Jerusalem: Center of the World Essay
Jerusalem: Center of the World It is hard to imagine how a two hour documentary could ever be considered a brief summary of anything, but Jerusalem: Center of the World can be called exactly that. This PBS documentary is an overview of Jerusalem’s four-thousand year history of religious fanaticism, disproportionate bloodshed, and tentative peace agreements. The documentary also points out that over the centuries, countless religious followers have flocked to this city in search of God, the ultimate beacon of peace.Today, tourists and pilgrims still visit Jerusalem, hoping to feel the presence of God in the centuries-old temples, churches, and mosques that populate the skyline of this religiously diverse city. Jerusalem begins with the journey of Abraham from his homeland of Ur (modern-day Iraq) to the Holy Land of Canaan (modern-day Israel), and it ends in the modern era, highlighting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It recounts the stories of Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad and explains how their descendent followers have revered and laid claim to the Holy Land.The documentary is evenhanded, acknowledging that the inhabitants of Jerusalem have not always coexisted peacefully.
The diplomatic Muslim capture of the city in 638 C. E. , the Roman Catholic Church’s First Crusade of the eleventh century, and Saladin’s twelfth century victory are all discussed, and Suarez notes that on the whole, Muslims treated the Jews of Jerusalem much more humanely than Christians did.
They give a historically compelling account of the pilgrims and inhabitants of Jerusalem with visuals that only a documentary filmed on location can provide.Among the many beautiful locations visited are underground tunnels (hewn by hand tools over 2,500 years ago) that provided fresh water to Jerusalem’s inhabitants. Under Christian rule, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built to mark Golgotha (where Jesus was crucified) and the place of his burial and ascension.
Golgotha also became known as the site where God created Adam. That makes the Church of the Holy Sepulcher a central location in Christian theology, marking the place not only where God is said to have created mankind, but also where Jesus was executed, thereby allowing man to be redeemed or, in essence, created anew.There are a lot of overlaps such as this explored, many of them historically inaccurate, and the documentary takes on the role of debunking certain myths. One of these myths holds that Jesus, when he propped himself against a building in exhaustion from carrying the cross, left an indentation in the stone. This cannot be true, however, because this building did not exist at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Some myths cannot be debunked and are still held as true by many religious followers. For instance, the Dome of the Rock, a beautiful mosque built in 691 C.
E. , marks the place where Muhammad is said to have ascended into heaven when he journeyed to the “farthest mosque” in Jerusalem. It was also the site of the second Jewish temple, which was destroyed in the first century C. E. by the Roman Empire’s siege of the city. The documentary does a wonderful job of showing how tangled these three religions have become over the centuries.
Mosques were converted into churches (and converted back), temples were destroyed, and people were thrown out of the city or killed altogether.One of the locations is an eleventh century church that was built on top of what was originally a Roman temple. A Byzantine basilica was built on top of the temple, and “standing on top of that is this crusader chapel. The crusaders even converted the Dome of the Rock into a church. ” However, they left the mosque standing, calling it the Temple of Solomon, and when the Muslim military leader Saladin reclaimed Jerusalem less than a century later, the mosque was more or less as they had left it, though now redecorated with Christian mosaics and paintings.Under Saladin’s rule, Jews from the Middle East and Europe were allowed to return to Jerusalem.
Despite waging battles for control of the city, the Christian armies eventually left in the thirteenth century, and Muslims controlled the city for the next six and a half centuries. Because control of Jerusalem switched hands so many times, viewers easily understand why the city means so much to so many. “Noble Jerusalem is venerated among all Muslims, Jews, and Christians,” a Mamluk Muslim bureaucrat once said, “the difference among them being only in the sites of visitation.
Viewers who watch this documentary can hardly disagree that given the morals at the center of their creeds, the followers of these three religions should, at least theoretically, be able to live in peace. At the same time, Jerusalem takes people on a journey back in time and to another place, where they can begin to understand for themselves what makes this city—and, by extension, the entire Middle East—such a complicated place. Like the shifting sands of the desert surrounding it, Jerusalem is a city that continues to change. It is a holy place that holds different meanings for different faiths.
Jerusalem: Center of the World mentions the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, but it does not spend much time focused on current events. That is somewhat understandable. This is, after all, a historical piece, not a news story. It seeks to give viewers a deep understanding of what’s behind the centuries-old conflict between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the region. By the end of the documentary, viewers understand that the blood spilt throughout history in the Holy Land was always on human hands, not caused by some divine directive.By not delving too deeply into the current politics of the Holy Land, the documentarians can keep an objective eye trained on the city and its inhabitants. That is, the objective eye of history. Jerusalem: Center of the World also skirts controversy in saying that scholars agree the Temple once stood on Mount Moriah, but all evidence for the structure is gone.
Left unmentioned are the arguments of Asher Kaufman and others that the Waqf, the Arab authority governing the mountain, has purposefully destroyed such evidence. But it seems to lean toward the Muslim side in dealing with the Crusades.It relates the the brutality of the First Crusade, but stays silent on the destruction of all churches and synagogues in Jerusalem by the Muslim ruler Hakim a century earlier. Works Cited Genzlinger, Neil. “Visiting the Dry City Where 3 Religions Have Flourished. ” The New York Times [New York] 1 Apr.
2009, Television sec. Print. “Jerusalem: Center of the World. ” Public Broadcasting Television. Two Cats Productions, Apr.
2009. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. http://www.
pbs. org/programs/jerusalem/. Spielvogel, Jackson J. Western Civilization: a Brief History : Comprehensive Volume. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2008.