The New Christian Traveler's Guide to the Holy Land Paperback – Jan 1 2006
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About the Author
CHARLES H. DYER has traveled extensively in the Middle East and is a licensed guide in Israel. He is also provost and dean of education at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
GREGORY A. HATTEBERG is a licensed guide in Israel. He serves as director of admissions at Dallas Theological Seminary, teaches a course in Physical and Historical Geography of Israel, and is a teacher and seminary leader for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries.
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The New Christian Traveler's Guide to the Holy Land promises much, but delivers only some. If you have never travelled outside of the US, and are preparing to go to the Holy Land as part of an organized trip, this would be an amazing book to get your hands on several weeks (if not months) before your trip in order to prepare...not only in terms of packing and knowledge, but also as spiritual preparation for your trip. The book does a good job of talking about how to get a passport, making sure you thought of what you should (and shouldn't) take with you, and some solid travel tips. Where it excels is in presenting an easy daily Bible study format for the 4 weeks before your trip, as well as giving you some history and Bible references for key locations in the Holy Land. For example, for Jerusalem it states, "Jerusalem, the capital of ancient Israel, stands as one of the most important cities in all the world. But its importance comes ultimately from God. It is "the city the Lord has chosen ... in which to put his Name" (1 Kings 14:21; see also 2 Chron. 6:6). From its selection as "the City of David" to the eternal glory of the "new Jerusalem," this city occupies a primary place on God's work on earth." It then lists 5 pages of places in the Bible where Jerusalem is mentioned. Every location in the book follows the same format. Bethany states "Bethany was a small village on the east slope of the Mount of Olives, about two miles from Jerusalem. Jesus often spent the night in Bethany during His visits to Jerusalem." It then lists the 13 times in the New Testament where Bethany is mentioned.
This is great spiritual preparation for where you might be going, but by no means tells you "where to go, what to see, what not to miss" as advertised on the cover. Spiritual preparation is great, but it's also good to prepare the mind (what about the status of Jerusalem today, how can I get around town, are there museums are in town?) and the body (where can I sleep, what foods should I try, can I run on the streets in town for exercise?). For example, it's not unreasonable for the Christian Traveler to want to Via Dolorosa and retrace the steps of Christ...but no mention of that at all in this book. Nor of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. No mention of the Western Wall or Temple Mount, or what significance Jewish and Muslim sites in the city may have for the Christian Traveler. Are you a Christian Traveler who found your way to Jerusalem, and want to know how to get to Bethlehem (which doesn't seem unreasonable for a Christian Traveler to want)? No information on that at all. In fact, no specific sites (other than cities), roads, hotels, restaurants, churches...well, or anything else, is even mentioned in this book. As close as you get is this, "Lunches may or may not be included in your tour. (Check your travel brochure.) Dinner will be ample." This also shows the predominant, but unspoken, bias in this book--that you will be travelling as part of an organized tour group, and all those "details" have been determined for you. The book makes several references to your tour guides or your tour operator. If you're going solo, or without an organized tour group at least, you'll be hopelessly lost if this is your only guide.
That's not to say the book is entirely worthless, there is much goodness to be found here. Reading the passages about Bethany, for example, will make the experience of being there far richer with preparation than you would get if you simply went there but didn't know what the significance of the place was...but then again, if you're part of an organized tour, you'll probably already know you're close to Jerusalem, and the tour guide will probably tell you Jesus spent time there and might even mention one or two of the passages.
At the end of the day, this book is the equivalent of someone saying, "we'll pray for you." Not that it isn't appreciated, and even useful and desired...but sometimes you need something more than just a prayer. Prayer is good, and the book will help you with that, but you would be a fool to buy this as your only guide for Israel. Recommended with significant reservations.
I found so much to help me. I have now taken the trip and am going
over some of the things written. It was surprising because I was able to meet the author before the trip and he gave me many pointers. He is remarkable.
The Introduction to the book has all sorts of practical information: travel safety, tips for travelers, packing list, information about weather, shopping, telephones, electric appliances, obtaining a passport, overcoming jet lag, helpful web sites, how we should conduct ourselves respectfully in areas of different religious beliefs, and two unique sections: a four-week schedule of Bible reading and prayer--to prepare for Israel, --to Prepare for Egypt and Jordan, --To Prepare for Greece and Turkey and the second section, A Four-Week Bible Series to Prepare a Group Spiritually for a Trip to Israel.
There's a section in the back for listing your photos and your tour notes, something I wish I had done. You have no idea how helpful that would be until you get back home and try to remember, did we go straight to Beersheva from Eliat, or was that the day we went to Petra? That section in this book is there for a purpose. Write it down. You'll be glad you did. I started out right at the beginning, but stopped making photo and journal entries on the 2nd day, mainly because of jet lag. I was also so interested in watching out the window every second so I wouldn't miss even one part of the trip, and then fell into bed exhausted after dinner, not wanting to bother with my journal entries then either, but I wish I had.
