A biblical connection: The birth of Israel365

Rabbi Tuly Weisz established Israel365, now a thriving, multidimensional organization that promotes both the beauty of the Land of Israel and its biblical significance.

RABBI TULY Weiss poses at the first printing of The Israel Bible (photo credit: Courtesy)
RABBI TULY Weiss poses at the first printing of The Israel Bible
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was a trip to his local Barnes & Noble a few years before making aliyah that provided Rabbi Tuly Weisz of Ramat Beit Shemesh with the impetus to create The Israel Bible, a brand-new 2,200 page Hebrew Bible with a pinpoint focus on the Land of Israel.
Back in 2008, Weisz was scanning the Bible aisle at the well-known bookseller and was shocked to not be able to find a Tanach (Hebrew Bible) that emphasized Israel.
“I couldn’t believe how many different versions and niche editions of the Bible there are, especially in the Christian market. They have the Men’s Bible, the Women’s Bible, the Vegetarian Bible and more.
“I asked the Barnes & Noble assistant, ‘Do you have anything on Israel?’ She checked her computer and said, ‘No.’ I couldn’t believe that the theme that appears most frequently throughout Tanach was not the subject of a niche Bible.
“It motivated me to begin putting together a list of all the verses about Israel and to create a commentary all about Israel,” Weisz told In Jerusalem.
Upon making aliyah from Columbus, Ohio, Weisz established Israel365, now a thriving, multidimensional organization that promotes both the beauty of the Land of Israel and its biblical significance.
Weisz has been nurturing The Israel Bible for a decade. The first printed version was a series of paperback volumes that were sent to customers who subscribed to Israel365’s Israel Bible Reading Plan.
“In January 2016, we released the Book of Genesis and in February, we released the Book of Exodus [and so on]. It took us two years to finish the 24 books of Tanach that way,” he explained.
“We got a lot of very positive feedback from our readers and our customers. The paperback edition is very similar to the layout of the new Koren/Menorah edition. We just refined and revised the format to make it a bit more elegant. The professionals at Koren/Menorah have a heritage of excellence when it comes to publishing the Tanach, so they made it gorgeous. Their professional staff really has a deep understanding of Tanach, which comes across on every page of our one-volume hardcover edition.”
That is not to say that the project unfolded without its share of challenges.
“The hardest part of this project was the size and scope of the Tanach,” Weisz acknowledged. “I don’t think we realized what we were getting into when we signed up for this. It really was an enormous undertaking that I didn’t understand at the time.
“Another thing that has been very challenging was getting out all the mistakes. Reading it over and over again, you always find errors. And when dealing with the Word of God, it’s so intimidating because you want it to be perfect.
“We had a very complex project. We had an English translation that we adapted from the New JPS, and we Hebraicized hundreds of words, like changing Moses to Moshe, and Jerusalem to Yerushalayim. That was complex. We also removed the cantillation from the Hebrew for our audience. Then – editing the commentary for clarity, for grammar and for punctuation. There was just so much along the way that we didn’t anticipate.”
Despite the challenges, the final product is a beautiful book. In its finished form, The Israel Bible highlights the centrality of the Land of Israel to the entirety of the Hebrew Bible. It includes exclusive features that amplify the special connection between the Land of Israel and the People of Israel.
Verses that are directly connected to the Land of Israel are boxed in gray and include vowelized Hebrew, a clear English translation and a transliteration that benefits those who are not yet fluent Hebrew readers.
Maps, charts and illustrations were specially created for this volume in order to help the reader more clearly understand the significance of the highlighted verses. Small photographs from Israel, like barley stalks from the western Negev or the Hall of Names from Yad Vashem, accompany many of the footer comments.
Each book of the Tanach begins with a scholarly introduction, and there are hundreds of study notes on highlighted verses. Some comments come from classic Jewish sources, some include a Hebrew lesson derived from the verse, and others focus on specific locations in Israel. As stated on the volume’s back cover, a particular emphasis of the commentary is to emphasize “the role of the modern State of Israel in the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.”
Reflecting on the monumental undertaking, Weisz identified the most rewarding parts of the process.
“No. 1,” he said, “I edited the commentary on the entire Tanach from beginning to end, which was my first time going through all of Tanach. That in itself was very rewarding, to really have an eye for the role of the Land of Israel throughout Tanach. Doing that in a beit midrash [study hall] here in Israel was very inspiring. Our commentary, contributed by Israel’s leading Tanach teachers, put it all together for me personally.
“No. 2 was the feedback that I got from Christians who would say, ‘Wow, I’ve been studying the Bible my whole life; and hearing a Jewish perspective, and hearing the perspective of the Hebrew language, opens up my mind completely and connects all the dots for me for the very first time.’”
This experience was best expressed by Pastor David Swaggerty of Charisma Life Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, in a comment that appears on The Israel Bible website.
“As a Christian Zionist pastor for four decades,” Swaggerty wrote, “I have collected more than 30 versions of the Bible and seven complete sets of commentaries to augment my studies. After spending time studying The Israel Bible, I can say it gives much clarity to what the original Hebrew text was saying. As Hebrew scholars, the writers give clarity and revelation to the Scripture in ways I have not had access to otherwise.”
On a personal level, Weisz is using The Israel Bible to help educate his children.
“I’m going through it now with my eight-year-old son,” he said. “Instead of reading him some ridiculous story about Lego ninjas at night, we’re reading a chapter of The Israel Bible. He’ll ask his questions, and I try to answer them. We’ll read the commentary together, or I’ll explain it in a way that an eight-year-old can relate to. He has such insightful comments! To be able to fulfill those words ‘You shall teach them to your children’ from the “Shema” that we say is such a privilege on a personal level.”
The target market for The Israel Bible includes both Jews and Bible-based Christians. Weisz expressed his vision for the impact of the publication.
“My dream for The Israel Bible,” he said, “is to fill an important void in biblical literature. This is the first Tanach that is exclusively dedicated to highlighting the central role of the Land of Israel and the people of Israel. I hope that message empowers Jews and non-Jews. That is our claim to Israel.
“The Bible that has been a source of disunity between Jews and Christians is now a source of unity, and I think that’s a great blessing for our generation. It’s a tremendous opportunity the Jewish people have, to fulfill our historic mission to be ‘a light unto the nations,’ to teach the world Torah. That is our destiny and our responsibility, because millions upon millions of Christians are saying to the Jewish people: ‘Teach us the Torah.’ That is what I hope The Israel Bible can, at least in a small way, help fulfill,” he concluded.