We sing of the Holy Land in carols each Christmas, and as founder and publisher of the Biblical Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks, a Washington lawyer, goes there "at least once a year." Among his favorite places:
* Jerusalem: "There's nothing like it in the world. The air is different -- clean and clear, and it makes you feel good. The stones are different -- pink and honey. It's got all kinds of people who meld together. It's a spiritual place as well as a place of bustling activity."
* The Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City: For scholars, it is "the highlight right now. You can see part of the wall that surrounded the Jewish Quarter in the 8th century B.C.; it's 23 feet wide. You can see the base of the tower that defended the city against the Babylonians in 587 B.C. You can walk on the Byzantine Cardo, a main street of the Old City." Shops once occupied the porticos, and now they are "back in. It's quite a moving sight."
* King Hezekiah's Tunnel: "It's at the site of the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem," dating back to 3000 B.C. The 750-foot tunnel, says Shanks, was built under the city in 701 B.C. by King Hezekiah -- in expectation of an Assyrian attack -- to bring in water from a spring outside the city wall. Today, "you can walk through. It's unbelievable."
* The Wadis: A wadi is a "dry stream bed," except in winter, when flash flooding is possible. Shanks has a slogan, "Whenever you go to Israel, walk a wadi." They are, he says, "all different." A little-known walk in a nature reserve begins at En Gedi on the shore of the Dead Sea at the confluence of the Nahl David and Arugot wadis. "There are pools, a spring at the top, a waterfall, wild goats and vistas. You can stand under the waterfall and swim in the pools. It's wonderful."