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Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 20, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 210 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses is the story of Bruce Feiler's 10,000-mile trek from Mount Ararat to Mount Nebo, undertaken for reasons he did not understand at the outset and accompanied by a companion who was very nearly a stranger. In the book's first chapter, in characteristically understated style, Feiler suggests a viable parallel to his journey:
Abraham was not originally the man he became. He was not an Israelite, he was not a Jew. He was not even a believer in God--at least initially. He was a traveler, called by some voice not entirely clear that said: Go, head to this land, walk along this route, and trust what you will find.

Feiler, a fifth-generation American Jew from the South, had felt no particular attachment to the Holy Land. Yet during his journey, Feiler's previously abstract faith grew more grounded. ("I began to feel a certain pull from the landscape.... It was a feeling of gravity. A feeling that I wanted to take off all my clothes and lie facedown in the soil.") Feiler's attentiveness, intelligence, and adventurousness enliven every page of this book. And the lessons he learned about the relationship between place and the spirit will be useful for readers of every religious tradition that finds its origins in the Bible. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific author Feiler has turned from his earlier subject (clowning, in Under the Big Top) to more serious fare: the Bible and the Middle East. Jewish author Feiler offers himself here as a pilgrim, walking through biblical lands and interviewing individuals from many religious traditions and walks of life. He reads the stories of the Pentateuch in the places they are thought to have happened, he records the latest archaeological understandings of the Bible, and he wrestles with his own faith. Of course, contemporary politics sneaks into the story, too; Arab-Israeli conflicts are hard to avoid when one is writing about the biblical Canaan. Feiler is an accomplished wordsmith. When he describes the "smells of dawn cinnamon, cardamom, a whiff of burnt sugar," the reader is transported to Turkey. He has the rare talent of being able to write in the second person, a gift he uses sparingly here: "Light. The first thing you notice about the desert is the light." In the sections of the book where his content is banal (readers can only take so many descriptions of dusty museums, bustling streets and breathtaking sunsets), Feiler's prose carries the narrative through. This book belongs on the shelves next to classics such as Wendy Orange's Coming Home to Jerusalem. Readers who find Westerners' encounters with the Holy Land enchanting will cherish this book.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (March 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380977753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380977758
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (210 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom VINE VOICE on July 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book really should have been called "Walking the Torah," since it covers the Five Books of Moses and is written from a primarily Jewish perspective. I suppose the marketing people felt that "Bible" would have a wider sales appeal or something. Be that as it may, the most interesting thing about this book was the profound change in attitude that the journey brought to the writer himself. No, he didn't "get religion" and run off become an Orthodox Jew. However, he did gain a new appreciation for the Bible stories themselves, as well as the various people and places that the Bible describes.
By his own admission, Bruce Feiler was a secular/Reform Jew who started out simply wanting to connect to the physical places mentioned in the Torah, i.e., to literally walk where his ancestors had walked. At first, Feiler thought of the Bible as a sort of Baedekers travel guide. He spent most of his preparation time reading history, geography, and archaeology. Once he got on the road, however, he soon discovered that the Bible is also "in the people" (his words). Whether they are true believers of many faiths or secularists who see the Bible as literature, the people who actually live in these biblical locations have a deep, almost mystical connection to the land itself -- a bond which goes beyond merely occupying a particular piece of real estate. Feiler grew to have this inner experience, too. As he himself explains, somewhere along the line he stopped thinking of The Book as a travel guide, and started seeing it as The Bible.
Feiler's prose style is both creative and highly readable. While some have criticized his incessant junk food metaphors (chocolate mountains, cinnamon hills -- he was getting hungry maybe?), I found them rather amusing.
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Format: Hardcover
Walking the Bible is an absorbing & informative travel memoir of Feiler's journeys through the first five books of the Old Testament. Feiler presents a refreshingly different perpective on this subject because he admittedly comes to the project as a young, semi-inactive-in-the-faith Jewish man. What he learns through the trip by reading, interacting, and observing doesn't seem to give him concrete "proof" of the historical veracity of the events, but nonetheless leads him down a path to understanding faith and to realization of the enormous meaning found within the Holy Land. His appreciation for that land and the conflict and beauty found within it are apparent throughout the book, and I found that appreciation to be contagious.
The best thing about this book is that it enlightens and entertains on spiritual, historical, and travel adventure levels. Scholarly views on the interpretation of Biblical events as well as the geography and culture of the Holy Land are researched and well-presented. Avner Goren was a fantastic guide/mentor who has a greater knowledge of pre-historic and Biblical archaeology than most anyone else around -- his input is priceless. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a thirst for more knowledge about Old Testament times in the Holy Land, and particularly to those in their 20s or 30s who may come to the book with backgrounds similar to that of Feiler. I learned quite a bit, particularly in regards to the motivations of Israeli immigrants and Judaistic views on God's interaction with his people during Exodus. And yet that book does not proselytize in any way -- it simply presents the experiences on the journey.
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Format: Hardcover
A rare book changes the way you live and experience the world. Walking the Bible does just that and more. It is gracefully written, hugely entertaining, and enormously thoughtful. It is filled with great thrills ... riding camels up Mount Sinai, standing on the very spot where Moses received the Commandments, tasting the salt pillars at Sodom and Gomorrah, crossing the Red Sea in a row boat, beholding the burning bush. Above all, it is a profound, deeply intelligent exploration of the Bible as a vibrant force in our lives and the world. Take the journey -- feel the desert wind, smell the Bedouin feasts, climb inside the great pyramids -- and soon, like the author himself, you will be transformed by the experience, even touched by the Holy Land and God.
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Format: Paperback
This is an amazing book. While I doubt any of us would have the opportunity (or the traveling companion) that Feiler had in his quest to review the Pentauch, we are richer for his trip. Launching from the premise that the Bible had roots in history and developing culture (if not exactly a fact by fact account), the travelers look to tread where the stories come from, and to read the portions of the first 5 books of the Bible that relate to that location. Thus they can take the land, which is forever written about and under conflict, and the word, which often gets more remote from us, and joins them back together to see what we can learn. The connection begins with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the fertile crescent giving birth to Genesis and the patriarchs, and continues through Israel, Egypt and Jordan until Feiler stands on the mountain top where Moses may have seen the promised land and then died.
In addition, there is an exploration of what the bible means today, and what it means to the people who live in the area where the stories take place. The five books of Moses are extremely important becuase they form the starting off point for Judiasm (and later Christianity) and Islam. Thus the area, and the book, have varying importance to a large amount of the world. But does a book written 2-3 thousand years ago still resonate today in the lands of desert and oasis? Feiler finds that it does, even more so than he expected. In the way of discovering a new nuance of our heritage - what is part of our collective cultural history.
The writing is easy going, insightful and fun. The author is able to draw out new visions and stories from one of the most written about areas of the world. I came away from the book with a much better and new understanding of the early stories of the Bible and look at their place in history in a new light. A great read, that teaches you without lecturing to you.
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