|Sigh...not my best look. I look like I have crazy pink hair.|
Next best thing? The Holy Land Experience in Orlando.
Granted, it's a bit commercial, but we spent 5-6 hours walking around, learning and enjoying ourselves. The park is landscaped with middle eastern plant life and they have some pretty neat exhibits.
The last time I came with my family (when I was in high school), it was near Easter, so we went to more of the shows. This time, they had a Christmas show, as well as a few shorter dramatic productions. They are a little on the charismatic side, so if that's not your thing, just stick to the exhibits. We enjoyed the one show we went to, but didn't feel compelled to attend the rest. Although, I would have liked the forgiveness themed dramatic production based on the lives of 3 Bible characters. Unfortunately, that show overlapped with the talk a lecturer did at the model of Jerusalem and we really wanted to hear that as well.
The lecturer was very knowledgeable about Jewish history and pointed out the major parts of the city as he told us how they fit into Jesus' life and times. If you're a history buff, you would really enjoy this!
Another exhibit we enjoyed was the Scriptorium. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures. It was a guided tour of how the Bible came to be and how it has been preserved, from the early parchments and scrolls of ancient history to the beautifully bound onion skin leaves of today. It was incredible to learn that the quite extensive collection of Bibles and manuscripts (in many different languages!) belonged to one person. Wow. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and I highly recommend it!
We stopped for lunch at the cafe and I had a Goliath burger (I know, I know, me and the beef lately...), which was just as big as it sounds. Really good though, and totally worth my $6. M went middle eastern and had the Taste of Israel plate, which consisted of lamb kebabs and a couple sides.
Then, we made our way back to the Wilderness Tabernacle exhibit, which was pretty cool. It's a replica of what the tabernacle probably would have looked like. The lecturers (dressed as priests), gave us the run-down of how each of the items in the tabernacle area were used and the importance of the priest's duties. I loved how they also mentioned that Jesus was the final sacrifice and no more offerings would have to be given for sin - the veil was torn in half, showing that God was now accessible to every individual and priests were not required to plead for others. Inspiring.
And what theme park would be complete without a gift shop? Shofar purchase optional.