Walking the Bible ~ Bruce Feiler ~ 01/04 ~ Religion Related Books
December 9, 2003 - 04:21 pm

Walking the Bible
Bruce Feiler

A trip through the promised land


Bruce Feiler has been called the new George Plimpton. With his journalistic curiosity in tow, Feiler has managed to infiltrate unique areas of culture, emerging successfully with books that tell an insider's story.

Feiler's latest, Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses, is probably more scholarly in nature than his previous works, but certainly no less a testimony to accepting the journalistic challenge. Part travelogue, part religious history, part geological survey, part commentary on contemporary Mideast sociopolitical realities, Walking the Bible finds Feiler traipsing through the Holy Land, linking hard archaeological facts to the historic people and places found in the Old Testament's first five books. From Jerusalem to Cairo, from the Red Sea to the Nile, from Mount Ararat to Mount Nebo, Feiler wends his way through some of the region's political hot spots, interviewing pilgrims, immigrants, soldiers, farmers, priests and scholars, in his attempt to gain perspective on the spiritual dimensions of Moses' Promised Land.

Martin Brady is an editor, writer and critic. He lives in Nashville.
Author photo by Andrew Feiler.

Discussion Questions

Maps of the Exodus

More Exodus Maps

Links to articles and photos

The route of the Exodus

The Patriarch's Tombs of Machpelah
Click here and
Type "Machpelah" in the search box

Contact the Author

Comments: write to Ann

Discussion Schedule
  • Jan 5 thru Jan 10-Introduction and Book 1
  • Jan 11 thru Jan 16-Book 2
  • Jan 17 thru Jan 22-Book 3
  • Jan 23 thru Jan 27-Book 4
  • Jan 28 thru Feb 1-Book 5

  • To be scheduled for discussion on SeniorNet's Books, a book must have a Books Discussion Leader who has committed to leading the discussion and a quorum (minimum of 3 although the Discussion Leader may ask for a higher number.)

    B&N Bookstore | Books Main Page | Suggest a Book/Discussion

    Ann Alden
    December 9, 2003 - 04:33 pm
    We will be starting this discussion on Jan 5th. If you want to read and discuss with us, please let us know here. Thanks!

    December 10, 2003 - 09:57 am
    I purchased this book at the same time I purchased Abraham.

    December 10, 2003 - 10:05 am
    I have read both books, so I am also interested in the discussion.


    December 10, 2003 - 11:13 am
    I was disappointed in Abraham, but this book could be interesting. I'll try to get over to the bookstore and check to see if it would be of interest. I have recently acquired a book of maps of that area of the world.

    Ann Alden
    December 12, 2003 - 08:46 am
    So glad you will join us in January!

    Louise, I am looking on the web for maps to put up so if you know of any, please put a link in here or email it to me if you prefer.

    December 12, 2003 - 10:08 am
    I will join this discussion.

    December 15, 2003 - 03:18 pm
    This afternoon I began reading my copy of Walking the Bible. So far I find it quite enoyable. I think it will help to bring the Bible to life. As I have gotten older I often wonder about how it must have been to live in that structure for over a year.

    December 17, 2003 - 11:56 am
    I don't have the book yet, but will go to the book store and read a little to see if I would want to buy it. I think my sister, who has lived and taught in the Holy Land might want to join this discussion, too.

    December 18, 2003 - 07:58 pm
    Got a copy today at Borders. The store was jammed, and it took about 25 minutes to pay for this and my gift purchases. Looks like lots of people are buying books for gifts.

    December 20, 2003 - 10:27 am
    I've started reading "Walking the Bible," and am loving it. That's what's so great about the SN discussions; this is a book I would probably never have found or chosen to read if I had not discovered it here.

    Ann Alden
    December 20, 2003 - 04:14 pm
    Welcome, Louise, I am planning on putting up some questions and I like yours-what is must have been like to live in that structure.

    I am glad that you plan on joining us here, horselover. And, your sister, too? Good one!

    December 30, 2003 - 10:16 am
    A new book that might be of interest, reviewed Dec 21 in the NY Times:

    Portraits of Biblical, Talmudic, and Hasidic Masters by Elie Wiesel.

    Ann Alden
    December 31, 2003 - 06:53 am
    PatW. has done a wonderful job of setting up the header for "Walking the Bible" which opens on Jan 5th. Thank you, Ms Pat!!The more I read in this book, the more interested I become in the areas covered. What I wish for the new year? That I had a giant wall map for following the footsteps of the Israelites. What fun!

    Happy New Year to all of the SN family!!

    December 31, 2003 - 01:04 pm
    Ann how are you breaking down the reading of this story for the month? I've got maps up the gump stump here, tracing ole Abes journey the best way that I can.

    Ann Alden
    January 1, 2004 - 11:20 am
    I think Pat will be putting up the schedule today. Did you find any maps that were printable? I have one in the header that pretty good but would love to see more. Many of the maps that I looked up were in B&w and difficult to see. There's is a nice one somewhere in the links of the tribal breaddown throughout Mesopotamia. I will look for it.

    January 1, 2004 - 11:34 am
    The schedule is up..

    It has been an interesting header to work on... Ann's links are fabulous... Of course, I had to check them out... and then it was hard to get back to the business at hand.

    January 1, 2004 - 01:00 pm
    The idea of a giant wall map for "Walking the Bible does sound wonderful. I wonder if the National Geographic ever had such a map. I can't seem to do much reading before I have to grab my Bible and a note pad for comments. The type of map I have always wished for is kind of an overlay with the way things are now with the way things were. Kind of like the ones they have in anatomy books for human beings.

    January 1, 2004 - 03:28 pm
    TIME Magazine has an interesting selection of materials on Abraham's Journey (including a colorful map): http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101020930/

    LOUISE - your wish for a specific type of map might be a good suggestion for National Geographic's editors. I've written to them several times when I'm tracking something specific - usually for my university classes or something my students are looking for - and they either have it in archives or consider how else to find it. Perhaps a note to the Editors would result in the type of map you envision.

    January 1, 2004 - 06:40 pm
    Ann - the maps that I've printed out are from my Encarta program and have many of the cities included.

    January 1, 2004 - 10:24 pm
    Sounds like a good place to lurk for a while, at least until I find the book. Alf...I knew I would run into you some where in Books if I kept trying.

    January 2, 2004 - 05:47 am
    Hey there cmac. It's good to see you in here. Hop over to your library and join on in with us. You'd better hurry south, quickly, we are planning a move.

    January 2, 2004 - 11:22 am
    I found my copy of the book in Walden Books which is only about a block away from where I live. It has a soft cover. I had a little trouble finding it because the store had moved them. It's good to have your own copy because you can write in it.

    January 2, 2004 - 01:38 pm
    I'll have to look over the book before deciding to join in, but I did go ahead and print out the map from Mahlia's link to Time Magazine. Just in case. I have Encarta also; I'll check out their map as well. I do like to have a perspective in 'traveling' as to where I am in ref. to other locales. ...Babi

    Ann Alden
    January 2, 2004 - 04:17 pm
    The maps up above provide some interesting paths through the middle East. There is one of Abraham's journey from Sechem to Bethel to Sinai. There is one under the link on the right of the header. We have maps for Abraham's journey in an old(2000) NG magazine that we used in that discussion last March.

    Ann Alden
    January 2, 2004 - 04:24 pm
    How about this one? Abraham map You have to scroll to the bottom of the page and then click on the map to enlarge it.

    Ann Alden
    January 2, 2004 - 05:15 pm
    Here's another incredible site with maps of everything in the OT.

    Incredible collection of ancient site maps

    January 3, 2004 - 12:31 am
    I have a gift certificate for Amazon. I'll just grab the book from them, I hope. Andy where are you headed. C

    Ann Alden
    January 3, 2004 - 12:50 pm
    Does anyone want to see some fantastic pictures of Hebron and the Matriarch's tombs? Try this and do follow their instructions for a download of any of the picures. I just found this site this afternoon.

    The Patriarch's tombs of Machpelah

    Ann Alden
    January 3, 2004 - 08:07 pm
    When you click on the above link, you will get a page where you have to put in the search box what you want to see. If you type in the Machpelah and click on search, you will get 26 wonderful enlargeable photos of the tombs of the Patriarchs along with some interesting history as to what is going on now at that site in Hebron.

    January 4, 2004 - 10:26 am
    I have listed the link to find pictures of The Patriarch's tombs of Machpelah ... The pictures are outstanding.

    Ann Alden
    January 4, 2004 - 11:42 am
    Thanks, Pat. I appreciate all the help that you have given me with the header and hope you consider joining us for the discussion. I have really been more and more affected by this book than I expected. Just finished the first part and am just sitting here cogitating on the meaning of it all. Wow!

    Ann Alden
    January 5, 2004 - 10:06 am
    Is today not Jan 5th? Aren't we supposed to be beginning this discussion? Where are we-the posters-the DL? I think the holidays have finally gotten to me and here I am just coming in to this site at 11:45am. Sorry about that, folks.

    What do I want to say about the book so far?? It has me more and more confused because of the way its put together. We all talked about a map but we would have to have a map with the trails of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses just to start with. When I had finished the first part, I began to wonder what was going on here.

    Is Feiler saying that he feels at home in the holy places especially in the Holy Land because he is of Jewish descent?

    And, if that is what he is revealing to us, should we all have a place in the world where we can feel the spirit of our ancestors.

    For instance, my family is mostly from Ireland and Germany. If I could visit these places, would I have the feeling of having come home?

    Did anyone feel the excitement of the archaeologists and the history of the Bible being somewhat true?

    Were you shaken by the last archaeologist, who says that the Bible is not a book of history but a book of faith.

    Were you thrilled to read Gabi Burky's tale about the young boy finding the pots beneath the stones?

    And, that because of the boy's find, the excavation became more centered so that they ended up with what Babi considers his most important find-the two silver cylinders, which when unrolled reveal the priestly benediction from the book of Numbers?

    And, ten years later, the young boy, Nathan, shows up at one of his tour talks?

    Last night, I watched a program about DNA and the Pharoahs. Will the archeaologists be able to find any traces of DNA that reaveal the Israelites??

    And how does this play into our book? I know that an archeaoligist tells Feiler that they have traced the DNA of the priests, the Cohanim, and found that for the past three thousand years, the Cohanim have passed down the same y-chromasome.

    January 5, 2004 - 11:18 am
    I read this book some time ago and will just be following along......

    Ann Alden
    January 5, 2004 - 01:19 pm
    Hi tigerlily, so glad someone is in here. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the readers/posters but I will send them a reminder and see what happens. Do keep looking in and do feel free to comment.

    By the by, how did you like "The Middle of Everywhere"?

    January 5, 2004 - 01:21 pm
    I bought this book after meeting and listening to Bruce Feiler at the Sarasota Book Festival last year. I much prefer this read to Abraham.

    There is so much to talk about in just these opening chapters, isn't there? WATER, water everywhere. Water is the God and the Tigris and the Euphrates become the "birthplace of the Bible."

    Water- we have Noah's flood- one of the most remarkable stories in the Bible still after thousands of years. This ark has been sighted by many and i love Feiler's call that Noah's Ark was the first sighted UFO, that cracked me up! It's been sighted by darned near everyone (except Elvis) I think: historians, aviators, archeologists, Mountain climbers, photographers, ad nauseum.

