Jewish leaders amplified their concern about the way Jews will be portrayed at the $16-million, 15-acre park five miles east of Universal Studios Florida on Interstate 4.
Rabbi Daniel Wolpe, of Congregation Ohalei Rivka in southwest Orlando and president of the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis, criticized plans by developer Zion's Hope ministry to earmark profits from Holy Land for converting Jews in the United States and Israel to Christianity.
"It is quite a different thing to create a monument that celebrates your tradition than it is to create a monument that is to be used to proselytize people outside of your tradition," Wolpe said.
The Rev. Marvin Rosenthal, president of Holy Land and Zion's Hope, said he would be "thrilled" if area rabbis would visit the attraction to see for themselves what the park is about.
"We want to be as cordial, as friendly, as gracious as we possibly can," said Rosenthal, a Baptist convert from Judaism.
Holy Land's evangelical purpose came into focus Thursday at a press briefing unveiling the park.
Rosenthal's son David, vice president of the two organizations, explained that "first and foremost, the goal of the Holy Land Experience is a ministerial one to deliver to our guests the message of the Bible in ways that are gracious, comfortable and of uncompromising quality."
One of the two "multi-sensory" presentations, "The Wilderness Tabernacle," recreates the life of the Israelite slaves in the desert. Most of the one-minute presentation, in English with some Jewish prayers recited in Hebrew, is taken directly from the Book of Exodus. But in the last several minutes, the narrator portraying a Jewish priest wonders if the desert sojourn is just a prelude to a fuller understanding of faith, in the person of Jesus. The last image flashed on the screen is that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
"That's really offensive," said Wolpe, "because it is implying that their tradition is the fulfillment of our tradition, and that is a clear proselytizing maneuver. They owe the Jewish community an apology."