Baptists for Israel started in 1974 when a group of Baptist college students went to Israel for two months to work as volunteers on a kibbutz. The name "Baptists for Israel" was given to the group by the Shaliach (Israeli representative) who believed it would be an interesting experiment for Baptists to work on a kibbutz.
This first group of Baptists left a great impact on the people and made many friends. They did a fantastic job as they worked (volunteered) in various areas of the kibbutz. They enjoyed visiting the Israeli families and came to love them. They enjoyed learning the songs of Israel and having the Israelis take them on trips to see the land. The Baptists were welcomed and invited to return summer and summer where they lived and worked on several kibbutzim.
In 1979 some of the students wanted to extend our stay one month longer. We reminded the students they needed to return to continue their college education. They replied, “Why can’t we bring a teacher to Israel and study the Bible on location?” God used this idea to form a student/internship program that would provide a college year in Israel.
In 1980, Baptists for Israel (BII) was established offering the choice of a summer in Israel or a college year in Israel. Student/interns worked (as volunteers) on the kibbutz part time and studied the remaining time. They earned 5 semester hours for the summer and 32 semester hours of credit per year. The credits were transferable to their college in the USA where they returned to complete their degree. Classes in Israel included 42 days of field trips to various Biblical and historical sites. They also worked on an archeological dig. Classes and trips were designed to give them a deeper understanding of the Bible.
The land of Israel and the people of the Bible provided each individual with personal knowledge and experience that made a lasting impression. Interaction with the Israeli people provided insights into Israeli culture. They quickly understood they were learning something very unique. Motivation was very high. The students learned in the classroom and then, on Biblical sites, were immediately able to use what they learned. For example, they learned Hebrew in class and then were able to speak Hebrew with their neighbors. They learned Cross Culture Communication and immediately used it. They learned about the Israeli Jewish holidays and then joined the people in observing them. Biblical prophecy that is being fulfilled is also studied.
Throughout our time in Israel, Baptists for Israel Institute has been able to build a highly specialized library, which as grown to over 3,000 volumes. The volumes emphasize Bible, theology, Israel’s geography, Israel’s ancient and modern history. It also includes many books about Jewish customs and holidays and Rabbinic Judaism and availability to scholarly works in various fields, online.
In 1996 Baptists for Israel Institute saw a need to establish a graduate program for students who had already earned a Bachelor’s Degree. A Master of Art’s Degree in Israel Studies can be earned. The graduate program has transferred well for students who wanted to earn a M.Div. It has given them an advantage in many areas of preparation as they find that studying the Bible on location and interacting with people in another culture is invaluable for their future.