    It's exciting to take this tour along with Bruce and Avner. He's my hero, this Avner guy: a clever politician at heart, a chieftain in his own right and a brilliant philosopher as well as a counselor to Bruce Feiler. You can really feel this man's love for the land as well as for the ancient history and all that it means.

    January 5, 2004 - 08:06 pm
    I just started reading the book, and haven't finished the whole first section. Found the book in the Bible Studies section at Borders.

    Ann, I think people of all faiths feel spiritually at home in the Holy Land. Perhaps that is why so many of them cannot stop fighting over it.

    I thought it was interesting that the author says he undertook this journey because he'd become separated from his faith and wanted the Bible to have meaning for him again. The old man, Parachute, says that "If we can prove that any of these stories happened, then people will believe in God." How many of you think that's true?

    The author says that the ongoing hunt to verify the biblical stories masks "the need to make contact with God." What would be considered proof of the story of Noah? Proof that there was rain for forty days and nights, that there was a flood, that there was an Ark, that all the animals fit on the Ark? Or would we need proof that God spoke to Noah and told him to build the Ark? In which case, we are back to the age-old problem of faith vs. verification.

    I can't wait to see what answers the author finds during his journey.

    January 6, 2004 - 06:18 am
    Horselover Wouldn't you think that the ongoing hunt to verify biblical stories would do just the opposite of "masking the need to make contact with God?" I personally feel that that need would bring one closer to God as one delves deeper and deeper into the Bible. Faith, in essence, is that acceptance of something we can't quite see but we feel and sense it's presence. In my case it is the supreme being of God! Searching for spirituality and undertaking the principles of the Bibles doctrine has advanced my understanding and appreciation of thousands of years of revelations. My son is a Southern Baptist minister and early on in his conversion he was quite over-zealous in his "born again" state. I truly understood the revelations that he had discovered but I did question his one-sided and narrow minded views of others' dogmas. So-- I began MY descent into the Bible to counter-argue his steadfastness. In time, I conceded that not only were our "isms" identical but that we were discussing the same principles. Throughout my journey, the only difference was that I had lived a few years longer to incorporate much more tolerance for other peoples ideas and the acceptance of various, differing viewpoints. I've always held that one does not get to be 60 without a bucket full of heartache and searching for God along the way.

    I understand Feiler's state of barrenous, I've been there. The Bible is a wonderful place to assuage those feelings of abandonement and desolation.

    I have a "book-discussion" friend here who reads her Bible every single day and there has not been one story, novel or discussion that she has not turned into the pages of her KJB and effectively quote/ cite or refer to what we are discussing.

    As usual, I digress! I think the greatest point of this story is that the Jews hold this Holy Land for themselves. The Christians believe that it is theirs because Christ walked the same path and the Arabs hold that their history entitles them to this small tract of land. Can an answer for these sects with this complicated history ever find peace and good will? I doubt it. Hate breeds more hatred. If we could just work on ONE man/child at a time.

    Anyway-- the answers lie within each one of us.

    January 6, 2004 - 06:46 am
    Here is a {{HUG}} for you as you have stated my feeling so well in your post, Thanks.

    (Alf says This story is that the Jews hold this Holy Land for themselves. The Christians believe that it is theirs because Christ walked the same path and the Arabs hold that their history entitles them to this small tract of land. Can an answer for these sects with this complicated history ever find peace and good will? I doubt it. Hate breeds more hatred. If we could just work on ONE man/child at a time.)

    Anyway-- the answers lie within each one of us.

    Yes this Land is Our Land, "All of us" as we are All searching for the same thing, just going different paths to find it

    Let there be Peace on Earth and Let it begin with me/us on S/N.

    Thank You my friend Ann for keeping on keeping on and "I Thank God for bringing you back to us."

    Ann Alden
    January 6, 2004 - 08:53 am
    I agree with you Alf and Ginger and Horselover, but, if there is proof of these claims and that proof is accessable, why not know its essence. I believe, like you, that aging makes one realize that it doesn't matter what path people follow to God. We are all in this life together and must keep on searching for or thanking our maker for this wonderful planet.

    Last night, I reread, the coverage on the Nile and its continuous production of silt that kept the earth cultivatable. But, the Aswan Dam, ended that. Technology raises is ugly head again.

    So, in your reading, so far, what has struck you as the most interesting part of Feiler's tour of the Holy Land. Mine was when the archeaologist showed him the archway at the top of the stairs and had him touch the wall. And, then he instructed him with the information and biblical reference that if this was a certain pharoah's arch/steps, then Abraham most likely walked up these steps. Incredible!

    You can see that I am most interested in the archeaology and history of this story as I find it giving enhanced credibility to the Bible. Again, technology arises! Wonderful!

    January 6, 2004 - 10:26 am
    Ann: You have brought up several good questions in your post from yesterday. I was very interested in your comments about the DNA of the Pharohs and the link to the Israelites. Technology indeed!

    Alf: I agree with what you say about each of us having to take a part. It has always been puzzling to me how the three different faiths will ever come to any agreement.

    Over the holidays I saw some TV specials on the Church of the Nativity and other sites in Bethlehem. How thrilling is must be to actually be in the place where Jesus was thought to be born. That is how the author must feel when he walked those steps where Abraham had walked.

    I suppose it all comes down to our own personal faith. I enjoy reading books like this one - it seems to make the Bible come alive.


    January 6, 2004 - 11:01 am
    I have No problem of proof what so ever.

    January 6, 2004 - 01:01 pm
    I wasn't able to visit here yesterday so I have read all these comments with great interest. One of the questions asked if Feiler feels at home because he is Jewish. I am inclined to think so. But then this is the area where human beings got started so I think for me that I have a feeling of being at home just reading about these travels.

    "Bible being somewhat true?" "Bible not a history book." But then neither is the Bible a science book. When studied carefully and comparing what is in the Bible with what is in the history or science books there is no contradiction. Feiler's book and all of the maps and illustrations do seem to make the Bible come to life and that can only enhance our faith.

    Ann Alden
    January 6, 2004 - 01:11 pm
    Louise, do you remember the comment on the number, 7, as meaning something important? I know that I read it but need an index to find these little memories of what I have read.

    January 6, 2004 - 01:31 pm
    Ann, as I have gotten older I often wonder what it must really have been like to live of these early people in the Bible and as far as Feiler's book is concerned it really isn't imprtant. Since the Bible doesn't really tell us this is where imagination has to be used. That ark was really big but there were only 8 humans living on it. If the animals were in a state of stasis then perhaps there wasn't a tremendous amount of work involved. But there had to be food and water which had to last over a year and what did they do for fun? These are just things I think about. Maybe someday we'll get to ask Noah and his family.

    January 6, 2004 - 06:17 pm
    The Tower of Babel

    1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, [1] they found a plain in Shinar [2] and settled there. 3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." 5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." 8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel [3] -because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

    Between Noah and Abraham, the author describes the story of Babel. I wonder about the God portrayed in this story. Men are peaceful and productive, building a city. And God looks at this and decides they are doing too well. He doesn't want them to get a feeling of too much success, so He "confuses" their language making it impossible for them to continue. They stop building and scatter over the face of the earth.

    What does this story say about the relationship of God to His children? What does it say about the God who later spoke to Abraham?

    Ann Alden
    January 7, 2004 - 01:54 pm
    Tower of Babel--notice that written here are the words, "let US go down and confuse them". Who was US? And, if the God of Abraham is the same diety that is spoken of here, what does the appearance of the three men to Abraham and Sarah in the desert mean?? Is this book slightly slanted towards the "three persons in one God" belief?? And, if so, what does the book of Islam tell us. Only believe in one God because that's all there is. ONE GOD!

    January 7, 2004 - 05:47 pm
    I have decided to read again parts of the Bible as I read this book, just as the author did. I came across this passage in Genesis, the story of the rainbow, which I think is really lovely:

    "And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." 17 So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth."

    Ann Alden
    January 8, 2004 - 12:20 am
    Your mentioning of 'what did they do for fun' caught my attention as I remembered watching a PBS program on the games that were played thousands of years ago and how the archeaologists were able to determine that. No, I don't think that the Bible can be categorized as easily as some would have us believe. To me, its a comfort to read and have at my side.

    Horselover, your quotes of the those wonderful works of God in the rainbow are just beautiful. What Bible do you use and exactly where are they--in Genesis?

    Alf, don't we all finally realize that our children will get where they are going, in spite of our thoughts, ideas and beliefs? Each of us is responsible for ourselves and must make our own way to a belief system of one kind or another. What would any of us do if we had been told that we had a practicing 'witch' in the family--only to learn that their ceremonies are similar to practicing faiths of long ago and that their strong motto is, "First of all, do no harm!" I believe this has become a popular among the New Agers.

    Does anyone remember the professor mentioned here who says that we have to take a new look at this ancient text because so much has changed in the past 100 years.

    Ginger, what a nice surprise to see you here.

    CMac, were you able to get started on your book and what do you think of it? We really want to hear from you.

    What has been a new discovery for any of you in the first part here? Have any of you ever been to the Holy Land? Did you feel as if you had just come home?

    Ann Alden
    January 8, 2004 - 12:28 am
    Here's a link to some good maps and history about Abraham. You have to scroll down the page to see all of this information. Abraham's People

    January 8, 2004 - 09:44 am
    Though I am not part of this group, I felt that the following article which appeared in today's NYTimes was important as a follow up to previous discussions of religions.


    January 8, 2004 - 11:10 am
    george- that link only took me to the "sign in" page.

    Ann Alden
    January 8, 2004 - 11:17 am
    George, what a chilling article. Certainly makes one want to know more about how to stop or curtail the terroists and I was gratified to see that this is just the first of 5 articles on what to do about WWIII. I am looking forward to the "rest of the story" in the following articles. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    Tomorrow, we wil begin Book 2 and see where that takes us in the Holy Land and other environs along with the author who seems to be realizing more and more that he is really in need of a better connection to his Jewish faith and its history.

    I think it might be a good idea for us to deal with discussion questions under the link up above. Lets just take the first five and see what each of our own impressions are about this book.

    Alf, signing in is free and then you can read the NYT online. I think you can choose to receive it online or just sign in occasionally to read an article.

    January 8, 2004 - 02:15 pm
    Ann, even tho' I don't have the book at this point, would it be all right if I read along (I do have a map!) and made whatever contributions might be relevant from some of my other sources?

    On your question about God saying, "Let us go down...", I always considered two possibilities there. One: God addressing the Angels of the Presence and saying "Let us go down". Two: "Us" used in the royal sense of 'us' or 'we'. (Like Queen Victoria saying "We are not amused!") Actually, I prefer the first possibility. Royalty used the terms to suggest themselves as representing the realm, and therefore bigger than any one individual. God would hardly need to do that, would he?

    It has been suggested that the original 'Tower of Babel' was perhaps an early ziggurat, those huge temple-towers. Seems reasonable. ...Babi

    Ann Alden
    January 8, 2004 - 03:31 pm
    Please feel free to join us, book or not, as I am sure that you have much to offer the discussion.The questions that I suggested are under the clickable titled "discussion questions".

    And, I agree, the first definition of "us" seems more probable and certainly not so 'hoity toity' as the second. LOL!

