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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Would Jesus Think of Himself Becoming a Theme Park?

This is just plain bizarre to my way of thinking. The Holy Land transplanted across the Atlantic and cast in plastic, what would Abraham, Jesus and Mohamed think?

Tierra Santa in BA - the belly dancing show

Picture from article, "Parque Tierra Santa in Buenos Aires" posted on Argentina's Travel Guide

Disneyland for the religious: queueing up for 'Resurrection' - Feature

Buenos Aires - Buenos Aires offers the first multireligious theme park in the world, advertised as an escape to Jerusalem in the age of Jesus Christ. Although Christianity plays the leading role, people of other faiths, including Muslims and Jews, would also get their money's worth at Tierra Santa, unlike in purely Christian parks, its managers said. Inside the facility, there is a mosque, a Jewish temple and even a Mahatma Gandhi statue.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, although the weather forecast had predicted rain, the stands were full before a replica of Mount Golgotha. People looked up to the sky, waiting for a mechanical interpretation of a miracle. Eventually, an 18-metre-tall statue of Jesus rose slowly from the fake rock.

A choir sang out "Hallelujah" as the oversized figure started to carry out 36 automatic movements. People applauded enthusiastically.

Those who missed that performance of the "Resurrection," which lasted about 10 minutes, might have been instead at the "Holy Communion" or the "Creation," but they had to wait only 45 minutes for the next performance.

"Earlier, the 'Resurrection' included a laser show, but that was forbidden because it disrupted air traffic," said Manfred Engler, the official photographer of the park since it opened on Christmas Eve 1999.

Its first day was timed for historical reasons. "We wanted Argentina to contribute something special to the 2,000th jubilee of the birth of Jesus," said Maria Antonia Ferro, director and co-founder of Tierra Santa.

So far, 3 million people have visited the park.

"Apart from what visitors learn about culture and history, the park also has a very particular mysticism," she said. "People come back because they find inner peace here.

At the 7-hectare facility, built for 7 million dollars, there are now more than 30 replicas of historic places aimed at giving visitors a glimpse at everyday life in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago as well as representations of biblical scenes.

With the help of more than 500 life-sized figures and scores of actors and artists, the ancient world comes alive.

Restaurants offer Armenian and Lebanese food, and visitors can buy little busts of Nefertiti as souvenirs.

"I have already been here several times," said a woman named Carla, a Catholic with her two children and mother-in-law at the park. "We are very religious, and since we are not in a position to travel to Israel, this is a good alternative.

Florencia, 20, just wanted "to enjoy the good weather" with her friends. She complained that religion is often put forward in boring ways.

"That is not the case here," said the woman who defines herself as religious. Although the park director described Tierra Santa as "a sort of Disneyland," individual religions are supportive of the enterprise.

"Without the support of the [Catholic] Church, it would have been impossible to set up the park," Ferro said. There, children can experience biblical history under the guidance of lay preachers.

Some even have their first communion at the park.

"Muslims pray here at the mosque, and the 'Western Wall' is an important place for Jews," Ferro said.
Many place pieces of paper with their wishes in the wall's cracks. Once a year, employees of the Israeli embassy pick up the notes and send them to Jerusalem to the real Western Wall, the last remaining wall of Jerusalem's ancient temple, which was destroyed by the Roman Empire.

While Ferro said, "I believe there is one God for everybody," she admitted that park employees spread mostly Christianity. "We are all missionaries here: from the person who tears entry tickets to the person who cleans up," Ferro said.



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