Saturday, September 06, 2008

Israel knows what to do with lite Bible versions

Israel’s Education Ministry has banned a lite version of the Bible as
reported at Haaretz. "The Education Ministry is to ban Bible aid booklets that help elementary and junior high school students by “translating” the text into simple Hebrew". The whole debate on the issue is very significant in echoing the objections to modern English translations and the issue of preserving the biblical English of the Authorised Version.

“The idea of translating the Bible into simple contemporary language is ‘scandalous,’ Drora Halevy, the ministry's National Supervisor for Bible Studies, told Haaretz. The booklets present the text in ‘skimpy slang’ that cheapens the Bible,” she added. "Halevy is convinced that using the simple-language Bible will lead to the loss of Biblical expressions and idioms that are used in contemporary Hebrew. She asserts that the booklet's meager language drives children away from the Bible, rather than bring them closer."

“It’s a purely marketing initiative intended for the below-average; it's a disaster,” says Professor Yaira Amit, a Bible instruction expert. “This is a colossal failure of our education system that defies description,” says Professor Amit. “How come children used to be able to read the Bible? How come they used to be able to learn sections by heart? It was hard for them then too, but they dealt with it because they were told it was important." “We give precedence to shallowness and shortcuts in many areas of modern life. It’s OK in e-mails in which the message is the main thing. But where is the boundary? You cannot do away with cultural values.”

"Teaching experts lambast the booklets, warning that children will skip reading the Bible and opt for the simplified version. This will not only deteriorate Bible studies but also impact the Hebrew language, which is based on the Bible, they say". “The Bible is the Hebrew language’s dictionary. It's the foundation of everything, says linguist Zvia Valdan. “If you read it without the original expressions and rhythms, it will lose its impact and power.”

"Booklet publishers Rafi Moses and Reches Publications say the Bible is a foreign language to Israeli children, who need to read it in simple language to understand it. Halevy and other Bible and Hebrew language experts fear that children will simply not bother to read the Bible, but use the simple language version instead".

In the Bible Lite version everything is paraphrased. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” is rendered “in the beginning God created the world.”

The man behind the Bible Lite version is a former Bible teacher and headmaster, and he indicates that he perceives it as a rewriting of Scripture. “When they first suggested [making the booklets] I was astonished. Why should we rewrite the Bible in a simple tongue?’ says Avraham Ahuvia, 87, of kibbutz Netzer Sereni.