04 January 2006

A coalition of U.S. evangelical groups, led by none other than Pat Robertson, is negotiating with the Israeli government to lease 125 acres of land in Galilee — possibly at no charge from Israel’s ministry of tourism — in order to build the Galilee World Heritage Park, a biblical theme park featuring gardens, amphitheatres and religious exhibitions, to be located in the region where Jesus is thought to have performed miracles. Though many Israelis distrust the land deal, wary that the evangelicals’ ultimate goal in building the Bible park is the conversion of Jews, and skeptical of what appears to be the consummation of the relationship between Israel and the U.S. Christian right; and Arab-Israeli Christian communities which own land in Galilee areoffended that they weren’t consulted about the deal; Israeli Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson said the center was necessary as, “‘There is no central place today in Israel for the evangelical Christians.’” Yet another complication is the land itself, just two miles from territory that Syria still claims as its own, and demands must be returned before any peace deal with Israel.