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Live Active Cultures

Where does a bad Jew go during the Christmas season? The Holy Land Experience, of course!

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Adults, on the other hand, can fill a day seeing the numerous new live shows that have been installed in recent years. Though the scripts are overwrought and offer theologically tenuous interpretations of ancient Jewish history (Jesus is a Gentile, but Caiaphas and Saul have Borscht Belt accents?), I’ll stack the thespians of HLE’s Century acting ensemble against the actors at any local attraction. Not only do they each perform more than a half-dozen unique shows daily, but most are called on to deliver gut-wrenching, tear-stained soliloquies; not the usual theme-park fluff. You might even recognize a few from local legit stages; I spotted Scott Browning, a fixture at Art’s Sake Studio, snoozing in the garden of Gethsemane. I especially appreciated the production values in “Forgiven,” “Legna” and “Why I Love Him – Four Women Who Loved Jesus” – if only more local stages had sound and lighting systems as slick as HLE’s Shofar Auditorium. Of course, the newly revamped Passion drama is still the primary draw, with Centurions kicking the holy crap out of Christ (a family viewing area thoughtfully shields young believers from the copious gore) and a spangled Second Coming encore.

There are still too many moneychangers in this temple ($8 for a reheated Chick-fil-A sandwich?!?) but I had a better-than-expected experience among the faithful. If you aren’t blessed enough to find the $35 admission fee in your budget, you can attend Sunday morning services for free or a Friday night taping of TBN’s Praise the Lord inside the glitzy new Temple of Nations theater (think Vegas meets the Vatican). Or just drive by after hours for a look at their outdoor displays of holiday lights and hideously out-of-scale Nativity-scene animals. Just tell Jesus that the Jew sent you.

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