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picture - Jerusalem: Between Heaven and EarthDVD Reviews

by Chad Menville

published February 27, 2008


Jerusalem: Between Heaven and Earth

(156 minutes)


The Temple Mount Is Mine

distributed by Kultur International Films

(104 minutes)


Produced and directed by Willy Lindwer, Jerusalem: Between Heaven and Earth contains three full-length programs in which three thousand years of Jerusalem’s history is told by Jewish, Christian and Muslim families who are deeply rooted in the city. A holy city whose name means literally “city of peace,” this relatively small landscape has never fully been able to live up to its name amid the conflicting desires of its inhabitants that are based on religion, ethnicity, nationality and culture.


The three parts of this documentary are: “City of History,” “City of Religion” and “City of Peace.” Each is thought provoking and provides a humanistic approach in hopes of understanding this mystical city of whose inhabitants keep building atop its ruins. One modern dilemma is whether or not its current inhabitants want their city to be mainly about its historical significance, such as its revered landmarks and its stones, or whether it should instead be viewed as something much larger than its physical components. It is a question of heavenly versus earthly Jerusalem.


In this series we meet: historians, archaeologists, architects, archbishops, rabbis, students, factory owners, and descendants of those who wrote the bible, all sharing their thoughts on their complex and vibrant city. They stress the importance of unity, in different ways than we in the United States rarely face; for example, how imperative it is that Jerusalem’s residents stay active in religious activities or else it may become but a city of museums. Of the interviewees, the one that is by far most compelling is that of historian Meron Benvenisti. He explains why each religious group living in Jerusalem is equally as steadfast in their possession of their city. He states: “Jerusalem is a holy city. That definition in itself makes it a city of strife, of conflict. And the reason is very simple – if it is holy then it belongs to God. If it belongs to God, His representatives cannot give up something that does not belong to them. They’re only proxies and therefore the attachment to the place is exclusive. It’s either mine or yours. There is that feeling of exclusive possessiveness that is the source of all the conflicts of what is called the “city of peace.”


picture - The Temple Mount Is MineThe Temple Mount Is Mine, the companion DVD, is comprised of two programs, “In Search of the Holiest Spot on Earth” and “The Battlefield of Faithwhich shed light on the thirty-five acres that surround The Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, as Muslims call it. Because both religions claim ownership of this holy site, this is where the danger for provoking catastrophe is greatest. This is a landscape that means different things to different people, and yet it is a shared space, with overlapping histories. It remains one of the most fiercely contested pieces of real estate on the planet because it is here that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam trace their roots. In each of their traditions this is the place where the world began, where true faith was conceived, and where, it is widely believed, that the world will come to its conclusion. This is a tremendous burden of symbolism to place on one spot. Although every interviewee in The Temple Mount Is Mine appears determined to move towards peace, it is doubtful whether any lasting solutions are going to arise as long as people remain tethered to the past. As one longtime resident stated, “You must stand here to understand it.”   


chadmenville @


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