    January 8, 2004 - 07:19 pm
    I do Not have this book either due to there only being 24 hours in the day but I pass thru at least once a day to see what is going on and learn what the book is about as the post are the Next Best thing to having the book.

    Our Ann says Feel Free to post your thoughts here as I do if something strikes me.

    Is there any one out there observing that is shy and would like to post Please Feel Free to do so as Ann is a person All Can feel comfortable with. We will be full of joy if you post.

    January 8, 2004 - 07:37 pm
    I haven't received the book as of today but I am reading each message and will enter in soon as I can. Right now I'm lurking. Love your discussions and as an ex-sunday school teacher, I shall put in my two cents. And Alf, I'm heading south in March if hubby can make it.

    Ann Alden
    January 9, 2004 - 06:15 am
    I know this is a new day and we are going on to the Book 2 but I did want to reiterate the big three or four examples of what the books tells us about the amazing trust that Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Moses had in God’s promises. Each of them had occasional doubts but returned to their strong faith in his word.

    Noah did what God impressed on him to do in the flood, building the ark, putting the animals on board and his family and waiting out the storms and flood as God said. Has anyone not heard Bill Cosby's well known humorous account of "Noah"?

    Abraham’s strong faith allowed him to believe in the face of many negative happenings in his life, right down to almost killing his own son, Isaac, for the Lord.

    Good old Isaac just went along with it all and became the father of Jacob who dreamed about God and wrestled him in his sleep, changed his name to Irael as told to do by an angel of God.

    Now, the people of God, though strong, have gone against his will by trying to bring true the covenant that their ancestors made with God. But, according to Avener, they weren’t ready yet and had to go through becoming slaves to the Egyptians for over 400 years before being freed to return to the promised land, led by Moses.

    Some of us have read ‘The Red Tent” about the sons of Jacob breaking their promise to the Caaniites to live peacefully with them and allow intermarriage between the two families or tribes. Although Dina, Jacob’s only daughter, is the heroine of that book,the story that is woven around Jacob’s family is biblically true.

    So, today we fly to Egypt to hear the stoies surrounding that country and its strong connection to Israel’s history. As Avener says, there is more history here about the Israelites than in Mesopotamia.

    In answering the first question above, I believe that I have already mentioned that the most impressive thing to me so far was the story about Abraham walking up the stairs with the king of Dan(Laish). According to the author, touching the wall at the top of the steps made him realize that all of us need a physical manifestition of the old myths about our ancestors. Touching the wall gave him a sense of history. Powerful stuff to me!

    January 9, 2004 - 12:22 pm
    ". . .all of us need a physical manifestition of the old myths about our ancestors. Touching the wall gave him a sense of history.

    This is certainly true. When my son, David, was here on a brief home visit from Iraq, he logged in to SN and read through the headings in this discussion. Then he began to talk about how he felt when he and his Army unit were in Ur. He also spoke of how as he traveled throughout Iraq, he was aware that "this is the Land of Abraham" and he (David) was right there. In the North, where the Kurds had control of the country, David said he faced East towrds the Zagros Mountains of Iran and was reminded that further East, the Afghans thought of their country as "the Land of Cain" and of themselves as descended from the Ancients. It really is something for a contemporary person, such as Feiler (and David) to be "in the land of their forefathers."

    January 9, 2004 - 01:20 pm
    I remind myself that Jacob and his tribe did not enter Egypt as slaves, but as the honored family of a powerful noble, Jacob's son, Joseph. Over the course of the next 430 years, peaceful settlement allowed this small tribe to multiply to the point that later Pharoahs became alarmed. That's when the road to enslavement began. By the time the Israelites left Egypt, they were counted at over a million. From a single tribe to the makings of a nation. That is not possible to a nomadic people; they must keep their numbers small in the desert. So, you figure maybe God knew what he was doing, hmmm? ....Babi

    January 9, 2004 - 01:57 pm
    I have begun the reading of Feiler's Book II. I have decided that this really is a travelogue, i.e., a diary of a person's travels where people of old trod. Many of us have read of them in the Bible or Koran or Torah. Thus Feiler brings them to life but he also is telling about his own difficulties in traveling there in our modern day. So this has become my attitude: Instead of trying to put myself back several thousand years just enjoy the trip.

    January 9, 2004 - 02:36 pm

    Your son's comments on Iraq and his perceptions were very interesting. In the danger and turmoil over there, I doubt many of the service people have thought of this connection.

    I agree the book is kind of a travelogue - but also a personal journey seeking Feiler's roots.

    I have also read his book "Abraham", and since it's been quite a while, my memories of each keep getting mixed up.


    January 9, 2004 - 08:55 pm
    Ann, The story of the rainbow is in Genesis 9, God's Covenant with Noah, New International Version.

    I wonder about all the testing God does: 1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. 2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" 8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. 12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

    Why does God want to be feared rather than loved? His Son, on the other hand, wanted His followers to love Him, not fear Him.

    Ann Alden
    January 10, 2004 - 06:23 am
    Persian, I think I know how your son feels. Once when I went to England, I felt like I was home. Since many of my ancestors are from the British Isles, Ireland and Wales and Scotland, I suppose that's the reason. When we went to an Oxford pub. When I put my hand on the 900 years old wall in the pub garden ,yes, felt a sense of history. I stood where Thomas More was burned and got a shiver! But these people of the book go so much further back that it makes you feel in awe.

    Louise, I had to laugh at your description of the book as a travelogue and that you would just enjoy it and quit trying to be back in that time. I thought it was me when I couldn't keep track of the readings, the hikes to the historical sites, the old cities and the rivers. Too much to take in and arrange historically. I have finally given up and an reading for pleasure only.

    Horselover, your questions are very insightful. I really hadn't thought about the 'fearing of God' vs 'the loving of God'. I guess its God's choice as to how we feel about him. Hmmmm! Maybe the mindset of the people at different times, the improvement of civilizations with time made one think more about peace instead of war. Somewhere I have a timeline of early civilization. Will put it in here. Timeline

    CMac, glad you have the book and do let us know what you think of it.

    BabiA map! Lucky you! I found mine from when we read "Abraham" last March and am using it a little. There are some maps up above for those who might want to see where the people traveled in the desert. In tracing the Exodus, I was surprised to see that they took such a long route but I suppose that they thought it was safer. The bible says that they were 600,000 strong and that was only the men. How did poor shy Moses ever get their attention?!!

    January 10, 2004 - 07:29 am
    Horselover, "why does God want to be feared rather than loved?"

    Please refer to the book God by Jack Miles which has a long chapter on this topic. Man's thoughts about God are evolutionary and not static.

    January 10, 2004 - 09:58 am
    Please refer to the book God by Jack Miles which has a long chapter on this topic. Man's thoughts about God are evolutionary and not static.

    George, didn't you find this book ground breaking, in so many ways??? I just finished Christ, his book on the New Testament... It may not be your cup of tea, or than again, it might.


    January 10, 2004 - 10:01 am
    GEORGE & HORSELOVER, I have always felt 'fear God' means simply recognizing who and what He is. If we understand that, it follows that obedience is due to Him, as well as awe. I believe it is only by experiencing God's testing, that we learn how truly He can be trusted.

    I agree, George, that people's perception of God changed over the centuries. God, of course, did not change. I don't think we can say that God wants people to fear Him, while Christ wants people to love him. Didn't Christ say that 'If you have seen me, you have seen the Father'? By the teaching of the Bible, the traits that the Christ portrays are a reflection of God.


    Ann Alden
    January 10, 2004 - 01:57 pm
    Just a note. Our author, Bruce Feilor is on C-SPAN's BookTV today and tomorrow, being interviewed about the other book that we read, "Abraham". He will be on at 7pm today and at 11am tomorrow.

    I do agree that we see God according to our own ideas as I think that the ancients did. I particularly like the idea that if we trust God to always be there watching out for us, we will not fear being tested. Babi, didn't you just send me the wonderful little tale about the refining of silver. I really liked that and sent it on to my family. Lets put it up here or a link to it.

    Diane Church
    January 10, 2004 - 02:01 pm
    Ann - which time zone is that for Feilor? Our TV guides give such sparse information for CSpan? Thanks.

    January 10, 2004 - 02:24 pm
    We now move on into Egypt and as the Bible is still applicable today so is the ailment of ďTut's Revenge.Ē Feiler kind of jerks us right into this second book with this condition.

    I could spend days on the discussion of the 4,180-mile Nile. Imagine! Itís twice as long as the Mississippi and longer than the Tigris, the Euphrates and the Colorado combined. Until the mid 1800s the source of the Nile was an ancient mystery and still today irrigation supports the growth of many agricultural products. The Nile is to rivers what the Bible is to books! I love that. Like the Tigris and the Euphrates, once again we are reminded of the importance of water in this area.

    The Nile has it all, magnetic powers, ash, residue and vegetation debris from the swamps. I thought that the modern ďgroundhogĒ day on the first day of the flood was very interesting. They opened a Nileometer, the marble well that measured the water, decorated by a male and a female copper eagle. Whichever "screamed" first predicted the severity of the flood. Understanding the age old "supply and demand" of enterprise, the pharaoh would at that point raise the price of the crop.

    January 10, 2004 - 03:21 pm
    I have been trying to find something that will help you find what you are looking for and do hope it works and is a help to you?

    TV Guide in different areas

    Just put in your zip code and some where in there it will ask what you are looking for or some such thing.

    January 10, 2004 - 04:50 pm
    When reading of Joseph again, I consulted my Bible. The Pharaoh dreams that he stood by the river and suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow, so Joseph was consulted. (Do you think that perhaps he knew Joseph was not guilty of trying to lure his wife? I do, or they would have beheaded him instead or incarcerating him, wouldnít they have? ) Remember dreams were assumed to be messages from God. The ancient Egyptians left many hieroglyphic writings with detailed instructions on how to interpret dreams. And the magicians were expected to be experts in handling these ritual books. He was more impressed with Josephís wisdom when they delivered him from the dungeon. Egyptian custom demanded that he be cleanshaven. (This is in contrast with the Semitic custom.) THIS also symbolized his transformation from a slave to a governor.

    ( The river is the NILE and the cows coming up out of the river would have been natural, for they like to stand in the Nile as protection from the heat and the flies.)

    Did any of you see the Ancient Egyptian display last year at the Smithsonian in DC? One entire floor was devoted to the sun god and the travels throughout the night, until dawn, of the Pharaohís spirit and body post-mortem. I love the idea that night was more important than day for this very reason.

    Ann Alden
    January 10, 2004 - 05:02 pm
    I am on EST and getting ready to watch Feiler here as 7pm rolls around. Hope you can get it. Be back later!

    January 10, 2004 - 06:17 pm
    Lou, thank you for mentioning the other book by Miles; I will look for it.

    Also A History of God by Karen Armstrong.

    January 11, 2004 - 08:30 am
    I do not know if my posts are useful or not as I am not reading the book. However, I found a very interesting short section in a book on Jewish literacy that addresses the issue of "Fear of God"

    To paraphrase - the Hebrew Bible speaks of two emotions felt toward God - Love and Fear. Fear of God is seen as having two positive results, 1. it liberates people from fear of other humans and 2. it defends the weak and the disadvantaged from the powerful. The author then explains these two ideas more completely.

