A summary of the story...
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Mt. Sinai as part of a "peace shield"...
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Possible impact of the discovery on the Middle East...
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Born: New York
Education: Stanford University
"Gangland: How the FBI Broke the Mob" (Pocket Books, 1993)
"Out There: The Government's Secret Quest for Extraterrestrials" (Mass Market Paperback,1991)
"I Pledge Allegiance...: The True Story of the Walkers: An American Spy Family" (Mass Market Paperback, 1989)
Booksmarts: Blum was an award-winning writer for "The New York Times" and is a contributing editor for "Vanity Fair" magazine.
Blum's book "The Gold of Exodus: The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai."
A photo of what the adventurers believe to be Mt. Sinai
In Moses' footsteps?
Book claims discovery of Mount Sinai
(CNN) -- Among the central themes of the Old Testament is the story of Moses, the Ten Commandments and the Israelites exodus from slavery in Egypt. In a modern twist on this ancient tale, two Americans went to the Middle East in search of the fabled gold carried out of Egypt by the Israelites and discovered what they believe is Mount Sinai. CNN's Bobbie Battista talked with author Howard Blum about their claims, and his book "The Gold of Exodus: The Discovery of the Real Mt. Sinai."
BOBBIE BATTISTA: Basically, what this is, is a story of two Americans who snuck their way into Saudi Arabia and then claimed to have found the real Mount Sinai. How did they do this and what did they find?
HOWARD BLUM: The two men sneak into Mount Sinai with a forged visa. Now, getting into Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia is a very complicated procedure because the Saudi government will not allow archaeologists in there.
But these men are able to take this visa, to fly into Tabuk. They go to this town and then go off into the desert using the Bible as a treasure map, in effect. They get to the mountain known as Jabal al Lawz and they find all the elements the Bible says should be at Mount Sinai.
This includes a scorched peak, a cave where Moses would have slept, a brook that runs down the side, (and) a plain where a million Israelites could have been camped for the 13 months.
They also find petroglyphs, rock drawings of cows near an altar site. And cows are not native to Saudi Arabia, so many archaeologists have said that this is indicative of the Golden Calf altar.
BATTISTA: I need to play the devil's advocate because it does seem somewhat incredible that these two Americans, who are basically just adventurers with a lot of money, would manage to find this incredibly mysterious and historical Biblical site over any other Biblical archaeological team. I mean, how did they prove that this was the real Mount Sinai?
BLUM: You raise an important point and I should emphasize that these men are just adventurers; they are not scholars. But interestingly enough scholars have said that Jabal al Lawz, the mountain in northwest Saudi Arabia, is the best candidate to be Mount Sinai.
In this week's "Newsweek," Hershel Shanks, who is the editor of the "Biblical Archaeological Review," says that Jabal al Lawz is the most likely candidate to be Mount Sinai.
But what do we need next? We now need to have scholars go to the site to see everything these men have found, to see the important and provocative evidence they find and let's apply scientific testing to these petroglyphs, to the mountain sites.
BATTISTA: We should also note that the real Mount Sinai, should it turn out to be that, is currently a top secret Saudi military installment, isn't it?
BLUM: Yes. These two men get to Mount Sinai, they find all the Biblical evidence and they find something else. This mountain is a Saudi military installation. It is a military installation built with the knowledge of the U.S. Congress and with the help of American industry. It cost the Saudis $5.6 billion to build a peace-shield system which surrounds the kingdom. And this mountain is site and fore of the peace-shield system. On top of it are two 30-foot radar towers that look towards Israel.
This means that if there were ever to be a war between Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel, war would be coordinated, in part, from the radar towers on Mount Sinai and the state of Israel would have no choice but to attack the installation on what many scholars believe is Mount Sinai.
BATTISTA: How much attention is this discovery getting from the scientific community?
BLUM: I think a great deal. There has been a dream team compiled of scholars and archaeologists. Men from Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the "Archaeological Review" who want to go to Saudi Arabia, who have appealed to the kingdom to let us in and let us examine the sites.
It, of course, is complicated by the situation in the Gulf and the fact that this is a military base. Just last week, Secretary of Defense Cohen was going to appeal to the Saudi's to use their facilities and he didn't even ask -- he decided not to ask them to use these facilities. Part of the facilities he wanted to use were the peace-shield radar installations that are on top of Mount Sinai.
BATTISTA: ... What are the implications, should this turn out to be true, for the current dynamics in the Middle East?
BLUM: Well, it certainly complicates them a great deal. If what these two men have found is the real Mount Sinai, then it goes a long way to proving that the Bible is a true story that is based on historical events and Jabal al Lawz, a mountain in northwest Saudi Arabia, becomes perhaps the holiest spot in the world. And it would be very difficult, I think, for the Saudi government to keep it closed to pilgrims from all over the world. That will certainly complicate matters in the Mideast.
BATTISTA: All right, Howard Blum, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
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