CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - The Bible Society of Israel (BSI) has had a difficult season over the past two years since the unexpected death of their executive secretary and director Doron Even-Ari. Now, more than two years later, Victor Kalisher has been appointed the new director.
Aware of the strain that the loss of Even-Ari caused the team, Kalisher spoke highly of the character of the staff in a recent newsletter:
"Emanuel Smilovici, together with the entire staff, led the operation and held the light of the Word of God to the people of Israel through our various ministries. I am thankful to the Lord for their faithfulness and desiring hearts to continue bringing the Word of God to the people of Israel."
In an interview with CBN News, Kalisher said the shared calling of the BSI team is strengthening them through this time of transition.
And he spoke of the moving journey that led him to this new position.
A sabra [native Israeli] born to Jewish parents who immigrated to Israel after surviving the Holocaust, Kalisher speaks with the accent and mannerisms of a home-grown Jerusalem kid -- with the shrugs, frowns and those "what can you do?" looks that so perfectly epitomize the Israeli disposition.
Yet, his upbringing was anything but typical of the average Israeli. Two Jewish parents who had put their faith in Jesus (Hebrew, Yeshua) raised him.
In the late 1940s, when Kalisher's father was serving in the army, an elderly woman gave him a Hebrew translation of the New Testament. As he spent time alone reading it, he experienced the epiphany that Jesus was indeed the Messiah who had come to the Jewish people, as foretold in the scriptures.
At a time when Israeli believers could be counted only by the dozens or hundreds, and certainly not by the thousands, Kalisher's childhood experience was a rare one. As a result of his parents' coming to faith, he cannot remember a time when he did not know Jesus as the Messiah. He said he has always had a calling on his life "to see the Word of God alive in the hearts of am Yisrael [the people of Israel]."
Prior to coming on board with the Bible Society, Kalisher enjoyed many years in a successful management career with a high tech company, but he was increasingly feeling that "he was giving his best, but not to the Lord."
Over a full year, Kalisher prayed and carefully considered the position with BSI, as did the BSI hiring committee. He now feels certain that events and experiences in his life prepared him specifically for this job.
The Vision of the Bible Society
As Victor Kalisher shared his thoughts about vision and mission with me, I couldn't help but see how incredibly simple, yet powerful, it is. BSI wants to see the Word of God alive in the hearts of the people of Israel. Their quest is to make the scriptures "available, accessible and to enable people to interact with the Word."
The Bible Society has a great awareness that the Word of God is "living and active" and they trust it to speak for itself.
Many know the Bible Society solely for translating the scriptures into hundreds of languages, which is truly a huge part of their ministry. Yet perhaps few are aware of the care and effort that is taken, as Kalisher said, "to answer the challenge of bringing the Word of God to people."
"We are not simply a Bible book store," he said.
Today, BSI makes Bibles available to all people living in Israel, including minority groups such as Filipinos, Chinese, and Sudanese, all in their native languages.
They have also partnered with an Israeli-based company called MegaVoice, which developed a solar-powered audio device, to make Hebrew scriptures (and other languages) available to the elderly, blind, illiterate, as well as to soldiers.
Kalisher is also already dreaming about creative projects to facilitate interaction among people with different cultural perspectives, centered in the Word. As I left his office, he was meeting with the former director of the Palestinian Bible Society to discuss projects that would bring Palestinians and Israelis together around the Word of God.
Spring comes exactly when it should in Jerusalem -- the middle of February. Just when you feel the drizzle, wet feet and cold stone apartments are too much, the bright white almond blossoms begin to bloom. We've been enjoying the encouragement of the almond trees in Jerusalem and the countryside for the past few weeks.
Perhaps this could be a kind of spring for BSI and for the team who has persevered through this difficult season.
Rain or shine, BSI is a beacon of light, holding up the Word of God for the people of Israel to see.