were previously under the Jordanian Bible Society, become a separate "Jerusalem Bible Society." It continues to carry out colportage in the West Bank.
1969 – The first steps are taken to translate the New Testament into modern Hebrew, and a draft translation of the book of Romans is sent to be checked by an interconfessional theological panel.
Read more about the story behind the Modern Hebrew New Testament
1970 – The work on the modern Hebrew NT starts in October. Magne Solheim visits Ben Gurion in his kibbutz, Sde Boker in the Negev, and holds long talks with him there, particularly on the modern Hebrew translation of the NT. He later told of Ben Gurion's detailed interest, fascination, and enthusiasm for this project.
1973 – The work on the translation is halted for a short while when the main translator is suddenly mobilized in the Yom Kippur war.
1975 – The translation is completed.
1976 – Solheim retires and moves back to Norway and is succeeded by one full-time business manager, Terje Hartberg, and one part-time Executive Secretary, Rev. Ole Christian Kvarme. The Bible Society runs out of the Delitzsch New Testaments, but does not print any more, since they are expecting the first print of the new translation. When the general secretary of the Jerusalem Bible Society leaves, Kvarme is asked to take up the responsibilities for the offices in East Jerusalem too. It is still two separate Bible Societies, but with the same Executive Secretary.
1977 – The first modern Hebrew translation of the NT is printed, and a dedication service is held in the Old City of Jerusalem. Solheim visits Israel for the occasion and gives a beautiful dedicatory talk in Hebrew. There are still only a few hundred Messianic Jews in Israel, but 6,000 copies of the new translation are distributed. An advisory council is established for the Bible Society in Israel.
1978 – A decision is made to move the head office of the Bible Society in Israel from Haifa to Jerusalem. The old BFBS Bible House in Jerusalem is under protective tenancy of the Hebrew University, and as such it remains inaccessible to the Bible Society. It is subsequently sold at a reasonable price, considering the tenancy situation. Hartberg tries to get the Hebrew University to release part of the old Bible House, but they are not ready to do this. However, they do give the Bible Society a premise in Jaffa Road 17 instead, to which the HU also had protective tenancy.
1979 – The new office in Jerusalem, on Jaffa Road 17, is opened in the presence of leaders from all Christian churches and communities and of the mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Teddy Kollek. After 28 years in Haifa, the Bible Society in Israel is finally back home in the Holy City. The place is not as large as the Bible House, but it is more central and on the main street, Jaffa Road. Hartberg recalls: "When we took over the Jaffa Road shop, it still contained the furnishings of the pharmacy that had earlier occupied it. But in the last years before we arrived, the rooms were used by the archaeological team of Prof. Yigael Yadin (he who excavated Masada), and the shop was littered with old pottery and bits from their excavations when we first took over the building."
1981 – Ole Christian Kvarme resigns due to his many responsibilities elsewhere (He founded the Caspari Center, and later became General Secretary of the Bible Society in Norway. He is today the bishop of Oslo and the personal prelate of the Norwegian Royal Family.), and Terje Hartberg becomes the Bible Society’s first full-time executive Secretary. In the annual report Hartberg observes in relation to the growing number of Messianic Jews that “local believers are getting more involved in the leadership of congregations started by foreign missions." This would eventually happen also in many ministries, including the Bible Society.
1985 – Hartberg is hired by the UBS as publishing consultant and resigns as Executive Secretary in Israel. The position is assumed by Dr. Ray Pritz, who had previously worked with the BSI. An office and Bible shop is established in Nazareth.
1991 – The Modern Hebrew NT is revised and a new printing is done both of the New Testaments and of full Hebrew Bibles. The annotated New Testament is published.
1992 – Ray Pritz is hired by the Caspari Center and the UBS and resigns as Executive Secretary. Pritz is replaced by Doron Even-Ari, who becomes the first Israeli-born Messianic Jew holding the position of Executive Secretary at the Bible Society in Israel.
1993 – Following the Oslo accords, the Jerusalem Bible Society in East Jerusalem becomes “The Palestinian Bible Society” with Labib Madanat as its first Executive Secretary. Close cooperation continues between the two Bible Societies in the Holy Land. The Bible Society receives the Israeli government’s highest literary award for its complete Bible.
1994 – Israel achieves peace with Jordan, and for the first time since 1948 the three Bible Societies in the area that was once the Mandate of Palestine can once again cooperate with one another.
2000 – The Bible Experience Exhibition in Jerusalem is opened on Jaffa Road 17. It is an exhibition that tells the fascinating story of how the Bible came to us. The first Modern Hebrew New Testament concordance is published.
2005 – Doron Even-Ari suffers a sudden heart attack and dies unexpectedly. His duties are assumed up by the Bible Society's finance director, Emanuel Smilovic. He keeps up the work as interim Executive Secretary till 2007.
2007 – Victor Kalisher is appointed Executive Secretary of the Bible Society in Israel.
2008 – The Bible Society office in Nazareth, established in 1985, becomes a separate Bible Society, "The Arab Israeli Bible Society" with Dina Katanacho as Executive Secretary. There are now three Bible Societies that together form the “Bible Land Team."
2009 – The first dramatized recording of the Modern Hebrew New Testament is produced. The war in Gaza breaks out. Close cooperation between the Bible Societies enables effective humanitarian help to both sides of the conflict as well as conveying a message of brotherhood and peace through Christ.
2010 - The first Hebrew Cross-Reference Bible is finished (the work started in 2008).
2011 and beyond – The Bible Society started as a foreign mission to Israel, but today it is maintained and led by local Messianic Jewish believers. It is a joy for us to keep up this ancient heritage and we are grateful to our foreign predecessors who served our nation with the Word of God. We intend to keep up the good work, not as a foreign entity anymore, but as a local Israeli Bible Society, serving the local Messianic congregations while still maintaining our international cooperation and brotherhood with other Bible Societies throughout the world.
The Bible Society’s vision for the future is to continue our ancient tradition to make the Bible known and heard in the Holy Land. As history teaches us, we are constantly changing, but God’s Word never changes. Our vision is that the life-changing message of the Bible will shape the community of Israel, and that the people of Israel will learn to know who the Messiah of Israel is. Let the people of Israel in the land of Israel hear the good news of salvation through the Messiah of Israel.
Will you join us in this important God-given mission?
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