Wednesday, April 01, 2009

PBS: "Jerusalem: Center of the World"

On Wednesday April 1 2009 PBS stations aired the two-hour documentary (115 minutes) “Jerusalem: Center of the World.” The website is this and has an embedded video trailer. The director is Andrew Goldberg and the production companies include Oregon Public Broadcasting and Two Cats Productions.

The documentary traces the location of Jerusalem, 35 miles inland from the Mediterranean and on a plateau (to be known as Mount Moriah), as where Abraham took his son to be sacrificed, just to show that he would obey the one God. By the time of Moses, the Jews, as Abraham’s descendents became known, knew of a promised land to be the center of their religion, but during the Exodus did not know exactly where it was.

But during the time of the wanderings, the “capital” of Judaism was wherever the mobile Ark of the Covenant was located.

The documentary quickly moves to the time of David, and then Solomon, for the building of the Temple.

The middle part of the film covers the life of Jesus, including the Passion, and points out where Judas committed suicide.

Partly as a result of Roman occupation, the Jews went into Diaspora, while Christianity began to grow. Nearby was the siege of Massada. The documentary traces the history of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

In the Sixth Century, Mohammed’s life and prophecy took place, and Jerusalem came to be viewed as the “furthest Mosque”. Eventually, Muslim rule would take over, peacefully, and build many important structures, including the Dome of the Rock, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The documentary then goes on to cover the history of the Crusades, with its religious and political importance that continues until today. However caliph Saladin made unusual use of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and allowed many Jews to return, with some peaceful coexistence for some time. The city would live under Muslim rule for over 650 years.

The history of the city, however, remains complicated, which makes “filmmaking” as we usually expect it more difficult. Mark Twain would visit Jerusalem in the 1860s. (during Ottoman rule). Here is a passage from his “Innocents Abroad”.

The music score quotes some passages from Mahler symphonies, as well as Mozart’s Requiem.

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