The Holy Land Experience: The Next Best Thing to Being There
- Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Ah, the Holy Land….my favorite place in the whole wide world. I believe all Christians should make a pilgrimage there, but I’m realistic enough to know it’s not possible for everyone.
Two years ago, after my press tour, I returned to the States and wrote a series of articles for Crosswalk.com titled, “Falling Into the Bible.” I received a plethora of emails from those who had been to the “Land of the Bible” as well as those who’d not been, but were now inspired to go.
Still, for some, a visit to Israel is out of the question. What are they to do?
Well, fret no more! I’ve found the answer…and it is practically in my own backyard.
Central Florida’s Holy Land Experience
Nearly four years ago the skyline around the “touristy” end of Central Florida/Orlando changed. Driving along the I-4 corridor, past the high-rise buildings and sparkling lakes, past the outlet malls and billboards for Disney, Universal Studios, and Sea World, there rose something that looked like a scaled-down version of King Herod’s Temple, circa 1st Century Jerusalem.
The Holy Land had come to America, specifically Central Florida, as the brainchild of Marvin Rosenthal, author, teacher, and president of Zion’s Hope, Inc.
“The Holy Land Experience is just a spoke in a very large wheel,” Rosenthal, a Messianic Jew, said to me in a recent interview, as he spoke of a ministry that was countless years in the making.
And not just years upon years. Faith upon faith. Miracle upon miracle. Dollar upon dollar. (“My God is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills,” he said jokingly. “I just needed Him to sell a few.”)
God was faithful to the vision He’d planted. Today, sitting on 15-acres of prime land near the Central Florida attractions, is The Holy Land Experience, a place where Christians, Jews, and those of any faith who wish to know more about the One True God can come for a “total sensory experience that is educational, historical, theatrical, inspirational, and evangelistic.” It “blends sights, sounds and tastes,” taking visitors half a world away and more than 3,000 years back in time.
Recently, I took my mother to The Holy Land Experience. Would you allow me to share a bit of what we saw…what we heard…what we experienced?
Men and women in period costume greeted us at the Front Gate of the complex. “Shalom,” they said.
“Shalom, shalom,” I returned as the Middle Eastern custom dictates. And then, we were “in the Holy Land.”
The first thing I wanted to do was head to the back of the property where the Scriptorium opens its doors for a one-hour walk-through presentation of the world famous Van Kampen collection of literally thousands of manuscripts, scrolls, and other religious artifacts dating back to 2,200 BC. Guided by lights and an “unseen narrator,” we entered thirteen rooms, each expressive of different eras, each with sealed cases displaying ancient tablets of stone, papyrus scrolls, and parchment as well as other artifacts, such as the key to the cell where John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. We “witnessed” the life-sacrificing gift of what we so often take for granted, The Bible. The Holy Word of God on pages, generation after generation, sacrifice after sacrifice.
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