Visitors to Israel may remember the Biblical Gardens located at Tantur, founded by Jim Fleming (Biblical Resources). That wonderful center lost its lease in the late 1990s, and moved to a smaller facility in Ein Karem. The location was more off the beaten track and the steep decline in tourists that started in late 2000 bode ill for the center. Several years ago I read that all of its large archaeological replicas were going to be purchased by Bridges for Peace. The center then “moved” to Georgia (about 70 miles sw of Atlanta), where it provides similar instruction about biblical life and times those who may not be able to travel to Israel.
Before she moved to Israel, Hannah Trasher used to be a professional fashion designer. Today, she spends most of her days dressed up as an ancient Israelite, sporting sandals, a robe and a turban-like head wrap worn by upper class Jewish women during the Second Temple period.
Two years ago, Thrasher, 57, came from the United States to Ein Kerem, the picturesque village in southwest Jerusalem, to become the executive director of the Bible Times Center and Heritage Garden, which she founded and built largely with her own savings. Nestled in the green hills surrounding the capital and tucked away between small streets and rustic churches, the center allows groups of tourists and curious Israelis, tourists and school children to travel back in time to experience how Jews – and non-Jews – lived in the land of Israel in biblical times…
The center, which is housed in a ten-room multistory building from the days of the Ottoman empire, also includes a threshing floor, a stone quarry, a stable with mangers, a wine press, a watch tower, a wedding canopy and a replica of an ancient gravesite.
Trasher, who was born in Louisiana but lived in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Texas before settling in Jerusalem, started learning about Jewish history about 30 years ago, and has since led many study groups from the U.S. to Israel. On her tours, she often stopped by at the World of the Bible Archaeological Museum and Pilgrim Center, which until 2006 operated in the same house where she later built the Bible Times Center. But when the director of the old center, biblical archaeology and history scholar Jim Fleming, was given an enormous grant to build a similar project in Atlanta, Thrasher suddenly found the site abandoned.
“I was just crushed, as were many people, that this place wasn’t available anymore,” she said about her decision to move to Israel to establish her own bible center. Although she had always appreciated her predecessor’s work, she found that he approached the topic too intellectually. “It was a place that attracted many scholars from all around the world,” she said, “but that was not my vision for the place.”
The rest of the story is here.
HT: Joe Lauer
UPDATE: The current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review arrived in my mailbox today and it includes an article on the new “Explorations in Antiquity Center” of Jim Fleming/Biblical Resources. Based on the write-up and what I remember from the center in Israel, it sounds like a worthwhile visit for any interested in the biblical world and passing through Georgia. One strange thing: the BAR article starts in the first-person, but I cannot find the author’s name listed. It begins, “I have never been to Israel,” so that rules out Shanks. The online version includes the first three paragraphs of the article and the author’s name: Dorothy Resig (a BAR editor).