    "Finally, fear of God means being in awe of Him more than it means being afaid of Him. As the Muslim thinker Al-Quahayri taught: 'He who truly fears a thing flees from it, but he who truly fears God, flees unto Him'"

    Ann Alden
    January 11, 2004 - 08:41 am
    Here is a link to another timely column of Thomas Freidman about Turkey and the EU.War of Ideas-Part 2

    Was anyone lucky enough to watch our author's interview on CSPAN last night. It is being repeated on BookTV at 11am this morning. Not new(10/2002) but certainly worth watching, because although his newer book, Abraham, is the reason for the program, he does talk a great deal about his trips to the Holy Land, the book, "Walking the Bible" and his friend, Avner. He certainly has a lot of nervous energy and because of that energy, he is supporting and speaking at many of the Abraham Salons which are springing up around the country and consist of the believers of the three faiths coming together to discuss and compare and understand their own historical connections with Abraham. I don't know if the Salon's are still meeting but it certainly would be impressive if they are accomplishing some kind of understanding between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. As Friedman points out today in NYT," we are living at a remarkable hinge of history and its not clear how it's going to swing."

    This morning, I visited St Catherine Monastery with the author. He took me through the dark lanes of the nighttime monastery with a view of the burning bush and the chapel, then to the impressive morning prayers that have been recited since 551 C.E. and a little history of St Catherine and a surprising symbolization of the Burning Bush to the Annunciation: "Just as the bush was filled with fire, but remained unburned, so Mary conceived the savior, but remained a virgin." Now I want to see the Monastery of the Burning Bush which the monks claim is the world's oldest continually operating church.

    Yes, we are on a journey here to the historical places where monotheism prevailed. Did I not read in another book or NG story that one of the pharoahs actually started that belief when he destroyed all the idols in Egypt and insisted there was only one god; that Abraham was somehow connected to this new Egyptian belief?

    Always, I am realizing that there was no light at night but the stars and moon! What must that have been like?

    Ann Alden
    January 11, 2004 - 08:52 am
    George You are certainly bringing us some deeper thinking on the "fear of God" and its meaning. As my husband once said when I complained that the children of the local elementery school were afraid of the principal, "What's wrong with a little fear?" And, those children, although they loved the principal, were definitely in awe of him.

    Imagine being led by a burning bush, provided with manna every morning and quails at night for, was it, 40 years?

    Ann Alden
    January 11, 2004 - 08:58 am
    One of the things mentioned by Bruce Feiler last night was that we really don't know if Abraham existed. Also that the length of the patriarch's lives is questionable since at the beginning of the Pentatuch, Noah lives to 900 years of age and then Abraham only makes it to 175 years. Now we have Moses, age 80 years, in the desert, leading the Israelites, hasn't received the ten commandments yet, and has to climb Mt Sinai which is 7000 feet high to hear those commandments. Did he really bring them down on two tablets--written out?? Hmmmm!

    January 11, 2004 - 12:33 pm
    Ann, thanks for the analogy between the burning bush and the Annunciation. I had never heard that before and it's a good comparison. But the burning bush was only to order Moses back to Egypt. In the wilderness, the people were led by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day.

    I'm afraid I can't offer the story on the refining of silver. I received that by e-mail and have already deleted it. But anyone interested in reading it can find it at: ChristianSingleMoms@groups.msn.com ...Babi

    Ann Alden
    January 11, 2004 - 01:46 pm
    There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three, they came across verse three which says:

     "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver".

     This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.  One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

     That week this woman called up a silver smith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

     As she watched the silver smith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding  us in such a hot spot - then she thought again about the verse, that He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.

     She asked the silver smith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if  the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

     The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silver smith, how do you know when the silver is fully refined?  He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's the easy part --  when I see my image reflected in it."

     If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep His hand on you and watch over you until He sees His image in you.

    January 11, 2004 - 02:14 pm
    That is Beautiful, Just Beautiful it almost brought tears to my eyes. Thank You for posting it.

    January 11, 2004 - 06:03 pm
    Thanks to all of you who responded to my question about fearing God vs. loving Him. Your replies helped me realize that the tests are, in fact, God's way of teaching us to trust in Him even when what is happening does not make sense to us.

    Ann Alden
    January 12, 2004 - 03:16 pm
    I just noticed that I jumped to Book 3 yesterday and that Alf was keeping us chronilogically correct while I was juming ahead to Book 3. Sorry about that! And, sorry to not be here for the day. I am having one of those down days that seem to occur ocassionally since last summer.

    Last night, I watched another PBS program about the Pharoahs and this time, the pyramids. Amazing how close the program came to the one told here by Feiler. One of the archeaologists interviewed was Dr.Zahi Hawass who didn't have time to talk to Avner and Feiler when they visited the pyramids. What do you think of the coincidences that the author quotes about the pyramids and their location? Their heigth, their circumference and their position in reference to the Red Sea where the Israelites crossed, the Holy Land, Bethlehem where Jesus was born and the aside pertaining about NASA? Too much for me digest.

    I feel like my fellow tourists are slipping away. Where are you all?

    January 12, 2004 - 07:53 pm
    Zahi Hawass is a bit arrogant to be sure with a very healthy ego. But he is also a distinguished scientist and knows his field completely. He has led substantial teams and is well thought of in his field.

    I remember a few years ago working with NASA scientists in Washington on an international project focused on space tourism. One of the presenters included information about "plot lines" that were based on the size and site of the Pyramids as they were viwed from the air. Very intersting to be sure!

    Ann Alden
    January 13, 2004 - 09:53 am
    I was interested in the lay lines and about Mars having the same pyramids that Earth has. Built by aliens?? Where do they get these ideas? Maybe they are true!

    I find the Egyptologist professor claim to having no knowledge or historical evidence of the Israelites disconcerting. Does anyone else? But, he did allow for differences in different religious claims since he is a good Muslim.

    The Ramadan lasts how long? And, did you also fast all day during that time?

    Alf, you were so right about the water being so important to these people. The professor says that the Nile made the Egyptians feel that they were the chosen ones. And, they felt protected because no matter where you go to get out of Egypt, you meet the desert and that made them feel very safe.

    I had to wonder at their guide claiming that Zahi Hawass was not worthy of the attention paid to him but that the professor who broke fast with Feiler and Avner was worthy of all the credit, as he was the Egyptologist, very knowledgeable!!

    Tomorrow, we go to St Catherine's Monastery, which I have already mentioned(too soon, I fear).

    January 13, 2004 - 11:17 am
    ANN - it is unusual that an Egyptologist would not have detailed knowledge of the Israelites, depending upon his focus within the discipline. And it is certainly a common Egyptian behavior to NOT speak of a topic with any sense of depth to individuals who might then relate his comment to others. Too much of a chance of being misquoted or accused of not knowing his topic. Even with many distinguished senior faculty or scholars, they prefer to address their own immediate area of focus. However, someone like former UN Secretary Boutrous Galli, who is extremely sophisticated in world matters, well traveled and comfortable in the West, would certainly be an exception.

    Ramadan is one of the months in the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims fast from sub-up to sun-set. The purpose of the fasting is to let those who have plenty understand personally what those who have nothing must face on a daily basis. Youth are encouraged to fast on a gradual basis, until they can fast without great discomfort throughout the day. One's level of comfort is an individual thing: some children can fast totally and some adults have enormously difficulty - more with the lack of water and juice, than with food. Yes, we fasted throughout the days.

    The comments about the Nile making Egyptians feel like the chosen people should be understood in context. In the rich Delta area, it certainly is true with abundant crops. But in the extremely rural areas (farthest away from the Nile), the communities are extremely poverty stricken. And to the residents of Alexandria, which borders the Med. Ocean, the comfort of surrounding desert wouldn't mean much.

    The tour guide's negative comments about Zahi Hawass is another example of Egyptian communication style. Taken within the context in which the comments were made, the guide was "polishing" the reputation of the Egyptologist, as would be expected of him in Egyptian culture. Exaggerated flattery is the norm among Egyptians. In Persian culture, we call it "taroof."

    As I mentioned earlier, Hawass is well known in his field and certainly the comments of a tour guide would do little (if anything) to tarnish his place in the discipline.

    The visit to St. Catherine's is something to be eagerly anticipated. My husband takes his students there on an annual trip and they've always enjoyed it. He has also escorted American colleagues as part of their visit to Egypt. It is truly a spectacular site.

    January 13, 2004 - 11:35 am
    I never knew that there has been a question as to who built these massive pyramids. Iíve long believed that they were built by the Egyptians to serve as royal tombs, providing a place for the person buried to go into the after life. Shows you what I know.

    Off to St. Catherines I go.

    January 13, 2004 - 12:55 pm
    In the Bible Fear is usually not used to mean to be afraid. The Bible tells us to both love and fear him. (see I Peter 2:17; Proverbs 1:7: 2:1-5) It is a fear that makes us careful to avoid things displeasing to God and do things that are pleasing to him. For example a child loves his parents but if he loves them he will fear to displease them. It was this type of fear that motivated Abraham and Isaac.

    January 13, 2004 - 12:57 pm
    ALF, last I heard, the pyramids were built by the Egyptians as royal tombs. Have I missed something startling and new in that area? ...Babi

    Ann Alden
    January 13, 2004 - 04:56 pm
    Yes, I think we all thought that the pyramids were built for the dead kings of Egypt but its the question of who and how that has kept archeaologists through the ages attempting to answer those questions. Although my husband, THE ENGINEER, watched the program on PBS Sunday night, he still questions their seemed answers.

    Persian, did you say that Ramadan goes on for a month? That reminds me of the "fasting" that all Catholics used to do during Lent. I like the reasons that you gave for the Muslims fasting. I don't think thats exactly the reason the church gave for the Catholic fast, but it does have a spiritual focus. We used to have a "Stone Soup" luncheon every Friday where we were asked to fast and to donate our "luncheon" money to charity,usually the local soup kitchen.

    January 13, 2004 - 06:50 pm
    Louise, Do you think "fear" in this context is a synonym for "awe?"

    January 13, 2004 - 07:23 pm
    Horselover... you're right

    From Webster's Dictionary #3 - fear to have a reverential awe of <fear God>

    Diane Church
    January 13, 2004 - 08:02 pm
    I don't have the book and, due to other commitments, probably won't but I WILL follow along with this discussion which I am finding most interesting. The points made on fear (of God) and awe are particularly interesting to me.

    January 13, 2004 - 08:31 pm
    ANN - Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Here's a link so you can see it in relation to the Gregorian calendar. In 2003, Ramadan began on Oct. 26 and ended Nov. 25th. http://islam.about.com/library/weekly/aa032801c.htm

    We are celebrating tonight, since my son, David, just called from New York's Kennedy airport to let us know that he'd arrived on a special flight from Kuwait. (He didn't expect to return to the USA before Jan. 20th). This Mom's heart is truly grateful!

    Ann Alden
    January 13, 2004 - 08:51 pm
    I think of your David in Iraq often know that you are relieved that he is back in the US. Does he have to return or is he home for awhile?

    Thanks for the link to Islam. I think that I already have that link from our Abraham discussion. :<)

    Louise, we seem to have come to an agreement here that the term "fear of God" indicates "reverential awe".

    Diane, do chime in whenever you wish. We are just glad that you have been lurking and will drop in now and then.

    We are starting on Book 3 tomorrow and I will probably repeat my post of Sunday just to get myself in the correct place. Hope ya'll don't mind!

