Holy Land Experience
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The Holy Land Experience (HLE) is registered as a Christian-based theme park in Orlando, Florida and registered non-profit corporation. HLE conducts weekly church services and bible studies for the general public. HLE’s theme park recreates the architecture and themes of the ancient city of Jerusalem in 1st-century Judea. The Holy Land Experience is owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Jan Crouch was Director and CEO until her death in May 2016.
Marvin Rosenthal, a Russian/Jewish born Christian minister, purchased the undeveloped property in 1989. Rosenthal founded both the Holy Land Experience and Zion's Hope, which funded the park's initial construction. The park opened in February 2001. The Jewish Defense League protested at the Holy Land Experience on its opening day; the group claimed that the purpose of the park was to convert Jews to Christianity, and used Jewish prayers along with venerated Jewish objects, although Rosenthal denied these claims.
The Scriptorium: Center for Biblical Antiquities
On August 17, 2002, the Holy Land Experience Scriptorium museum opened. It features the Van Kampen Collection of biblically related artifacts. The collection includes ancient scrolls, manuscripts, and early printed editions of the Bible. The collection is the fourth largest of its kind. The Van Kampen Collection was founded in 1986 by Robert and Judith Van Kampen. In 1994 Robert Van Kampen established a privately funded research library for the purpose of presenting the collection to the academic community as well as the general public. The Scriptorium: Center for Christian Antiquities, located in Grand Haven, MI, housed the Collection. In 2002, the Collection relocated to Orlando, where it is on loan to the Holy Land Experience.
Trinity Broadcasting Network ownership
In June 2007, the Holy Land Experience Board of Directors sold the property to the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), for an estimated $37 million. The property was an estimated $8 million in debt at the time of the sale. At that time TBN planned to update the park and use the property to build a Central Florida broadcasting facility, and a movie studio in order to produce Christian films.
On August 21, 2007, former president and board member, Tom Powell, resigned his position to seek "new challenges." Four people remained on the park's board: Paul Crouch Sr., Jan Crouch, Paul Crouch Jr., and Matthew Crouch. Between 50 and 100 employees lost their jobs when they were cut from the payroll in October 2007.
Under TBN’s ownership, The Holy Land Experience underwent construction and the addition of new landscaping, exhibits, restaurants, and theaters which feature live musical and theatrical productions. The park has also introduced weekly bible studies, church services and live cooking demonstrations. The Smile of a Child Adventure Land was added to the park exhibits. This children’s park features exhibits and activities for children, such as a wilderness rock-climbing wall, toy store, children’s theater and craft center.
Holy Land Experience mission statement
HLE is a non-denominational Christian living biblical museum and church. Church services and bible studies are conducted by ordained pastors for the general public on a weekly basis. HLE is registered as a non-profit corporation with the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations.
Church of All Nations
In 2012, the 2,000 seat Church of All Nations auditorium opened. The facility features live presentations and reenactments of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the depiction of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven. Live taping of TBN’s flagship TV show, Praise the Lord, are also taped in the facility, in addition to concerts and church services.
There was a four-year legal fight concerning unpaid property taxes that Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan alleged were owed. Donegan argued that the Holy Land Experience is a theme park. Donegan dropped his fight after state lawmakers passed a law in 2006 granting a tax exemption for theme parks that display, exhibit, illustrate and interpret biblical manuscripts. This is similar to the tax exemption for museums that present historical information on other subjects. The law prevented Orange County from collecting the alleged back taxes as well as forgiving the park $300,000 in yearly property taxes. The law requires the park to offer an annual free admissions day.
Financial Difficulties and Layoffs
In February 2020, after a sharp decline in revenue for several years, the park announced that it would be laying off 118 employees -- representing most of its staff -- and would be ending all theatrical productions and other entertainment.
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