This book is an introduction or more of a reminder of why a certain site is important to you from what you've read in your Bible over the years, a quick reference, and my favorite feature, Bible scriptures to go along with each site description!
I would recommend using this book in conjunction with a more detailed source of information about the sites you are going to be visiting. Then make your own notes on the pages in this book. They've left room on most pages for notes.
Each site includes a short page of information and usually a picture or map. I did go through before the trip and added a few notes to some of the places of something I wanted to remember to see or do, but I just didn't do enough of that. It's really too late once your trip starts, because of time constraints, logistics, and jet lag. Do it as you are planning your trip.
This is the end of my 'short' review, but I'm going to continue with a few more details for anyone who is interested.
I should have taken a taxi back to spend time at the archeological dig at the City of David. That's a note I would have made in this book if I had been wise. At Masada, I wish I had looked down and over to the right a little and I would have had a better look at the place where the Romans built the assault ramp for their final attack, etc.
Here's another example. This book only briefly covers sites like the archeological excavations of the City of David outside the Old City of Jerusalem. It mentions that those places were at that location, but doesn't mention that they are currently under excavation. That may be because the book was written before some of these sites were found. I'm impressed though that it does point out where the City of David was and how it was expanded northward during the time of King Solomon. You have to see other sources to get all of the details of any of this, of course, and make notes about it so you can look for it when you get there.
I found that I often wanted to walk off on my own to explore a little, out of range of the tour guide. The guides' explanations usually, but not always, were helpful. There were a couple of places that I missed seeing what I would have dearly loved to have seen, just because I didn't remember or know it was there until I returned home and it wasn't brought to our attention by the guides while we were there. They couldn't possibly know what would be important to each and every one of us, and there wasn't enough time for them to alert us, especially since that was the time for us to experience, feel, see, and touch it, not hear a lecture about it. Add your own personal notes of things you are interested in seeing to the very concise pages of this book. You'll be glad you did. I did that, but just didn't do enough of it.
I can tell how much I used this book at the time, because I just got it out, realizing I hadn't reviewed it on here, and found all sorts of pamphlets and brochures from the different sites. That reminds me that of the several books I had with me, this was the one I was referencing when I visited those places.
There are detailed sections for sites in Part 2: The Land of Israel, which includes The Twelve Tribes of Israel, Map of the Twelve Tribes, The History of Israel, The Herods of the Bible, Outline of Bible History, and the sites: Arad, Ashkelon, Azekah, Beersheva, Beth Horon, Beth Shan/Scythopolis, Beth Shemesh, Bethany, on down to Tiberias, Timna, and Zin (Wilderness of). Part 3 is the Land of Egypt. Part 4 is The Land of Greece, which includes Let's Go Shopping with Paul, then on to Athens, Corinth, Crete, Patmos, and Philippi. Part 5 is The Land of Jordan, Part 6 is The Land of Turkey, with a brief guide to the History of Asia Minor, the Seven Churches of Revelation 2-3, Ephesus, Laodicea, Pergamum/Bergama, Philadelphia/Alasehir, Sardis/Sart, Smyrna/Izmir, Thyatira/Akhisar.
Using one of my favorites, Beersheba, for an example, there is a geographical description of it having been, practically speaking, the southernmost city of Israel in the Old Testament. When the writers of Scripture wanted to speak of all Israel, they would say, "from Dan to Beersheba". I had seen that in the Bible but never made the connection.
Then the section on Beersheba goes on to give scriptural references and a small, but important picture of the Well of Beersheba. The scriptural references are categorized by Patriarchal Period, Period of Conquest, Divided Kingdom, Single Kingdom, and Restoration (Nehemiah).
This was just enough information for me to review before reaching the site. Afterwards I always had more questions.
I remember being out on the road and passing signs that sounded familiar. I was able to grab this book and see if it was one of the sites described in the book. In some cases it was there and in other cases not, of course. It's also helpful when a tour guide tells you what they think you should hear rather than a fact, which happened to me a couple of times. I didn't make a fuss about it. "That isn't really 'the' site of... It's actually a contemporary person instead of the one in the Bible, so we aren't going there." The truth was, this was the Biblical site, not a contemporary one, and we weren't going there because it is in a place that sometimes has a few breakouts of violence, so getting there is a huge problem due to major security, and takes hours.
I'm glad I opened this book today and found all those brochures and pamphlets from different sites. I had forgotten they were there. I had also forgotten how interesting this book is after the trip. It's going to the top of my "to read again" stack.
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