holyland_280The Holy Land Experience is set in tropical Orlando under characteristic palm trees and Florida sunshine, a stone’s throw away from world famous destinations such as Universal Studios, Walt Disney World and Sea World. The Holy Land Experience attracts 250,000 to 300,000 visitors per year.

Jewish-born Baptist minister Marvin Rosenthal founded The Holy Land Experience that opened its gates to the public in February 2001. Fiscal troubles and debt lead to the Christian theme park being purchased in June 2007 by Trinity Broadcasting Network, a major American Christian television organisation, which instigated a major makeover of the property.

There is no fairy floss or rides, nor are there cartoon characters or clowns. At the Holy Land there are Bible stories, replica souks from Jerusalem, Dead Sea scroll stories, prayer gardens and Saviors and Messiahs preaching and walking about. In case visitors get hungry, they can eat with Jesus at the Last Supper scheduled, twelve times daily. Guests can be seen taking the opportunity to talk with Jesus and costumed staff members all over the park, posing for photos and walking around the various exhibits that attempt to give an impression of ancient Jerusalem.

The Passion Of Jesus Christ is a live drama show and centrepiece of the Holy Land that illustrates the events leading up to his death, crucifixion and resurrection. A bloodied Jesus stumbles past the children in the front rows of the crowd, touching their feet and begging for mercy as Roman soldiers kick and beat him until he is hung from the Cross. Jesus dies twice daily in a 45-minute show that includes prayers, dancing and gospel songs. Visitors join in and demonstrate their devotion and commitment to the faith.

Before departure, shoppers can select from a range of souvenirs including jewellery, clothing, books and DVDs, teaching materials, gifts and even a selection of health products in The Shofar Shop.

Paul Jeffers