Bruce Feiler's Where God Was Born takes us on a journey that is both physical and spiritual. Physically, we follow Feiler as he explores Israel in search of Biblical locations, map in one hand, Bible in the other. Spiritually, we accompany Feiler as he tries to rediscover the spiritual peace he found after his first book, Walking the Bible.
From the outset, we encounter an Israel that is very diferent from the one we see in Feiler's other books. His group is beset with obstacles thrown up by the Israeli Army in the name of 'security.' He encounters victims of suicide bombings first hand. He is watched by armed gunmen (Israeli and Palestinian) everywhere he goes.
The journey starts with the seath of Moses and the conquest of Canaan. We see Joshua's battles from the perspective of Yoram Yair — one of the most decorated generals in Israel's history. He gives us a valuable perspective, especially on the battle of Jericho. We then follow the life of David, from shepherd to hero to renegade, revolutionary, possibly even terrorist, to (finally) king of a unified nation. We wade through the tunnels under Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of Biblical archaeologists like Edward Robinson, Charles Warren, even Montague Parker and Father Hughes Vincent. We encounter the vertical shaft that David allegedly used to invade the city of Jerusalem, and find ourselves wondering exdactly how he did it. We see David's failings and shortcomings, and find ourselves relieved that he was, after all, human.
Feiler then turns from the political center of the nation to it's spritual center — the Temple Mount.
"What if we try to circumnavigate the Temple Mount?"
"It can't be done. It's too dangerous"
"So where do we start?"
We learn a great irony — while Jews and Christians are incensed that the Muslims have co-opted their sacred site at the Temple Mount, David did the same thing with an existing Jebusite sacred site when he selected the location for the Temple. Feiler reminds us that "religious rights and wrongs cannot be refereed by claiming first dibs," — something that should be remembered when considering the conflict in the Middle East. Feiler elsewhere notes that, in the Bible, it isn't living in the land that is important — it is living in obedience to God in the land. Christians who pledge their unconditional loyalty to the current secular state of Israel would do well to remember that.