The Holy Land Experience is a theme park (or, as some visitor shave acutely observed, a series of gift shops) run by the Trinity Broadcasting Network with the purpose of showing people the historical Middle East as conceived of by US evangelical fundamentalists. The HLE was founded by Jewish-born Baptist minister Marvin (“Marv”) Rosenthal, and opened its gates in 2001; it was bought by TBN in 2007 after a period of financial difficulties. Rosenthal is also chief executive of Zion’s Hope, a ministry devoted (like previous entry’s Joel Rosenberg) to “reaching the Jewish people for the Messiah”.
Among the HLE’s many attractions are several “ISRAELI HOLY SITES – Authentically Reproduced” (where “authentically” should course to be interpreted with the fundie’s usual eye for accuracy, accountability and factual basis), including the Garden of Eden, the Bethlehem Bus Loop, the Shepherd’s Field, the “Eyes of the Lord” & “Pieta”, The Jesus Boat, the Tiny Town of Bethlehem, the Birth Place of Jesus and the Bethlehem Bell Tower, all with a strikingly Monty Pythonesque atmosphere (review here) Insofar as a central goal of HLE is to convert Jewish people to Christianity, the park has received some criticism from Jewish organizations. Rosenthal’s response was that they weren’t exclusively targeting Jewish people.
The park is currently run by Paul and Jan Crouch. But what is Rosenthal up to these days? Well, beyond the HLE Rosenthal is known for his book The Prewrath Rapture of the Church from 1990, a notable exercise in deranged nonsense. And his ministry, Zion’s Fire, seems to be chugging along merrily and zealously working to convert Jewish people to Christianity before the End Times, which are imminent, as always. With regard to said End Times, Rosenthal has been pretty explicit about Islam’s role; as such, one of the aims of the HLE was apparently to encourage American opposition to any sort of peace in the Middle East, given the importance of war, death, tyranny and suffering in the Middle East in bringing about the end of the world that Rosenthal is looking for.
Diagnosis: Yes, he’s evil. He is also laughably ridiculous, but we recommend keeping a safe distance.