    Ann Alden
    January 13, 2004 - 08:57 pm
    This morning, I visited St Catherine Monastery with the author. He took me through the dark lanes of the nighttime monastery with a view of the burning bush and the chapel, then to the impressive morning prayers that have been recited since 551 C.E. and a little history of St Catherine and a surprising symbolization of the Burning Bush to the Annunciation: "Just as the bush was filled with fire, but remained unburned, so Mary conceived the savior, but remained a virgin." Now I want to see the Monastery of the Burning Bush which the monks claim is the world's oldest continually operating church.

    Yes, we are on a journey here to the historical places where monotheism prevailed. Did I not read in another book or NG story that one of the pharoahs actually started that belief when he destroyed all the idols in Egypt and insisted there was only one god; that Abraham was somehow connected to this new Egyptian belief?

    Always, I am realizing that there was no light at night but the stars and moon! What must that have been like? When I was in that "coma", last summer, I actually traveled among the stars and it was awesome! But that's another story for another time!

    January 14, 2004 - 02:12 pm
    ANN, you are right about about an attempt to establish a monotheistic religions in Egypt. Amenhotep IV tried to replace the traditional Egyptian religions with monotheistic God, still symbolized by the sun, whom he called Aton. He did not attempt to destroy all the old temples, idols, etc., but he did move his capitol from Thebes to a city in mid-Egypt he named Amana, built a temple there to Aton, and changed his name to Akhenaton. He naturally met with a great deal of opposition, and his new religion did not survive his own death. ...Babi

    Ann Alden
    January 15, 2004 - 07:43 am
    Yes, that's the story that I read or saw on TV. PBS seems to be centering on the Pharoahs this month.

    Until I read this book, I did not know that the commandments were not quite what we have used over the years. They were divided differently so that there were 12? or 7? There's that number 7 again. Where did I read that the number 7 means something important in the Judaic tradition?

    Ann Alden
    January 15, 2004 - 08:25 am
    The Number 7 represents completeness. In the Bible, when a cycle is finished or when something is complete, you will find the number 7. In Genesis 12:2-3 we have the blessing of Abraham with 7 promises "And [1] I will make of thee a great nation, and [2] I will bless thee, and [3] make thy name great; and [4] thou shalt be a blessing: And [5] I will bless them that bless thee, and [6] curse him that curseth thee: and [7] in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

    To the Israelite people God likewise gave them 7 promises. In Exodus 6:6-8 "Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I [am] the LORD, and [1] I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and [2] I will rid you out of their bondage, and [3] I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And [4] I will take you to me for a people, and [5] I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And [6] I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and [7] I will give it you for an heritage: I [am] the LORD."

    There were 7 feasts for Jehovah during 7 days. When Balak the Mohabite king tried to curse Israel, he made 7 altars and prepared 7 bullocks and 7 rams for the sacrifices. It was a complete and perfect heathen worship. When the people of God destroyed Jericho, 7 priests with 7 trumpets went around the city 7 times, a complete and perfect victory of the faith. Christ explained the way to achieve complete forgiveness. "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22).

    In the temple there were 7 candlesticks. There are 7 letters in the New Testament to 7 churches. In the book of Revelation we have 7 more letters to others 7 churches. Further in Revelation we read of 7 seals which seal a book closed, and there will be 7 plagues poured out upon the world. Jacob worked 2 times seven years to bring a complete testimony of his love for Rachel. During the days of Joseph, the Pharaoh had a dream in which he saw 7 fat cows and 7 skinny cows, which represented a complete period of famine. The total number of people who belonged to Jacob's family when they moved to Egypt was 70.

    the day of the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70CE

    This is a quote from an internet site about numbers and the Biblical meaning of them. Here is the link to that page:

    Keys For Biblical Numbers

    Ann Alden
    January 15, 2004 - 11:08 am
    Here's a link to Part three of Thomas Friedman's 5-part series on Iraq.

    Thomas Friedman column

    January 15, 2004 - 12:38 pm
    The 'Keys to Biblical Numbers' link is great, Ann. I've tagged it for future reference. What I had already understood about some of these numbers is very similar, tho' not stated exactly the same.

    Twelve (12), for instance, I had heard of as the number representing Heavenly knowledge entering into the earth, or the will and purpose of God made known. Thus we see the twelve tribes of Israel in the O.T., and the twelve disciples in the N.T. This is not greatly different from the article's ID of 12 as the number of government.

    I can see where dividing the commandments into ten might have been somewhat arbitrary. Certainly division into chapters and verses and placement of punctuation came much later, and obviously would affect the meaning of portins of scripture. If you grouped everything relating to a commandment subject together, you would have less than 10 commandments. Not that it matters; the sense remains the same.


    Ann Alden
    January 15, 2004 - 05:28 pm
    Yes, I bookmarked that site also as I think it will come in handy as we continue to have these conversations about religion and books related. That is a most curious site until one remembers that numbers always meant something to the ancients.

    Ann Alden
    January 17, 2004 - 06:03 am
    Where is everyone? I have been checking in for a couple of days and my posters have jumped ship. Oh, well, I will keep reading and see where Mr. Feilor takes me and check back in here this afternoon. Chao!

    Ann Alden
    January 17, 2004 - 07:45 am
    I have been wondering why we honor the "one god" theory of the Israelites or why the peoples of that millenium seem to do so. There were quite a few people on this planet. Did God not contact them? Did they not keep records as did the Jews? Also, why does the world of today not have more than "one god" and why did this god deem to contact Moses and his people but we never hear of this god contacting any other people?? Here is the timeline from Akenaten to King David.

    1350 BCE:. The Egyptian king, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) rules. He tries to force his subjects to worship the god Aton, whom he believes is the god of the universe. Egypt has withdrawn from Syria and Canaan.

    1300 BCE: .The Assyrians have benefited from the decline of the Hurrians and are in control all of Mesopotamia. People from Micronesia have sailed into Melanesia, including the Solomon and Fiji islands. Writing has appeared in Shang civilization, with characters partly pictorial and partly phonetic, and bronze casting has developed.

    1200 BCE:. Tribal peoples from Central Asia had been moving westward with their herds, running from droughts. They are pushing other tribal peoples into Asia Minor. Hittites are overrun and begin to disappear as a recognizable people. Waves of illiterate migrants overrun Greece, beginning a "dark age" there. Brown-skinned people begin migrating eastward into Polynesia, to the Tonga and Samoan islands.

    1177 BCE:.People in boats, perhaps escaping from invasions into Greece, raid the coast of Egypt and are driven off. They land farther east and are to be known as Philistines.

    1050 BCE:.A century or so after the arrival of the Philistines, Hebrews, occupying hilly regions in the Land of Canaan, combine their forces for the first time and confront an army of Philistines near the Philistine outpost at Aphek, and they lose the battle.

    1010 BCE:.The Hebrew David conquers and subjugates Amorities -- also known as Canaanites. David has acquired some Canaanite culture and is a man of his time.

    I am also awed by the comment of Gunther Plaut : "The story of Mt Sanai, Moses and God, achieves its major goal: to convey to some degree the awesomeness of that moment when the Lord of the universe showed His Glory to Israel and when he made his covenant with them, changing their history and the history of all men as well." revelation, covenant, Israel's history is reared. "without then, Israel would have been a nation like other nations: with them, it became a focal of point of human history."

    Previous to this quote, the author also points out that the giving of the ten commandments changes the relationship between God and Israelites as they now agree to follow this covenant and as a result,"they would forever alter the course of both political and religious behavior." Now the people must not only be strong but just and moral in their endeavors if they are to honor their covenant with God.

    January 17, 2004 - 08:40 am
    A thought-provoking post, Ann. The simplest explanation I have heard is that the earliest people knew the one God (going back to creation). As they multiplied and scattered, the knowledge of the one God was lost or became confused. God moved to correct that by selecting a people...(a hard-headed, stiff-necked people, possibly because they are harder to dissuade?)...with whom He would covenant and begin the process of bringing the knowledge of the one God back to the world.

    The Hindus teach that whenever evil threatened to overwhelm good anywhere on the earth, God raised up a sort of 'vicar' of heaven. In their philosophy, all the great religious leaders, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, were put in place by God to forward his purposes.


    Ann Alden
    January 17, 2004 - 11:49 am
    And one other comment. What does the author mean when he says, "Moses knows, even more than God seems to know at that moment, that a leader, no matter how great, is nothing without his people." Now which leader and people are we speaking of?? Moses and the Israelites? Or God and the population of the earth that he created?? And, if its God, is he only as wonderful and great as his creation is??

    January 17, 2004 - 11:51 am
    ANN - in response to your question about whether other people kept records and whether the One God contacted people other than the Israelites, don't forget the vast Empire of China and its major religions (developed throughout millenia): the teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. And although Hinduism considers there is one major God Overall, there are numerous gods and goddesses responsible for various aspects of life.

    Perhaps since many Americans are descended from Judiasm through Christianity, these two religions are much more known - particularly in the USA - than those of the East, except by religious or historical scholars.

    And, of course, there are the gods of the Native people of the Americas (both North and South), as well as the Island nations in the Pacific.

    January 18, 2004 - 01:51 pm
    Ann, without the book, I don't know what "moment" the author is referring to. Are we still at the burning bush? Irregardless, whatever the author may mean, I doubt very much if Moses understands anything better than God.

    On the 'various gods and goddesses' of Hinduism, it was my understanding, (based on the one course I took on Comparative Religions), that all those beings were only aspects of what Mahlia referred to as the "one major God overall". The idea was that people are unable to grasp the fulness of God in all his complexity. Hinduism therefore allowed each person to worship that aspect of God they were best able to understand and relate to. Some of those aspects are, of course, very foreign to our way of thinking.


    January 18, 2004 - 04:58 pm
    I'm somewhat behind--not up to Book II yet.

    I found the author's visit to Bethel and the family living in the disputed settlement very interesting. What courage it must take to give up a comfortable suburban life and move to a dangerous area where you don't even speak the language! Fern says they can't drive anywhere without being stoned. They go to funerals frequently--funerals of young people. "Why do you stay here?" Feiler asks.

    "I stay here because Jews belong in the land of Israel. God gave us this land, and it's not up to us to give it back. When we stood at Sinai as a Jewish people and said, 'We accept the Torah,' we didn't just do it for that generation in the desert. We did it for all future generations."

    This sums up, in a way, the author's purpose in writing this book. It demonstrates that, for many people, the Bible is a living document. That the events and promises described in it have meaning in their lives today. Fern feels that by living in Israel, on this holy land, she is brought closer to God. "To walk in the land of Israel is a holy thing to do."

    It's also interesting that Avner describes the Bible as stories of good versus evil. "Anybody who hears this story can immediately tell you which side is good. That's the reason many of these stories work: The moral is very clear."

    Of course, as with any history, the historians decide who the good guys are. When Feiler visits the Arabs, they say "We believe that Canaanites, they are Arabs. That supports our rights on this land."

    "So you believe the Arabs were here before the Israelites," I said.

    "We believe that, very strongly."

    How these various claims can be settled, and how peace can be achieved in the present, is a question still being asked.

    Ann Alden
    January 18, 2004 - 09:04 pm
    Your posts allowed me to "google" to some different sites about the religions that you both mentioned. From what I read most of those religions never claimed the one god theory except Hinduism.

