518 (1)The Lands of the Bible, or the Ancient Near East, was probably the most dynamic and vibrant region in the history of mankind. It has been the arena of historic confrontations between the ancient powers, and the meeting point of the world’s ancient cultures; and thus, it is the cradle of western culture and civilization.

This is the place where prehistoric man first emerged from Africa, developed tools and the beginnings of human culture, and then traveled with them onward –– north, east and west –– spreading civilization. Here, ancient cultures rose and fell, and ancient warriors conquered and plundered, and brought with them new gods, new technologies and new ideas. In the south, the pyramids were raised and tales of kings were carved in stone. In the east, the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian armies rose up, while from the west came the Greeks, the Romans and the Crusaders. Ancient sailors, traders and adventurers rushed to take part in the momentous events occurring in the Lands of the Bible. Here they all met –– and clashed –– East and West, North and South, culture with culture, religion with religion, empire with empire, for over 3,000 years of encounters with spectacular historical consequences, the building blocks of our western civilization.

8218604516_5ba434a5f2 (1)All these people, cultures and armies have long vanished, but they left us their legacies –– some covered by sand and mud, others carved in stone. They left us the ruins of their homes, their collections of tools, lost jewelry, cooking utensils, weapons, and sometimes even documents. They spoke and wrote in a myriad of languages, made strange markings and disappeared; but they all left their mark: nomadic tribes and warrior kingdoms, merchants and builders, prophets and priests, architects of cities and authors of books. They have all been here: Sidonians and Phoenicians, Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines, Venetians and Byzantines, Greeks and Romans, Crusaders and Mongols, Mamluks and Ottomans, French and British. Everyone drooped an anchor here at some time, and they all left baggage behind, sometimes even an entire ship.

Today, such ships are being rescued from the depths of the sea, and lost palaces of forgotten kings are being excavated from the sands that have hidden them for millennia, along with the cultural treasures of the ancient peoples who lived, worked, created and died in this region known to us as the “Lands of the Bible”. And this is the place where this unique conference was conceived of, and will take place, and what it will deal with.