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A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses

by Bruce Feiler

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-380-97775-3
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

A genial travel-journal-turned-spiritual-exploration that encompasses many of the sites (from the Dome of the Rock to the banks of the Nile) mentioned in the first five books of the Bible.

On a trip to Israel, Feiler (Learning to Bow, 1991) was struck “like a bolt of Cecil B. DeMille lightning” by the idea that in and around this land the real places visited by the patriarchs of the Bible still existed. How better to understand the book that connected him—a Jew from Georgia—to his ancestors than to stand in person on those same sites? Enlisting the aid of renowned Israeli archaeologist Avner Goren, Feiler began his odyssey in Turkey near the alleged site of Noah’s ark. Still in Turkey, they drove south (not as much walking as the title suggests) to an area where local—not biblical—tradition holds that Abraham spent his early life, with Goren identifying sites of digs and archeological discoveries. Their travels continued across the West Bank, back and forth through Israel, and into Egypt (“you can’t understand the Bible without understanding Egypt”) to follow the story of Moses. They rowed out on a body of water where the Jews of the Exodus might have crossed and continued across the Sinai (burning bush, Commandments, manna) and up into the Negev desert (40 years of wandering). At each sacred spot, Feiler and Goren whip out their Bibles to discuss the events and ascertain whether this is the place. Most often, the answer is “we don’t know.” And the response is “it doesn’t matter.” According to the author, the meaning of the biblical stories—whether the historical struggle of one civilization against another or the spiritual struggle of one people with their moody God—is virtually tangible in these places.

A chatty, informal narrative that weaves the Bible and other ancient stories together with contemporary lives, along the way uncovering a strong spiritual dimension that surprised the author—and may surprise the reader.