    Hinduism seems to go back the farthest(10,000B.C.E.) supposedly the earliest dating of the sacred Veda(their Bible?). In fact, from what I understand, Hindu's do believe in the one God but offer various ways to believe through other gods.

    The native North Americans believe in the sacredness of the earth and nature and a creator

    As to the Chinese religions, Confuscianism, Daoism and Buddhism--those three date to around the same time-604-551 B.C.E.--Primarily ethical systems to which rituals at important times in one's lifetime have been added.

    So, are we back on square one with the wrtten words of the Bible and the Quaran attributing these words to the one and same God and Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed-our prophets, patriarchs??

    Am I making any sense here? I think I need to return tomorrow after a good night's sleep!

    Horselover, I hope you will have patcience with me and wait until tomorrow so that I can comment on your post. Nite all!

    January 18, 2004 - 11:28 pm
    When in a Catholic school I asked a nun how can the Father, Son and Holy Ghost be one. She said Just believe and I Never forgot what she said then later in life I understood and so now I understand that we all all are on different paths to the same place, I hope to see All of you in the place we are striving for. For me I met and understood the trinty being one in a oneness pentecostal church in my home town and am now trying to go on to the paths that so many are traveling and some how know I Will see you at the destination we All are seeking.
    Love Ginger

    January 19, 2004 - 08:26 am
    Ginger makes a good point about all of us seeking much the same thing. WE don't always have it right, but we do seem to have similar ideas about what life and religion should be.

    I did some reading (Encarta) on Babylonian beliefs. They included a pantheon of gods, including such as a chief god, a 'civic' god and whoever one's personal god might be. Yet it also included many of the principals and ethics we believe in today. The article cited goodness, truth, law and order, justice, freedom, wisdom and learning, courage, loyalty, mercy, compassion, and special protection for widows, orphans, refugees, the poor and the oppressed.

    It would appear that human beings do seek the good, and the fact that most peoples seem to find the same things 'good' suggests to me that they all have a glimpse of truth, if not the whole truth. And it would be fatuous to suppose that does not apply to us today. I don't think we..whatever our faith...'know it all' either. ...BAbi

    Ann Alden
    January 19, 2004 - 08:35 am
    Some of the thoughts that you brought up about Fern and her family crossed my mind when I read Book Two. Would I want to live there and endanger myself and my children? I understand the reverence for the land itself but practicality arises here. And, the Caananites claiming ties to the Arabs surprised me too and made me want to 'google' the subject. Since this land has been fought over for so long, seems as though a settlement is far away.


    I understand what you are saying and agree that we are all finding our own path to our maker. Somewhere in my search for the different religions, I came across a particularly interesting article about the Trinity. Will look for it and maybe email it to you.

    In reference to last night's post, what I think I am saying about ties to the one god is this. It seems to me that the followers of Christianity, Judism and the Muslim faith are the only claimants to having been conacted by the one God and they have kept written records. Its really awesome!

    January 19, 2004 - 10:25 am
    I just want to say that what BaBi said is so beautiful: "It would appear that human beings do seek the good, and the fact that most peoples seem to find the same things 'good' suggests to me that they all have a glimpse of truth, if not the whole truth."

    This reminds me of a series they once had on PBS about the myths that seem to be at the heart of all the beliefs of all peoples. If only we could realize that, in our deepest heart, we are all seeking the same goodness and peace.

    Ann Alden
    January 21, 2004 - 12:59 pm
    I hope you don't mind but we using your post above in Ex Libris as it says so much about the purpose of life. Hope Babi doesn't mind either!

    I am also reading an interesting book titled "The Mystic Heart" by Wayne Teasdale. His premise is that the world has reached a point where we need to be recognizing the sameness of our beliefs and acknowledging the good points of each religion.

    I received an email from Bruce Feiler where he calls us "Pioneers of Interfaith" and compliments us on our continuing discussions. He says he is too busy to join us but I have emailed him one more time to urge him to take a few minutes to look in and see our folder.

    Diane Church
    January 21, 2004 - 02:48 pm
    ANN, your mentioning of Teasdale's premise that, "the world has reached a point where we need to be recognizing the sameness of our beliefs and acknowledging the good points of each religion" reminds me of one of the basic beliefs of the Bahai. I've sat in on some of their Fireside Meetings and intend to drop in again. They very much stress the coming together of all religions in harmony.

    Ann Alden
    January 21, 2004 - 06:24 pm
    Aren't the B'hai's very similar to the Jainists? Here's a decent link to some description of the different faiths of today. Religious Tolerance

    I am not advertising for this site. Its just one that I came across on one of my google searches.

    And, while comparing the text for these two faiths, I find that I am wrong. B'hai is closer to Islam, Christianity and Judism.

    I have a young friend who was married for 5 years to a Ba'hai from Iran(where they are persecuted for their beliefs). But due to the man's belief's in a woman not having any rights, she just couldn't stay with the marriage.

    Diane Church
    January 21, 2004 - 06:54 pm
    Ann - thanks for getting the spelling right on "B'hai.* Also for the link - my goodness, what a lot of information! Oh, for the time to read through, learn, and remember it all - wouldn't that be great.

    Sorry to hear about the young couple in Iran. I know a very few people from Iran and consider them to be quite special. It is so eye-opening to hear how other people live.

    OK, back to the book. I'm enjoying the discussion.

  • Oops - or is it Baha'i? Well, there SHOULD be an apostrophe in there somewhere and I didn't have one.
  • Persian
    January 21, 2004 - 10:13 pm
    Ann - I, too, am sorry to hear about your friend who was married to an Iranian Ba'hai. He certainly did not know Islam well (from which the Ba'hai faith originates), since the Holy Qur'an explicitly states that in the eyes of God (the Creator of all humans) there are indeed many equal rights for BOTH women and men. Certainly, the male and female physical strengths are different. And in the time of the Prophet Mohamed, when women without male ties to family members were basically adrift without support or financial resources, women were considered "weaker." Their responsibilities within the family were different than that of men, but that was NOT an indication that they were "unequal" or "less" than men.

    The behavior you describe by your friend's husband, which is very prevalent in many male-dominant Islamic countries around the world - is a cultural and traditional issue, NOT a religious issue.

    A recent uproar in the Muslim community in Spain is another example of misdirected traditional/cultural beliefs: an Imam has been roundly critized for including in a recent book instructions for husbands on how to "beat their wives on the hands and feet in such a manner as not to leave any marks." This is absolutely despicable and the Spanish government has stepped in to prevent the fellow's work from being any more widely disseminated. The Muslim population in Spain is predominantly from North Africa, where the beating of women (just like in areas of Iran and Afghanistan) is common. However, to publish a text which includes instructions on how to beat women has no place in today's world. And, happily, the younger generation of Spanish Muslims - especially women - are not hesitant about speaking out publicly on this topic.

    Ann Alden
    January 22, 2004 - 07:31 am
    Before I go to back to the book, I wondered if you are paying attention to the international news, to the Iranian senators who are having a demonstration or 'sit in" and asking to be reinstated as qualified for running for seats in the Congress. The president of the Senate(Congress???) just said they can't run for a seat this time around and says that he will not change his mind. I think that I read that he disqualified 3000 men! How many men are in that body?

    Ann Alden
    January 22, 2004 - 07:35 am
    So, today we start on Book 4 which brings us to many stories of the Sinai. But there are several remarks in this first chapter about what the author wants to experience there and does, in a way. He mentions that as he moved toward trying to understand the power of the stories, the motivation of the characters, and their evolving relationship with God, he realized that the Israelites were forging a new identity while on a difficult, transforming journey. He feels that the Bible is a testament to the Israelites life in the desert, to their struggles with God and the covenant of laws that they accepted from God. Readers of the Bible have tangible evidence of the power of the wilderness as a spiritual foundry.

    While talking to friend of Avner's, Ramadan, a Bedouin who has opened his home to the author and Avner, he asks if he can learn to love the desert. And Ramadan says

    "People coming to the desert discover that they are drinking from truth. And people become at peace with themselves because of this truth, this quiet. It's something that's built into the spirit of people and its waiting to be discovered, sometimes maybe without their knowing it. The nature around here, it's not me who built it, or you. It's God, the all-knowing. The desert finds a way to bring out peace"

    From another part of the world, in the Northwest of the US, here is a different quote from Chief Seattle about the Indian land, but its rings loud bells to me as to how the Jews and the Muslims feel about the Promised Land.

    Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been made holy by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be voiceless and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with the momories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people. And the the very dust upon which you hnow stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than to yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors and our bare are conscious of the sympathetic touch." Quote: Chief Seathl

    For me personally, each of these peoples feels very much the same about their land and its meaning to them. They each have a history of suffering in a land but have come through it and plan to continue to do so through their ancestors.

    Ann Alden
    January 23, 2004 - 08:25 am
    There is a wonderful discussion going on in Curious Minds today and for some reason I seem to connect it to our book and the chapters titled,"The Wanderings" and "And the earth opened its mouth". Life now compared to then comes to mind when I read Diane Church's post in CM. What do you think here? Am I reaching too far?

    My husband, in his working days, was part of the Surveyor (moon landing) team. The thrill of that endeavor and eventual success was unique. And the fellowship of so many people working together for a common end was an example, perhaps, of how things should be. It was a terrific accomplishment and, even at that, has been overtaken by even braver, more ambitious happenings. And failures, too, it is only fair to note.

    But absolutely, all those many, many dollars - what might they have accomplished if directed instead toward the earth-bound miseries of hunger, disease, poverty, bridge and road maintenance - so many things.

    I remember once, in a slightly different context when Ross Perot said that for all the money we, as a nation, spent on the wrong things, our cities should be gleaming, shining examples of what civilization can be. Or something like that but I remember the basic thought.

    Seems like the human race is always trying something different to appease itself but falls short of what they could really do if they just thought a little harder and a little longer.

    January 23, 2004 - 06:12 pm
    Ann, I agree with you about the Native Americans and the Israelies feeling very much the same about their land and its meaning to them. One of the Israelies the author visits says, "It's people, living on the land, creating, dying. Being." The connection of these people and their children to the land is what gives their lives its meaning. The pioneers who opened the West in the U.S. probably felt much the same. They overcame tremendous hardships to carve out of a hostile landscape a place where they could live and prosper. I wonder if people who live in high-rise apartments in cities can have this same connection to the land they hardly ever see or touch.

    Ann Alden
    January 23, 2004 - 08:58 pm
    You know, Horselover, I think that it has to do with where we grow up and if we loved it. Wherever we go, we always think of where we grew up and consider that HOME. I just think that that feeling must be stronger for the Jews since their homeland is still there plus they not only consider it their homeland but they consider it their religion's homeland. Its a wonderful feeling, I would imagine!

    Ann Alden
    January 25, 2004 - 06:47 am
    Sorry not to be here more but my ISP went down for awhile. Must be this freezing weather.

    I want to discuss the people who Feiler met on the Negev but have company today plus am attending a symphony concert this afternoon so will return tonight or tomorrow. Chao!

