Israeli government Bible club revived

Thursday, March 27, 2008 |  by Staff Writer

Israeli President Shimon Peres has revived a monthly Bible club attended by top Israeli officials, albeit with a twist that those familiar with the Bible club originally founded and hosted by David Ben Gurion may find unsavory.

After decades of only sporadic meetings, Peres this week jumped on the opportunity to reintroduce the club that, as Ben-Gurion's right-hand man, he originally helped establish, reported Ha'aretz.

However, Peres appears to have turned the event into something of a flashy biblical production, in stark contrast to the more solemn and scholarly debates presided over by his mentor in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Wednesday's meeting of the government Bible club at President House in Jerusalem featured lectures by prominent rabbis, poetry readings and a musical production entitled "Jerusalem Blues."

When he first started the club, Ben-Gurion intended it to be a vehicle by which to train Israel's leaders to relate to the Bible as their divine heritage in the national sense, as well as a universal document in terms of how God expects man to live. He openly rejected the idea that Rabbinical Judaism had a monopoly on how the Bible was to be interpreted, and used the Bible club as a platform to emphasize that position.

The idea was a success, and the club was regularly attended by Israel's leading professors, judges, lawmakers and government ministers, who would gather to read scripture and heatedly debate its modern meaning, much in the fashion of ancient synagogues.

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