Monday, December 17, 2007

The Timna Tabernacle, Thanks JNF

This is by Ellen W. Horowitz

The Reversible, Customized, Missionized Timna Tabernacle, Thanks JNF

Some of you may have been to Park Timna in the Southern Arava. The project,
sponsored by Keren Kayemet (JNF), has quite a lot to offer. One of the featured attractions
- which appears on the Timna Park website -
is a guided tour of the reconstruction of the Tabernacle, where - for an additional cost- you can learn about the roots of the Israelites in the desert.

It seems that quite a few Torah observant Jews (including Yeshiva and school groups) as well as Bible-believing Christians have been there and done that.
It seems that more than a few secular Jews have been taken on a magical missionary tour off the beaten track.

One alert Israeli forwarded a complaint to Jerusalem Councilwoman Mina Fenton, after he brought his family to the exhibit and discovered that Christian missionaries were the official tour guides (he became suspect when a overly dressed and zealous female worker seemed to indicate that the model Tabernacle was an authentic holy structure).

And so I decided to investigate...

The model of the Tabernacle was designed in Germany by divinity school students per the specifications outlined in Exodus and Leviticus. The Europeans designers did not try to incorporate rabbinical interpretations.

"As a basic method to such questions, the right idea is to stay strict to the facts. Stick to what you know. All the other ideas and interpretations are fine, but it should be clear that they are
not from the original data."

It was purchased by representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention - in cooperation with Michael Lavie, a secular kibbutznik and the Director of the Timna National Park.

Herbby Geer, the Southern Baptist Convention representative who facilitated the Timna Tabernacle deal said, ³When Jews tour the tabernacle, it stimulates their interest and encourages them to go back to the Old Testament for more research and study. That¹s
very exciting for us because we believe that as people seek the Lord He¹ll reveal Himself to them.²... and Geer noted that ³there is a messianic movement [in Israel]... but it¹s still a very, very small percentage.²

[Note: since that article was written in 2004 the Messianic Jewish population in Israel has more than doubled from 7000 adherents to more than 15,000]

Geer's feeling are echoed by a number of blogs written by Christian visitors, tour guides and Messianic Jewish volunteers who work at the site.
The following is a sample:

Our purpose for visiting Eilat for four weeks was to work on a nearby project
known as the Tabernacle. Out in the desert very near where the children of
Israel would have passed on their way out of Egypt, a full scale Tabernacle has
been set up for people to tour. When the Jewish people see the replica they tend
to identify with a part of their history and worship in a new way. We worked on
many maintenance projects around the Tabernacle and Josh even gave a few tours.
In Eilat, we also worked in cooperation with some missionaries and participated
in a very strong and active congregation of believers.

In 2006, Herbby Geer and his wife Anne - the representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention- who brought the Tabernacle to Israel were denied visa renewals by the Ministry of Interior.
You can read more about the missionary intentions of the Baptist Convention at

After reading a particularly Christian slant on the Tabernacle, which was fed to Israelis working at the Timna site - along with a copy of the New Testament and picture of Jesus - I gave the Timna Park office a call and spoke to the secretary Deborah.

I told her that I had heard rumors that the Tabernacle tours were being conducted by Messianic Jews. She asked me to hold for a minute ( a rather loud and lengthy exchange of words ensued before Deborah returned to the phone).

Deborah told me that the Tabernacle tours are conducted by Jews, but that they believe in Jesus. Per my request, she gave me the name of the organization and amuta in charge of the
Tabernacle, as well the phone number of one of the current Tabernacle tour guides.

She made it clear that Timna Park is under the auspices of Keren Kayemet (JNF), but the Tabernacle display is a private endeavor and costs an additional NIS 15/person to enter - on top of the park entry fee.

I then called the Tabernacle tour guide - who made it clear that Park Timna officials make the arrangements for all Tabernacle tours (you follow me?) She told me that the Tabernacle display was built by a European Christian Bible School and then sold to the group which currently runs the operation. She told me that Messianic Jews, Southern Baptists and other non-Jews are
involved in the administration (she said that she herself is not Jewish). She told me that she gives Jewish groups a lecture straight from Sefer Shmot, and that she gives Christian groups a spin according to their beliefs.

This customized approach to Jewish history is backed up by the Israir Airlines site...
A fairly new feature at Timna Park is a re-creation of the Old Testament Tabernacle that the Children of Israel carried during their 40-year sojourn in the desert, after having departed from Egypt. Built by a group of German theology students to the original measurements as they appear in the Book of Exodus, the Tabernacle, located adjacent to Solomon¹s Pillars, is an
attraction for both Christian and Jewish groups and individuals, with tours and explanations adapted to the beliefs and cultural contexts of the specific visitors.

But I wonder what happens when a mixed group of Jews and Christians shows up...
Strange place that Timna Park...

Note: JNF (The Jewish National Fund) and the Israel Antiquities Authority are actively meeting with Evangelical leaders to launch a number of Biblical theme Park projects throughout Israel.


Daniel Greenfield said...

now we're seeing repetitions from the time of the shoftim, maybe they can fund golden calves to be set up outside it too

Batya said...

Only shofitm? I've been sure we're in Shmuel's time, with Saul fighting David.

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