    January 25, 2004 - 12:28 pm
    Oh Ann.....I am just now seeing your question about the book "The Middle of Everywhere".......I liked the book very much and it was really an eye opener.....The chapter on the African Immigrants was particularly helpful to me.....I didn't realize the extent of the LEGAL immigrants we take in .....just think about the number when you include the illegals...... I am worried about my little Liberian family when their three months is up and they go on their own without a lot of the benefits they were entitled to in the first three months....The father is 64 now and will be lucky to find a minimum wage job......some job where he won't have to speak much English.....Of course there will be other kinds of assistance....The new baby is due in a month which will make four little ones.....the new baby unfortunately looks to have some anomalies on the ultrasound...... it's a worry.......

    Ann Alden
    January 26, 2004 - 06:58 am
    Its good to hear from you about the book and your Libyan family. Do they have to return to Omar's world? He is now trying to convince the US that he is Mr Nice Guy and has changed. Can that weasel change? Somehow I have little faith in that happening. Are you taking care of your little family as Pipher did? Trying to acclimate them to the US? Yes, it is amazing to read about the legal immigrants and what people here have done to help them.

    When my great grandfather came here from Portugul in the 1850's, he was taken in by another Portuguese family who taught him a trade(blacksmithing) and when he was ready to leave, they sent him to the Midwest(Indiana) where he was the blacksmith for a large meat packing company's farm or ranch. The couple who sort of adopted him were childless and he was a skinny 15 year old with no English either. He heard the man speaking his country's language and just started talking to him. How scary that must have been.

    Ann Alden
    January 26, 2004 - 07:06 am
    From the land of snow and ice, I have been reading not only the book but a fine article about David Ben Gurion which was in Time Magazine. Thought you all might like to do the same.

    And then some questions arise about "The Land of Milk and Honey" and its inhabitants.

    Weren't you amazed by the lifelong focus of Ben Gurion?

    Would we all like to see Sdeh Boker?

    Have you always been curious about the kibbutz?

    Raz says that all Jews come to Jerusalem and the desert. What do we consider a 'must see' here in the US?

    January 26, 2004 - 07:12 am
    Yes Ann...there is a group of us who are taking care of this family...they have no car so must taken for groceries, Dr. appointments, English classes, school.....to church....everywhere they go.....I was somewhat surprised at the generosity of the government in the amount of money given to this family monthly....they were spending way to much phoning family members back in Afica.....the immigration lady stepped in and has had them put some of it in a savings account....good idea because at the end of 6 months I guess it is they are on their own! That means they must be able to speak English well enough to get a job and support themselves.....It really will be hard for them to make here with a 64 year old father and four little children to support.....No car..... It is amazing to watch the family interact.....when the father speaks everyone listens! And he speaks very softly...The children are very loving and being well taken care of....going to pottery classes, recreational center, church, and school......they pick up on things very quickly........I shall not post any more here about them but since you read that book I know you are interested.........

    January 26, 2004 - 08:30 am
    Thanks for the Ben Gurion link, Ann. I was pleased to find a site with articles on so many world leaders. It will make a great quick reference when I need some background on one of these notables. ..Babi

    Ann Alden
    January 27, 2004 - 06:44 am
    Today we start the Book Five and we are at the end of "Walking the Bible". I would appreciate it, if any who have been reading along with me would post a comment or two this week about the book, over all, or about this last bit about the desert.

    I realize this book is "light" in content but, IMHO,it also gives anyone reading it, a chance to pause and recenter their faith on their beliefs. In the end, I believe that the author was in need of doing just that for himself so he accomplished what he intended, was able to start interfaith group discussions and he made some money along the way. He is an accomplished writer with several books under his belt.

    In his letter to me last week, Bruce Feiler mentions that his book, "Abraham" which we read, is being rereleased in paperback and he starts another book tour plus an urging ot readers to start up their own interfaith discussion groups.

    January 27, 2004 - 06:54 am
    I like Bruce Feilers idea about discussion groups.....might not do on senior net? I am reading an interesting book now , two actually..The first is called "The Meaning of Jesus, two visions" by Marcus M. Borg and N.T. Wright....."the leading liberal and conservative Jesus scholars present the heart of the historical Jesus debate"......The second Is "Rambam's Ladder" by Julie Salamon.....A meditation on Generosity and Why it is necessary to give............

    January 27, 2004 - 06:58 am
    I, too, would love to be involved in a discussion group learning about the Bible. Unfortunately, everytime that I have joined one of these groups, there are always one of two prosteletizing and sermonizing. That is not what I want to hear, what I want to hear is much like we have on SNet- an exchange of ideas and opinions.

    January 27, 2004 - 07:01 am
    I agree with you Alf....however with the group which is discussing the books about religion do you think this would happen.....not from me for sure.....I am a seeker and can find out enough about all wisdom traditions but most particularly the Christian Religion.....

    January 27, 2004 - 07:04 am
    Unfortunately, it does happen, Tigerlily. Either someone in the group has been so moved they become over-zealous in their new found revelation OR they are committed to making you think their "isms" are the only way to believe.

    January 27, 2004 - 07:09 am
    Well Alf that won't do will it......guess we just have to keep reading and discussing the books......

    Ann Alden
    January 27, 2004 - 08:03 am
    To get a discussion started, we have been using books that interest us. Why doesn't that work for you?

    So far, the discussions in RRBks have gone rather well and no one seems to be proselytizing. Just giving their opinions about what's being discussed.

    So far, the discussion has been about Christianity, Islam and Judaism because the books that we chose stayed on those religions. We would like to discuss other faiths,ie. Taoism, Hinduism,etc. And, we would like for people to bring titles here that are about religions and for the purpose of discussion.

    Ann Alden
    January 27, 2004 - 08:47 am
    Here's a wonderful link to Brian's pics of Negev Desert

    I don't know who Brian is but the photos sure do give one an idea of how baren the Negev is. Did you know that it covers 60% of Israel?

    January 27, 2004 - 09:48 am
    ANN - I'd like to suggest that before discussions begin on faiths other than Judaism, Christianity and Islam (which we've already discussed in the two recent selections), that you poll the posters to determine whether through their discussions in this category they feel that they have come to a closer understanding of the inter-relationship of these three religions; the similarities and disparities; and how they are practiced by their adherents and understood overall. If not, you might extend the discussion beyond Walking the Bible and offer a one-month Summary discussion on JUDAISM/CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM.

    My suggestion stems from the fact that although America has been a Judeo-Christian country for a long time, there is often a misunderstanding about Judaism by Christians, and perhaps more noticeably, a definite misunderstanding about Muslims. And as we have witnessed in our reading and discussion of Walking the Bible, there is a great difference between American Jews and Israeli Jews. I would also speculate (although I don't recall this coming up in the discussion) that there is sparse knowledge among Americans about Arab Christians and Arab Jews. (I still recall Dr. Hanan Ashwari's comment to an American reporter in NY who asked what it felt like to be in a Christian country: "Young man, I AM FROM THE BIRTHPLACE OF JESUS!")

    And this is no time to not understand the largest developing religion in the USA - the increase in Muslims is astronomical. As more Muslims make their voices heard in the USA through community and State programs, running for elected offices, and participating in important venues which impact their local communities and States, their influence on the country overall will be felt.

    The increase in Muslims in the USA has come about not only through immigration, but from substantial conversion, intermarriage, and a return to one of the basic faiths in the African-American community when the Muslim ancestors of today's citizens first arrived as slaves on this continent. In the latter case, a better understanding of Black Muslims in the USA has been curtailed by the continued presence of racism.

    At the same time, the Jewish communities throughout the USA have strengthened their outreach to the younger generation of individuals born to Judiasm, but not strong practioners. In Feiler's early book on Abraham and in Walking the Bible (which surprisingly I found much more interesting than the former), he represents his own personal "search" for his roots very well, combined with a travelogue style. I've thoroughly enjoyed the historical aspects of the book, while passing over the travelogue aspects.

    Certainly there should be consideration of discussions about other religions, especially as they impact the USA. For example, there is also a substantial population of Hindus in the USA - again arising in many cases from immigration (especially those individuals who arrived in the USA through the special visa program for well educated, high tech trained, English speakers from India). I am fortunate to live in the metropolitan Washington DC area, which has a substantial multicultural and multi-religious population, but not all the SN posters have the small UN in their backyards as I do.

    A word about proselytizing: Although the primary participants in this (and earlier) discussions have been Christian with one or two Jews and one from a multi-religious background (me), there has been in my opinion an openness to learning about other religions, and a continued respect for the opinions of others. I don't recall negative comments or those deemed "proselytizing" in the Religion Related Books discussion, although they certainly were a mainstay in other discussions in the Religion folder. When the Islam discussion was opened initially, it was bombarded by negative criticism and ignorant remarks. That has not happened here. For which I am extremely grateful!

    Now I'm going to clean 4 feet of SNOW off my car - and hope that it's still underneath!

    Ann Alden
    January 27, 2004 - 10:30 am
    What a great post! I am in agreement with you and will go see what the powers that be might have in mind for RRBks after we finish Feiler's book. I think that your remarks on proselitizing were right on!! We have had a varied group here who were definitely open to finding out about others faiths.

    Four feet of snow!! Egad! We are having a strange week with an up and down thermometer plus snow, a thunderstorm, promised rain and sleet and ice but while on my way home from breakfast out with my husband, the sun burst forth among fluffy white clouds and blue sky. Go figure!

    January 27, 2004 - 10:35 am
    Would you mind poking your head outdoors and directing the sun to Maryland, please.

    January 27, 2004 - 11:35 pm
    Hi. I seem to have missed a really good discussion. It's too late now to get the book, but I will lurk for the rest of the discussion.

    I am particularly sorry to have missed it, because I lived for three years in Beer Sheva, on the edge of the Negev, and so have probably been to many of the places discussed.

    I was struck by your mention of Ben Gurion and S'de Boker. I have a strong memory of that which may be somewhat different from what you have read. I don't want to spoil your impression of a fine man with a negative story, but it's not really about Ben Gurion but about all of us.

    In 1963, I was living in Beer Sheva and going to an ulpahn. This is a place where immigrants from all over the world live for nine months and spend full time learning Hebrew. At that time Ben Gurion was elderly and living at S'de Boker.

    There was some special occasion, I forget what, and our class was selected to present Ben Gurion with some special momento as coming from the immigrants to Isreal. Before I went, my Israeli friends worned me not to pay attention to what Ben Gurion said, as he had gotten bitter and a little cranky with old age.

    We went to S'de Boker and met with Ben Gurion outside on a platform overlooking the desert. I will never forget how he looked with his white hair blowing in the wind against the red desert background -- like an ancient prophet. A young Rumanian immigrant had been chosen to represent the class and read a speech in Hebrew. Our Hebrew maybe wasn't as good as the organizers thought, because he hadn't gotten very far before he made a grammatical mistake. Ben Gurion got furious and interupted the young man angrily, correcting him and saying that he didn't understand the new immigrants He didn't know what they wanted. They didn't even speak Hebrew. Then he said something I have never forgotten. He said in Hebrew-- Here I am --I founded this country and now I don't even understand it.

    I have thought a lot about that as I got older. Even the best of us (and he was one of the best) can only go so far. Then history moves on and leaves us behind.

    Ann Alden
    January 28, 2004 - 06:48 am
    What a welcome surprise to find you here, without the book, but still with a story about a man whom everyone seems to have admired. I think I understand Ben Gurion's frustration with his country. It just wasn't going the way he thought it should. Your statement about the best of us can only go so far and then history moves on and leaves us behind is very astute. And so true, for all of us.

