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© David Zadok
CWI, HaGefen Publishing
About a year ago we had guests from Holland in our home. While we were enjoying coffee and dessert, one of them asked me why we go to such lengths to publish books in Hebrew? He explained that as he had traveled around Israel he found that most people were able to communicate with him in English. I responded by saying: “Maybe it would be cheaper to teach all the Jewish Christians to read in English than to publish books in Hebrew. However, we publish in Hebrew so that our children, grandchildren, and future generations, so that they will know that faith in Jesus is as much ours as it is anyone else. Can you imagine your children reading Christian books in English, rather than Dutch? It is important for them to realize that faith in Jesus, the Messiah is as Jewish as anything else! If they have to read about their faith in a foreign language, then their faith is not theirs, it is foreign.” I think he started to realize the importance of publishing books in Hebrew.
In his last days, Apostle Paul sat in prison in Rome awaiting Caesar’s verdict. In his last Epistle that he wrote, he reveals to us how important books were to him. He writes to Timothy, in II Timothy 4:13: When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. It is interesting to note that Paul, who probably knew the Old Testament by heart and himself wrote a large portion of the New Testament, asks for books in his last days. He knew the value of the written word. And we also can see the value of books as we look into our libraries at home, school or churches and the legacy that others before us have left for us within the pages.
The Need for Hebrew Literature
Christian books in Hebrew are still relatively rare. The reason for that is twofold. First, ironically the church in Israel is still young. While it certainly true that there has always been a remnant of Jewish people who believed in Jesus as their Lord and Messiah of Israel, yet the church among the Jewish people in Israel has begun to flourish mainly in the last three or so decades. Secondly, while Hebrew is an ancient language, yet for almost 2,000 years it was used only for prayers and reading of the scriptures and other sacred writings but not as a day-to-day conversation. The Modern Hebrew was resurrected and reconstructed with the restoration of a Jewish homeland and the Zionist movement.
Every week in Israel some 150 books are published. We have the highest or second highest number of books in the world that are published per 1000 people. It is no surprise that even now we are still called the “people of the book”. This shows that even in this age and time, people in Israel love books and read them. But it also shows how much we as Jewish believers, are behind in producing books related to our faith for the vast market of Hebrew readers.
The influence and significance of language are evident in the days of the Reformation and in the works of Martin Luther in German. Although I have ambivalent feelings towards him, particularly because of his later writings about the Jewish people, what he accomplished cannot be denied. Eric Metaxas, in his 2010 Biography of Bonhoeffer, a New York Times bestseller, writes this about the influence of Martin Luther:
Luther’s influence cannot be overestimated. His translation of the Bible into German was cataclysmic. Like a Medieval Paul Bunyan, Luther in a single blow shattered the edifice of European Catholicism and in the bargain created the Modern German language, which in turn effectively created the German people. … Before Luther’s Bible, there was no unified German language. It existed only in a hodgepodge of dialects.
This is another example of how God uses language as a means of bringing His blessing and His light to the nations. By translating the Bible into German, Luther took the Bible from the hands of the proud few and made it available to everyone in the German-speaking world.
As the result of these two phenomenons, namely the rebirth of the church among the Jewish people and the Modern Hebrew, today there are relatively very few Hebrew books that the Hebrew-speaking community can benefit from. That is the reason that for the past thirty years HaGefen has set its sights and efforts on publishing books that can edify the church today and provide a foundation for coming generations of believers in Israel. In HaGefen Publishing we focus on three main areas: evangelism, discipleship, family, and children. Regarding the first area, we publish the most number of books. For example, in the last years, we have printed some 175,000 evangelistic books and booklets. Regarding discipleship, we publish commentaries, books on prayer, church history, and hermeneutics. Finally, for families, we have produced Bible story books and parenting materials.
Presently most of the books we publish are translated from English into Hebrew and few in Russian. We plan to publish books in other languages as well, as the need arises and we have the capabilities. But as the body of Christ is growing in Israel, more books are being written by Israelis in Hebrew. We are trying to encourage the Israeli believers to become more involved in the work of writing and editing and to be able to write articles and books that will build up the believers locally. However, I do believe that the day will come when Christian books will not only be written by us, but they will be also translated from Hebrew into other languages! The church among the Jewish people once again needs to be a blessing to the Gentiles. Can you imagine what the church of Christ would look like if we produce not one but fifty or hundred people like Apostle Paul? We need to become the light to the nations, as it is our call and duty.
This is yet another reason why we are working diligently to publish good quality books in various areas of life. However, as times are changing we are also looking into the possibilities digital printing as well as the use of electronic media. We wish to be able to reach all people, but particularly the younger generation. You can look us up on FaceBook as well as on our website at www.ha-gefen.org.il.
 Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville Dallas Mexico City Rio De Janeiro, Thomas Nelson, 2010), 20