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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Come touch the past:
Kfar Kedem recreates the daily life of a Galilean village 2,000 years ago

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

GALILEE, ISRAEL (ANS) -- Thousands of years ago, the ancient Galilee was full of hundreds of small villages where the simple people raised their crops, tended to their flocks and lived according to their ancient customs. These villages served as the backdrop for the historic events that spawned the Gospels and inspire us to this day to follow in the footsteps of the ancient apostles and to seek the landscapes that Jesus knew.

Dan Wooding riding a donkey at Kfar Kedem

A multitude of pilgrims sojourn to the Holy Land and visit the holy sites at Nazareth, Kana, the Sea of Galilee and many others. But what is often missing from their itinerary is a hands-on experience of the daily life in an ancient Galilean village.

That place is Kfar Kedem which was established six years ago on a scenic hillside facing Nazareth and Sephoris National Park. The project was the brainstorm of Menachem Goldberg, 36, an experienced tour guide and a resident of the Galilean village of Hoshaya.

After conferring with historians and archeologists and studying the relevant Jewish and Christian texts, Kfar Kedem was built with the highest standards of authenticity regarding the agriculture and architecture of an ancient Galilean village.

As part of that authenticity, Kfar Kedem is run according to halacha, the ancient Jewish law that proscribes that the village remains closed on the Sabbath as well as all Jewish holidays and that all food served at Kfar Kedem is strictly kosher.

A visit to Kfar Kedem is like passing through a time tunnel to the Galilee of antiquity. Donkeys are tied to posts as the flock of sheep is going off to pasture while hens are leading their chicks down the lane. Depending on the season, the olives, figs, grapes or pomegranates are ripening on the trees.

Menachem Goldberg sharing about ancient life

But Kfar Kedem can't be mistaken for a stage show or museum exhibit. The philosophy there is for a hands-on experience. Guests are encouraged to dress in biblical clothes (which we did) provided by the staff and are kept busy in various parts of the village pressing oil, crushing grapes or baking the pita bread that will be served with the afternoon feast at the Shepherd's tent.

At any time, a donkey caravan may be returning from a short journey along the ancient rode to Nazareth, or a day-long trek to the Sea of Galilee or the demanding two-week journey to Jerusalem, following the same route the pilgrims traveled in the days when the holy Temple stood in Jerusalem.

In my opinion, no Holy Land experience can be complete without a visit to Kfar Kedem to touch and feel how the ancient people of the Galilee lived their daily lives. The memories of the activities done in Kfar Kedem will live on far after the numerous snapshots fade away.

The team of journalists dressed in the old garb

Recently, along with a group of Christian journalists from the United States, Canada and Mexico, I was able to visit this extraordinary place and talk with its founder, Menachem Goldberg. (The trip was organized for by the Israel Tourism Board.)

I began by asking Goldberg what he was hoping to achieve at Kfar Kedem?

“The idea here,” he said, “is that we try to take people back to what life was like here some 2,000 ago. We are living here like a settlement; like a village. The idea is that we are living together as a community here on this hill and we try to take our visitors back to the ancient times in Galilee.”

What sort of things do you have on display?

“We show visitors how they prepared bread in those olden times and also olive oil and the grapes to make wine,” he said. “We also show our visitors how to ride on a donkey and also how they ate by using their right hand in those ancient times.”

What about the living conditions in those days?

“I think the people that had money in those old days had very good conditions to live in, but the poor really had a very tough life and they knew that they really must trust God because they knew that if they didn't get trained, they would starve. They had to make sure that they would be able to feed their animals such as their goats and sheep. It was a very pure and tough life in those ancient times.”

I wondered if felt he could have survived those conditions?

“I'm not sure that I could have done so,” he laughed.

He admitted that life on the commune today was not as spartan as in the old days with modern conveniences like iPods and mp3 players.

“We don’t live like the Amish,” he said. “It's very modern life here.”

What do you hope the people who visit here will learn?

Menachem Goldberg inside the tent
before the team ate

“They will understand more about the roots of the Judaism here, also they know more about their own religion (and where it comes from) and about themselves,” he stated.

“I hope also that they are going to be good ambassadors to the real reality here in Israel and that they know more about the roots between Israel, the nation of Israel and the Bible and, if they know more about those three things, they will have more understanding about why we are living here.”

I then asked him why he felt many Christians from the United States were so pro-Israel and he said, “Because if you believe the Bible, you cannot but be pro-Israel.”

He then quoted from Genesis 12: 2-3, “I will bless you and make your descendants into a great nation. You will become famous and be a blessing to others. I will bless anyone who blesses you, but I will put a curse on anyone who puts a curse on you. Everyone on earth will be blessed because of you.”

So if you are going to Israel, why not take some time out like our team dead and share the Kfar Kedem experience, where you can be a shepherd, plow your fields and bring in the harvest to the village threshing floor. Then grind the flour and bake your own bread. Join a donkey caravan heading to the hills above Nazareth and end the day with a feast in the shepherd's tent.

For more information, go to: http://www.kfar-kedem.co.il/index.html

Note: I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.


Dan Wooding, 69, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 47 years. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC., and now hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on KWVE in Southern California and which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Wooding is also a regular contributor to The Weekend Stand on the Crawford Broadcasting Network, and a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 192 countries. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth”, which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel “Red Dagger” which is available here

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