If you can’t go to Israel, I’ve got the next best thing. Plan a visit to the Exploration in Antiquity Center in Lagrange, Georgia, about an hour southwest of Atlanta. Earlier today I toured this complex, and there were moments when I felt like I was back in the Holy Land, listening to an Israeli guide talk about the land and culture of biblical times.
That said, I don’t want to create overly high expectations. When I first arrived, I was a little disappointed. The Antiquity Center is in a remote spot on an industrial parkway, and it’s not yet as fully developed as the planners want. I wandered around on my own for awhile, and at first I thought, “Is this all there is?”
But then I joined in a guided tour, and I began to realize how many lessons come to life.
The founder of the Antiquity Center is Dr. James Fleming, an archaeologist who has been responsible for eighteen excavations of major biblical sites. He’s been digging in the Holy Land since 1971, and is a keep student of both the Land and the Book. He’s also taught at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and at other schools, and he continues to teach the Arab and Jewish Guides who lead Holy Land tours in and around Israel.
Dr. Fleming is currently back in Israel, so I didn’t get to meet him. But the gentleman who led our tour was wonderful. As we sat in an actual Bedouin Tent, he explained the story of Abraham and Sarah, and I picked up some insights I had never before understood.
As he stood by a replica of an ancient sheepfold, I could imagine being a shepherd in biblical times. Other exhibits include a desert oasis, a well, a cave-stable, a threshing floor, replicas of Old and New Testament tombs, a grape and olive press, Canaanite and Israelite altars, and a four-room Israelite house.
The Center caters to guided tours for any age. With children, there’s a special tour that shows youngsters how bread was made in biblical times. With others, the program usually ends with a biblical meal – a four course dinner as it would have been in biblical times.
Dr. Fleming hopes to expand the exhibits in the future with a football-field sized replica of the Sea of Galilee.
Visiting the Atiquities Center would be a great addition to a family trip to Atlanta, or a wonderful field trip for children or for groups in the church. I tagged along with a Senior Adult group today; and, like it said, at times I felt I was touring Israel itself again.