One of the foremost commentators on religion and its Middle Eastern roots is unveiling two projects he hopes will do for the eye what his prose has done for the ear.
Author Bruce Feiler, whose Walking the Bible, Abraham and the recently published Where God Was Born have torn through the New York Times best-seller list, has published an illustrated version of his breakthrough project Walking the Bible. A PBS series about the journey will air sometime in early 2006.
Walking the Bible: A Photographic Journey features 150 color and black-and-white illustrations from Feiler’s own journey retracing the steps of the Israelites as recounted in the first five books of the Bible.
Nuggets of information accompany the photographs, which will likely engage anyone reared on Bible stories.
Included are pictures of an edible substance the Bedouin called “manna,” a bush that tradition holds was the “burning bush” through which God spoke to Moses, and much more.
In 2001, Feiler surveyed the Pentateuch with Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses. The book quickly became a New York Times best seller, and Feiler wound up touring the country with a sort of slide show from his 10,000-mile journey.
Audience members would ask where they could buy the slides, Feiler told EthicsDaily.com on the phone from his home in New York City. In five years, the No. 1 question at www.brucefeiler.com has had to do with people wanting photos from his journey.
Fortunately, Feiler was ready.
“I grew up in a family of photographers,” said Feiler, a Savannah native. “Travel is intimately connected to photography for my family.”
“We would travel, take pictures, come back and share those pictures with members of my family,” he said. So Feiler, who has traveled to five continents and more than 60 countries, takes along more than a pen and Bible.
He’s always lugging his camera.
Pictures in A Photographic Journey come from Feiler’s original trek through the Middle East, as well as his recent trips with a documentary film crew to retrace the journey for the three-hour PBS series, which will likely air in March 2006.
Feiler also selected several photos from private collections to further illustrate the places, events and even moods from his journey.
His favorite photo—from his own lens—is of Mount Sinai. His favorite—that he didn’t take, couldn’t have taken, as a matter of fact—shows the entire Sinai Peninsula from space. Thanks to NASA, one can get an inkling of the Israelites’ wandering “in one fell swoop,” he said.
“The picture that makes me smile the most when I look at the book now is me on top of the pyramids,” said Feiler, who added that climbing the second-tallest pyramid on the Giza plateau was “an incredibly scary thing to do.”
After 2001’s Walking the Bible, Feiler again tackled faith, religion and land in Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths. That 2002 book was also used to launch interfaith discussions across the country.
In Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion, which came out in September, Feiler dissected the “moment” when several of the world’s great monotheistic religions came into being and—importantly—drew from each other.
Feiler has traveled to biblical sites for the last several years, sifting their stories for meaning, and now he’s delivered photographs of his journey and process. But if he could photograph an actual event or moment from the stories he has examined, what would it be?
He mentioned the “burning bush,” as well as “Mount Ararat emerging after the flood” that Noah and his family survived after building the famous ark.
But one event surpasses them both for Feiler, who said he has always loved the phrase “wall of water” from Exodus 14.
“If I could take one picture,” he said, “it would have to be the splitting of the Red Sea.”
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
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