Food Feature: Holy Moses!
The Holy Land Experience parts the way for a different type of Orlando pilgrimage
When Orlando visitors think Magic Kingdom, the "magic" doesn't typically involve water turned to wine, crucifixions or resurrections.
Usually, the organization that parents and travelers are tithing and cursing is the Mouse Kingdom. But thanks to the Holy Land Experience — a "Christ-honoring Christian venue" and "living biblical history museum" — tourists who prefer to avoid the mice and merchandising plague of biblical proportions can get closer to another kingdom: the Kingdom of Heaven. One group's vision of it, that is.
The Holy Land Experience is a $16 million, 15-acre undertaking of Zion's Hope, a ministry whose website presents its purpose as "a simple one, yet also bold, direct and far-reaching. Zion's Hope seeks to graciously proclaim to the Jewish people their need for personal salvation through Jesus the Messiah and to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to all men regardless of race, religion, gender, education or national origin." And the Holy Land does just that, offering the chance for anyone and everyone to re-evaluate their beliefs (as potentially wrong), as long as they have $29.75, $19 after 4 p.m., or $10 if home schooled (preferably sheltered and highly susceptible as well).
There are a lot of fantastical Orlando claims: Orlando is the most visited destination. Orlando has America's largest McDonald's. Orlando has a Ripley's Believe It Or Not! museum. Now, thanks to the Holy Land, Orlando has another item that would fit in Ripley's and the Guinness Book of World Records were it not already happily set amidst the imported camels and goats, and fig, olive and date trees of ancient Israel.
The Holy Land houses the Jerusalem Model — A.D. 66, the world's largest indoor model of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Right next to the largest gift shop of the world's largest indoor model of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Ah, commercialism and the church, so close. After the tour, on which our guide advised us to completely avoid the clueless media, because "the only headlines God means you to read are the ones in the Bible," I was famished. Would it be a Jaffa dog, Goliath burger, Arabian chicken wrap or Bedouin burger? As the sign outside the snack bar says, "My soul thirsts for the living God." And an overpriced Coke. Thank you, God, for the Oasis Palms Cafe.
But that's not all! There's Calvary's Garden Tomb (spoiler: He's risen, it's empty), as well as a six-story re-creation of Herod's Temple of the Great King, featuring theatrical re-enactments and films showcasing scenes of crucifixions and sacrifices and Romans at the gates that will scare the hell out of — or Jesus into — kids. And there's the Scriptorium Center for Biblical Antiquities — a perfectly scripted experience, guided and timed so you won't miss a minute of the single right way to perceive God, the Bible and ancient Israel.