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Postmodern Village
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Modest Steps Toward a Comprehensive Plan for a Positive Development in the Holy Land
By Tal R. Bab-El

It is the opinion of this writer that previous attempts to bring progress to the Holy Land have been hampered by a common problem among those steeped in the combined noxious brew of leftist politics and diplomatic predispositions: appeasement.

It should be noted that the following is not a proposal that advocates wide-scale movements of men and matériel ala the Second World War; rather the suggestion is more in line with the current understanding of contemporary economics and free-market dynamics generally. As long as proposals regarding the Holy Land are still hidebound in the old-fashioned and outmoded notions of “ethnicity” and “the nation state” they are doomed to fail. Only when free market principles are brought to bear can solutions become viable, as the economies of the Western World and some key ones in Asia have, since the 1980s, come to accept.

We must begin by assuming that the real value in Israel/Palestine lies not in its natural resources. It has no oil to speak of and only meager and hardscrabble farmland. Iraq and Iran are much more fertile, both literally and figuratively, and Saudi Arabia, the other barren locale of great religious importance in the region, is blessed with massive reserves of the proverbial Black Gold. Instead, all the Holy Land has to offer is prodigious history and religious significance. There are only way two ways to arbitrage those properties into profit. One is through occupation and a blackmail/geographical hostage situation—ransoming tracts of religiously significant land to the three major monotheistic religions. This method may be dismissed as being overly risky, as the desperate faithful might be encouraged to damage valuable property in an effort to save it, thus making the possibility of further profits slim.

The second scheme seems more acceptable, and has, in fact, been attempted in a sort of limited way in the past. I'm talking, of course, about tourism. Past schemes to re-create the Holy Land as a tourist destination have been, problematically, far too limited. Attempting to sell the destination piecemeal, as, say, a Wailing Wall appealing to Jewish customers, an Al-Aqsa Mosque to Muslim touristas, and a Church of the Holy Sepulcher to Christian consumers, diffuses the brand and only serves to water-down the actual product line. This lack of a cohesive Holy Land corporate structure also spreads responsibility around to the degree that it disappears entirely. The state of the physical value units has, therefore, been seriously degraded over the years, despite an arid climate otherwise conducive to ease-of-maintenance.

The Wailing Wall/Temple Mount structure is a case in point. While Muslim attempts to make it an upscale experience are notable, with its gold-tone dome on the Al Aqsa Mosque, the structure itself is pushing 1300 years of age and is in need of contemporary refurbishing. A much more agreeable experience for all visitors would involve free wi-fi, select food and beverage franchisees (Starbuck's and McDonald's seem perfectly poised to fill this position), and, perhaps, an air-conditioned superstructure boasting casino-style games and a modern arcade. The Wailing Wall product is in terrible condition, being, quite literally, just a shred of a shell of its former self. Plans should include a total replacement of all the soiled and possibly dangerously unstable bricks. Colored lighting and holographic depictions of the lives of King David, King Solomon, Jacob, and other notables could be projected in 3D on the updated wall, turning the experience from one of mere sorrow at past diaspora into the more salable upbeat, charismatic, concert-type experience.

Likewise, the Via Dolorosa is, by its very title, a down-beat experience. So-called “Passion Porn” as depicted in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has its place, but people quickly tire of being constantly reminded of even the most redemptive of deicides. Instead, the Via Dolorosa should be rechristened the Jesus Trail, along with national-park-like scenic overlooks, hiking outfitters, and designated camping areas. The Stations of the Cross should be replaced with the Hydration Stations of Christ, or perhaps Charging Stations of the Cross for Holy Land branded cell phones and laptop computers.

Bethlehem is, as an entire town, in serious need of a makeover, and celebrity specialists like Ty Pennington could be brought in especially for this purpose to bring publicity to the project and crossover corporate sponsorship synergy. Its resurrection could be as a Christmas-themed destination of “living-history lite,” celebrating the most positive (and lucrative) of seasons with a minimum of boring informational intrusion. This would, in turn, extend holiday shopping essentially indefinitely, bringing, finally, the kingdom of consumption to an otherwise struggling retail sector.

The latter and even the former two examples imply a certain problem with what is being suggested, which is no less than a geographically one-to-one scale, utterly authentic, Holy Land theme park: what to do about the current employees. Clearly, they have been underperforming, and not just in the recent past. For more than 2,000 years, both management and labor on the first phase of the Holy Land project have been wracked with disagreements; self-imposed, ideology-based restrictions on progress and development; and literal infighting. While these may not present as problems when found in corporate boardrooms, they are positive anathema when it comes to the rank and file. That is why the annexation agreement for what we may call the second phase of the Holy Land--Holy Land 2.0, if you will--must accompany the immediate termination of the old project's current staff. Useful “types” to person authentic displays of period scene—goatherds and olive-pickers, perhaps—may be rehired on a case-by-case basis, as long as they pass extensive and rigorous background checks and sign legally binding agreements not to interfere with, and even to assist when possible, Holy Land 2.0's future clientèle. Hooka-smoking idlers in marketplaces should be replaced with smartly-dressed sales associates trained at a specially designed corporate facility, and irascible Israeli “settlers” should be replaced with more period-correct fishermen and carpenters. Militants of all sorts would be strictly forbidden except when being portrayed by trained reinactors, say, in the form of Roman soldiers here re-visioned as kindly guides and helpers along the Jesus Trail.

There may be initial resistance to this plan, but key investors are sure to get behind the annexation when revenue streams are considered. With more than a billion potential clients consisting of adherents to the three major monotheistic religions, and with multiple visits a likelihood given Holy Land 2.0's more stable and user-friendly status, profits are not just assured but doubtlessly enduring. Like any great desert tourist destination, Las Vegas makes a useful comparison, interest will wane if new products are not continually introduced. There is no reason that Holy Land 2.0 need be tied to its particular past, however divinely inspired. Cathedrals to Latter Day Saints could be added in order to attract Mormons, and once a free-floating holiness-image is achieved, re-creations of Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, and Jain sacred places could be laid in alongside existing structures.

After all, with the right corporate vision, the very heavens are an easily attainable goal, and certainly no limit.