Tour to set out in search of Noah's arkBy John Warren
BIG SANDY, Texas--The Journal in January sat down with three people who plan to lead a Bible-related tour of Greece and Turkey that may include a visit to what some people believe is the resting place of Noah's ark.
Marvin and Renetta Wilson of Celina, Texas, Sabbatarian Christians who founded and operate the Biblical Archaeology Foundation, brought Dr. Micha Ashkenazi to Big Sandy for an interview on Jan. 21.
Dr. Ashkenazi, 67, is a native and resident of Jerusalem who operates Bible Oriented Tours and will serve, along with the Wilsons, as a guide on the tour, planned for June.
Dr. Ashkenazi's credentials include a Ph.D. in Jewish-Christian studies in the School of Bible Theology at San Jacinto, Calif., and intensive studies in biblical archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 1992 Dr. Ashkenazi won the Jerusalem Guide of the Year award from the Israeli government as recognition for the many years he served as the official tour guide for the Ministry of Tourism and Defense. He has organized and led many tours of Israel, Greece and Turkey.
"My purpose in coming here or whatever I'm doing is to make sure that I will be able to pass on to as many people as possible the idea that archaeology is to verify the Bible, to be able to verify the authenticity of the Scriptures," Dr. Ashkenazi said.
"The second thing, which is almost as important, is to make people see that biblical prophesies which were prophesied so many centuries ago are being fulfilled today on a daily basis."
He said he wants to inspire people to read the Bible not in black and white "but in full color."
Archaeology began as a formal study in the late 18th century, he said.
"It started as treasure hunting. The most famous person, notoriously, was [Heinrich] Schliemann, who was a German who worked in Troy. We will be going to Troy [in present-day Turkey] on this trip."
Dr. Ashkenazi likes to say that archaeology is the humble servant of history. Archaeologists work hand in hand with historians.
"It doesn't stand by itself," he said. "So you go with archaeology further into the 20th century and you find people like Flindus Petrie, for example. He was such a genius and came up with so many ideas of how to use archaeology as a verifier of history."
Marvin and Renetta Wilson have planned and taken many tours in the company of Dr. Ashkenazi, but this trip will feature something a little different. The 12-day pilgrimage that begins June 10 comes with an optional four-day extension to the "Mountains of Ararat" in eastern Turkey to search for the ark.
The Wilsons and Dr. Ashkenazi will follow the footsteps of Paul, Timothy, Luke and Silas, not to mention Noah and his family.
They will also touch base via ferry with the Isle of Patmos, where John wrote Revelation. They will also visit the sites of the seven churches of Revelation 2-3.
Destinations will also include Istanbul, Izmir, Pamukale, Samos, Athens, Delphi and Alexandopolis.
The four-day optional extension that is scheduled to include the ark will allow the pilgrims to see "with their own eyes what has been established as the remains of the boat that saved Noah and his family through the worldwide cataclysmic flood," Mr. Wilson said.
Dr. Ashkenazi said that 20 people will make an ideal-sized tour group. The estimated cost will be $2,949 per person, based on a minimum of 20 participants. The ark extension will add $500 to the base price.
Dr. Ashkenazi mentioned his Web site, www.bibleorientedtours.com. As well, potential tourers can contact Marvin or Renetta Wilson at email@example.com or (972) 382-3220.
Onward and upward
After the 12 days of the main tour but before the start of the extension trek, the tourists will fly to Van, Turkey, from Istanbul. Dr. Ashkenazi explained what happens after the main 12-day visit is over.
"We will fly to Van, Turkey. Not everyone will do this because we are making the last part going to Ararat as an option, because we are not sure yet. Those who don't want to go to Ararat will go back home from Istanbul.
"It's a short extension but very, very meaningful, very beautiful. It's a country that until a short time ago you would not be allowed to go there. This is really one of the first groups taking advantage of the fact that the Turkish government allows more freedom."
This writer asked if the trip to the possible ark site would be difficult, in view of a major difficulty Mr. Wilson experienced when attempting to visit the ark site in 1991. In that year Mr. Wilson and four other men were kidnapped by Kurdish rebels and held hostage for almost three weeks. (See "COG Member Describes His Kidnapping in 1991," The Journal, Jan. 31.)
But things are different--and safer--now, Dr. Ashkenazi declared.
"Now you can drive almost to the place," he said. "It is thought to be near the Iranian and Russian border. Part of the Ararat range is in Turkey and part is over the border.
"Some people went there, but this is the first time somebody on an organized tour like ours goes there."
When asked if he has been to the "mountains of Ararat" in the past, Dr. Ashkenazi said: "I've been to the bottom of the mount several times. That was before I met Marvin and found out that he was interested in the discovery over there.
"We are not saying that this is the place, and I cannot tell you this is not the ark. I cannot tell you 100 percent this is the ark. That's one of the reasons we're doing what we are doing. We travel to see and to verify."
The Wilsons and Dr. Ashkenazi would like to find positive proof of the existence or nonexistence of Noah's ark at the site. They say there is a way to know for sure.
"I think finding timbers and being able to verify the dimensions would do it," Dr. Ashkenazi said.
Both tour coordinators say they think an excavation would be the thing to do, but that will have to wait for another time.
Dr. Ashkenazi said the people taking the tour will experience a life-changing event.
"I know that sometimes I sound like a frustrated Pentecostal rabbi, but that is exactly what we mean. Come on our tour and get a life." This issue of The Journal includes many photos and several other graphics, besides the Connections advertising section. Don't forget to subscribe to the print version of The Journal to read all the news and features previewed here.
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