We shall call it “the Holy Land.” Today’s politics divides it into Israel and Palestine. Some pundets may include parts of Jordan too, but we’ll treat that separately.
When you travel horizontally through this land, you can stop just about anywhere and look back in history. In the present, you may be in Israel or Palestine, but the history will take you down through the many generations that have trod here: Ottomans, Mamlukes, Crusaders, the early Arab dynasties, the Byzantines, the Romans, the Greeks, the Jews who returned under Persian rule, and so on back to the Canaanites and beyond.
We owe this historical richness, in part, to the fact that the land is a bridge joining Asia, Africa and Europe. But only in part. For when you look back in history, you will also find stories of people who knew the land not as a bridge, rather as home. These stories are not confined to the past. They reach right up into our present lives, helping to make us who we are. In other words, many of us grew up in cultures embraced with the Bible, and like it or not, the Bible affects how we see and think and feel.
Touring the Holy Land, therefore, is not like any other touring. It is a kind of homecoming, a discovery of roots.