The Holy Land is about to get a little bit holier. The Israel Bible Valley Society is opening an “educational park”– so called by its website – based on the Hebrew Bible in the foothills just south of Jerusalem near Bet Shemesh. The park, called “Israel Bible Valley,” will cover an astonishing 25,000 acres of land allocated to it by the Israeli government. One of the more interesting points of the park is that the land it will be built on is deeply rooted in Jewish history.
“There will be hikes from Israel Bible Valley [IBV] to nearby areas where famous Biblical events took place,” said Dr. Efraim Warshaw, former rabbi at Beth El of La Jolla and current director of resources and development at IBV. “Take Samson and Delilah. Samson’s home is not far from there. It’s also close to the route that Joshua and the spies took to scope out the land.”
IBV is meant to be a large-scale interactive theme park that will engage both young and old to educate them about the Bible and life in Biblical times. Park visitors will be treated to reenactments of Biblical stories throughout the park in environments conducive to creating the feeling that the spectacle is real. Park-goers will be able to stroll through fields, orchards, vineyards and farms being tended to, using conventional Biblical tools and techniques. The park will feature a large village created to look and feel as if it were pulled right out of the pages of the Bible; visitors will be invited to buy fruits and vegetables grown and harvested on farms in the park, assist in the harvesting of grapes and pressing of wine, basket-weaving, pressing of olives to make olive oil, and watch glass blowers, potters, and leather makers hard at work. The park will also feature many other events and activities, including puppet shows of Bible stories for children, opportunities to participate in digs at more than 150 archeological sites from the Bible, hikes and tours to Biblical sites around the park and prophets such as Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah and Amos wandering the park.
The IBV Society sees the park as a chance for Israelis and the three million tourists who journey to Israel each year to experience the Bible in an exciting and hands-on way. This “living museum,” as Dr. Warshaw described it, will be based on the Renaissance Faire in the way it will strive for accuracy, authenticity and interactivity.
“IBV is being planned by historians, Bible scholars both Christian and Jewish, as well as architects and city planners,” Dr. Warshaw explained, “and will be extremely authentic, meaning it is rooted in the land of the Bible. This authenticity will be demonstrated foremost in the model Biblical village, which is what I would recommend first to any park visitor. The village will be surrounded by all the farms, which will be growing and harvesting the crops described in the Bible: pomegranates, grapes, wheat, barley, many things like that. They will all be planted throughout the valley and grow in orchards or plantations, whatever is necessary to create a real Biblical feeling.”
Rabbi David Wolpe, the Chairman of the Advisory Council for IBV who was named as America’s most influential rabbi in Newsweek’s April 2012 issue, sees IBV as an important bridge between today’s modern youth and a world that existed thousands of years ago. “Young people today find it difficult to relate 21st century culture with a book written thousands of years ago,” Rabbi Wolpe said, “yet the Bible is amazingly as relevant to our modern world as it was to ancient Israel. IBV will help a new generation from around the world to discover the Bible for itself.”
IBV has already received several glowing endorsements from high-profile figures in Israeli society, including Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netenyahu, prominent Israeli writer Amos Oz, former Knesset member and current Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Yael Dayan and the Israeli Ministers of Tourism and Social Welfare, Stas Misezhnikov and Isaac Herzog, respectively.
“A half million tourists a year… will be exposed to the foundation stories and Biblical literature of our people, as well as the flora and fauna, archaeology and architecture, farming, and settlement culture of ancient times in the Land of the Bible,” Netanyahu wrote in an endorsement letter from 2009. “We seek the support of influential community leaders in the US and across the world to join us in making this historic undertaking a true success.”
In a time when spirituality and religious interest appear to be waning, Israel Bible Valley is presenting a unique solution to Jewish families seeking to keep the history of their people alive in the minds of their children. Surrounded by Biblical villagers, walking through ancient orchards, listening to prophets spread the word of God, IBV park attendees may very well find themselves believing they really are walking through the Holy Land of old.
Readers can find additional information on IBV at www.israelbiblevalley.com.
Israel Bible Valley Fast Facts
Opening spring 2013 – Stage 1
• Being built in stages, with the first stage to open in Spring 2013
• Constructed over 6 years, to be completed in 2018
• Encompassing 25,000 acres between Jerusalem and Bet Shemesh