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Tracing Abraham's path to Mideast peace

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High-tech gadget in hand, a man trudges down from a rural hilltop with the information he was seeking about a journey that took place some 4,000 years ago.

The means are modern: Using a tiny global-positioning device to measure their location via satellite and a map superimposed on topographical images provided by Google Earth, Daniel Adamson and Mahmoud Twaissi are tracking the route that Abraham might have trod.

The ends, however, are as ancient as can be. The two researchers – one British, one Jordanian – are tracing the footsteps of the ancestral patriarch of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the hope that people today will rediscover the common roots of many generations past – and inspire coexistence and understanding in the present.

This is the making of the Abraham Path, a route that will start in Harran, Turkey – the place where many sources suggest Abraham heard "the call" from God – and will continue into Syria, down through Jordan, across the river into the West Bank, winding through both Israeli and Palestinian territory before ending in Hebron, or Al Khalil, described in the Book of Genesis as Abraham's burial place.

Eventually, the route would go to Egypt, where Abraham was also a sojourner. In the much longer term, the founders hope to have the path go into Iraq – Abraham's birthplace was Ur – and possibly to Mecca, the home of the kabbah, the holiest site in Islam, which Muslims believe Abraham helped to build.

To its initiators, the dream of building the path presents an endless array of possibilities: for religious pilgrimages, for developing the region's underrealized tourism potential, and, most important, for breaking down barriers of fear and misunderstanding between East and West. To skeptics, however, it sounds like an idealistic peace plan that doesn't easily fit into the landscape of a volatile Middle East, where even different sects find themselves embroiled in conflict.

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