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Jewish Journal

Film on Jerusalem Explores Beating Heart of 3 Faiths

by Tom Tugend

March 25, 2009 | 4:11 am

In a medieval German map of the then-known world, the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia resemble a three-leaf clover whose leaves fuse at the navel of the universe, the holy city of Jerusalem.

PBS has adopted this concept and expanded it to a two-hour history lesson and travelogue, titled, “Jerusalem: Center of the World,” to air April 1.

The film is subtitled, less loftily but accurately, as “The World’s Most Contested Piece of Real Estate.”

Indeed, for more than 40 centuries, no other place has been the object of so much longing and worship and the scene of so much bloodshed and neglect as Jerusalem, and the last chapter has not yet been written.

The guide for this film is Ray Suarez, Jim Lehrer’s senior correspondent on the PBS “NewsHour,” and, backed by a battery of scholars, he packs an astonishing amount of verbal and visual history into the program.

Suarez is careful to apportion equal respect to Jews, Christians and Muslims, who all consider the city sacred, which tends to make this story one of many heroes but few villains — except, maybe, the Romans.

The film, and the history, begins at Mount Moriah, where, according to tradition, God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son, and which later became the site of the First and Second temples.

Other highlights include, for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried before ascending to heaven.

During some six centuries under Muslim and Ottoman rule, Jerusalem became largely a neglected backwater, only to rise again in the late 19th and 20th centuries with the influx of Jewish immigrants.

“Jerusalem” was produced and directed for Oregon Public Broadcasting by Andrew Goldberg, whose previous productions include “Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century” and “A Yiddish World Remembered.”

KCET will broadcast “Jerusalem” on April 1, from 9-11 p.m.

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