    So you lived in the Negev? My goodness,and you lived in a kibbutz? From some of the pictures that I have seen on the net, the kibbutz looks like a welcome oasis in that barren wasteland we call the desert. Did you like it? Did you feel closer to the Bible and its stories when you lived there?

    Please feel free to speak up anytime in the waning days of the discussion of this book and look for this folder more often in the future as we continue to discuss the different ways people have of practicing their faith, whatever it is. Come again, anytime, and comment as we wrap up the book and go on to more discussions of religions in the world.

    January 28, 2004 - 07:59 am
    As we have been discussing further study on JudaismChristianity/Islam, I thought this might be of interest. I have a copy of the Qur'an (the gift of a dear friend), that includes text, translation and commentary, translated by a gentleman named Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

    I found this footnote by Mr. Ali: "I conceive that God's revelation as a whole throughout the ages is "The Book". The Law of Moses, and the Gospel of Jesus were portions of the book. The Qur'an completes the revelation and is par excellence the Book of God."

    In support of this Islamic view is Surah X.37:"This Qur'an is not such as can be produced by other than God; On the contrary it s a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, And a fuller explanation of the Book---"

    An important point is made here, that the Qur'an is presented as a continuation, confirmation, and sometimes correction of the Judaic and Christian Holy Books, not as a refutation of them. ...Babi

    January 28, 2004 - 09:22 am
    Shalom, Joan - let me add my welcome, too. We're pleased to have you join us, even at the end of the current discussion. Your comments about Ben Gurion made me wonder how the Founding Fathers of the USA would think of our country today with its many changes, including the enormous addition of people from many foreign countries. This country, like Israel, surely is nowhere near the same as it was in the beginning - but then nothing really stays the same. I understand the difficulties of learning a new language and how hard it is sometimes for native speakers to listen to the non-fluent attempts of new arrivals.

    BABI - you've hit on a mainstay of Islam that many non-Muslims may not understand. Islam is not against the other major religions which we've discussed and in fact is quite accepting. That is not well known or discussed overall, so until there are more discussions like this one in which we have been able to share our opinions and understanding of the Abrahamic faith openly, the misunderstandings will continue.

    ANN - thanks for guiding us through this discussion. As we approach the end of it, I'd like to express my appreciation for the Books powers-that-be in agreeing to open this site and for your personal willingness to serve as DL. You've done a smashing job!

    January 28, 2004 - 01:17 pm
    I am not following this discussion carefully but did note Joan's comment about Ben Gurion. You should get a copy of What Went Wrong with Zionism. That is not the exact title and I do not have the book with me in Baltimore. It gives insight into how early decisions by Ben Gurion paved the way to Israel's current dilemma. Email me if you need the exact title and I will get it when I return home.

    Mahlia - I arrived just after the snow stopped but before the ice melted. Oh Joy.

    January 28, 2004 - 03:20 pm
    Ann, I haven't participated in the discussion as much recently as I did at the beginning because I fell behind in the reading. But I have kept up with reading all the interesting posts. I am enjoying this book and intend to continue reading it even after the discussion ends. The book has renewed my desire to read parts of the Bible I have not read since my college course in "The Bible as Literature."

    My sister has lived at S'de Boker for many years while teaching at Ben Gurion University. The photos she sends me look very similar to what has been described here--an oasis surrounded by a parched environment, and surrounded by seemingly barren hills. My sister describes a community at the University of Chistians and Jews who live peacefully in an area of Israel which has remained relatively untouched by the violence in the North. She speaks Hebrew fluently after all these years, but says Israelis still say she has an American accent. Whenever I worry about her safety, she says she also worries about mine. On 9/11, I was working for a client about 10 blocks from the World Trade Center, so I suppose no one is completely safe anywhere these days.

    I want to thank you all for this discussion. This is a book I would probably never have read otherwise. I'll continue to read the posts until the end, even if I don't catch up enough to contribute. And I will look for other selections in the Religion-related Books category.

    January 28, 2004 - 05:48 pm
    GEORGE - glad to hear you, too, are enjoying the snow. My son (who arrived home from Iraq two weeks ago) just sent a message that even his Army base is closed down due to heavy snow. Now that's bad!

    HORSELOVER - I remember descriptions from a colleague a few years ago who had taught at Ben Gurion University. Very similar to what your sister describes.

    January 28, 2004 - 07:29 pm
    Know that I have Not missed a post of any discussion that you have lead, especial pertaining to religions and how much we are All alike but traving different paths to the same goal which is our destitny (sp) but all know what I mean.

    I have learned So much from you and All the posters.

    My Thanks to Ann and All the posters that have followed where she leads us. You are All Very Special to me.

    From your S/N sister, Ginger

    Ann Alden
    January 29, 2004 - 07:07 am
    Thank you so much for the compliments. You are a special lady!

    Here are some very good photos of Israel's Negev

    These are on an Israel travel page so you have to scroll down a little and look on the right and of course, if you click on the picture, it enlarges. There are three pages of pictures!!

    Ann Alden
    January 30, 2004 - 06:47 am
    Here are two articles, one about "evolution" Georgia Takes on Evolution

    and another about

    Ann Alden
    January 30, 2004 - 06:50 am

    Scarves and Symbols

    Ann Alden
    January 30, 2004 - 07:04 am
    I have been meaning to put up a link to "Petra" where there are many pictures of this wonderful place. I first saw it in "Indiana Jones" and then there was a nice coverage about it and another movie on the "Today" show several years ago. Beautiful!! Enjoy!

    Petra photos

    Imagine walking through the "Siq" and coming upon the temple. Makes one feel so small!

    January 30, 2004 - 11:35 am
    Incredible pictures of Petra. The best done photo display I have ever seen. I sent the link to all my friends.

    January 30, 2004 - 01:13 pm
    Petra was mention in our Washington Post newspaper today as being one of "the very few side trips which Sec. of State Colin Powell took" on a diplomatic mission while he was in Jordan. How could anyone - regardless of rank or responsibility - miss an opportunity to witness such a sight! Last year one of my clerical friends from an area church visited Jordan and brought back souvenirs of the mud from the Dead Sea. Excuse me! I wanted photos of Petra!

    Diane Church
    January 30, 2004 - 01:37 pm
    What a riot, Mahlia - our daughter visited the area a few summers ago and brought back some Dead Sea mud for me, too! Is there a message here?

    Ann Alden
    January 30, 2004 - 04:39 pm
    Maybe its the old "from dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return" belief?? Tee hee! And, now if you know how, you can print these Petra photos right from net.

    JoanK, I am bookmarking that site also for later perusal plus the very well written text that goes with it. I don't have anyone around who would understand why I sent it to them. Maybe I will just send some friends the book. I do have a brother who is always reading non-fiction, and who is trying to live a better life, in his old age! hahahaha!

    One of the few lines from the book that really impressed me was when Feiler explained what visiting all those Biblical places had done for him and his belief in God. He mentions that while traveling, he believes that he leaves a part of himself wherever he goes but also brings a part of the place out with him. He felt it even more deeply while visiting the three continents, 5 countries and 3 deserts. Walking the roads, touching the rocks, sleeping on the desert had added another column to his being.

    He says, "And the only possible explanatioin I could find for that feeling was that a spirit existed in many of the places I visited, and a spirit existed in me, and the two had somehow met in the course of my travels. Its as if the godliness of the land and the godliness of my being had fused."

    I am impressed with the spirituality of this book without being preachy. Its been a nice read!

    January 30, 2004 - 05:46 pm

    January 31, 2004 - 11:11 am
    ANN: one of my big regrets is that I did not take advantage when I lived in the area to do what the author did. At the time, I was young and struggling to make a life for myself in a strange country, and the Bible was the furthest thing from my mind. More recently, I took advantage of the limited Hebrew I remember to read the Torah in Hebrew (I am not Jewish and had never done this). The copy I have has maps in it, and I would think : oh --- I wwas right there. I could have followed that way.I think youth is wasted on the young.

    Even with my limited spiritual awareness, I could see there was something special about the places I was. You could almost feel the oldness, and the civilizations of people that had been there. I don't know how to explain what I mean, but it was real.

    You had asked me if I lived on a Kibbutz. No, I lived in town, but "commuted" to teach English on a Kibbutz. I also spent some time on another kibbutz. I was not close to the kibbutznicks, my friends were in town, including some who had left kibbutzim. It's an interesting life. It seemed to me that people either flourished or dried up under it. It is a small, closed group, so group dynamics get magnified in ways good and bad.

    Ann Alden
    February 1, 2004 - 07:01 am
    I am really interested in why you went to Israel other than to teach. Especially since you are not Jewish. I am sorry that you didn't take advantage of being in that oldest of civiliazations. Probably, its the youth thing--we always assume that we have all the time in the world and don't take enough side tours or pictures when we should.

    We are now ending this most interesting book. IMHO, it was very informational and, at the same time, spiritual.

    I liked the way the author finally decides that we all have a path to follow and need to know that we carry our God right in our hearts and souls. Most likely, God is the same entity for most of us and so we try to know our God.

    Do most of you feel that this quote is true?

    "This is the lesson of Mt Nebo and the poetic twist at the end of the Five Books that help make them such a hymn: The land alone is not the destination; the destination is the place where human beings live in consort with the divine. Ultimately, it doesn't matter that what the Bible describes is impossible to see. It doen't matter because what the Bible describes is impossible to see. It doesn't matter because MOses wasn't seeing as we do. At the end, he wasn't even looking at the land. He was looking where we should look. He was looking at God."

    I hope that all of posters who have read along or just lurked will join us in a general discussion about "Religion Related Books" which will be up tomorrow. Its been fun to read this book and share it with you all.

    Ann Alden
    February 1, 2004 - 01:33 pm
    I received a message to print this here from the author. So here is his note to us.

    Thank you for your generous note.


    I have been very moved by the reaction to WALKING THE BIBLE and now ABRAHAM, readers around the world sharing their thoughts, and sharing the book with friends.  Thank you for being part of that.  Especially in these trying times, I am honored that my work has served to bring people together.  I'm so honored you have discussed both of the books, and trust you have the discussion guides that are on my site.  Give my regards to your fellow students.  You're pioneers of interfaith!


    I wish you happy travels, and happy reading.


    Bruce Feiler


    P.S.  As for visiting, the paperback of ABRAHAM is being released on 02/17/04 and I'll be traveling around the U.S., visiting over 20 cities.  I hope to meet you.  The details of the tour will be on my website soon.

      This afternoon I received a note from him and he says he will be in Ohio next month. So, maybe I can look forward to meeting him in Columbus.

    February 2, 2004 - 08:21 am
    (sigh) Can anyone explain to me that E topped by a tilde that appears all thru' Mr. Feiler's note? I've seen it before, and haven't a clue. ...Babi

    February 2, 2004 - 09:01 am
    I am so glad you asked as I was wondering also. Thanks Babi.

    Diane Church
    February 2, 2004 - 09:07 am
    So I'm not the only one. Thanks BaBi and Ginger.

    Ann Alden
    February 2, 2004 - 01:45 pm
    Diane and Ginger, that E with the tilde just showed up here this morning. When I posted that note here, it didn't look like that at all. And, while we are speaking about that E and the tilde, could anyone explain why those that are using a PC and maybe Word, when they type an apostophe an I sits right below it, therefore making the apostrophe look like a candle? Got me!