Jerusalem: Center of the World

Wed, 04/01/2009 - 9:00pm
Pictured: The Western Wall
Photo Credit: Two Cats Productions
For centuries, untold numbers of Jews, Christians, and Muslims have gone to Jerusalem to look for God, while billions more have worshiped from afar. Jerusalem: Center of the World, airing Wednesday, April 1 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1), is the first documentary of this scope to delve into the historical facts and religious beliefs that have led so many thousands to live and die for this city.

Host Ray Suarez, senior correspondent of PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, together with an outstanding roster of historians and scholars, explores the founding of the city and the birth and convergence of the world’s three major monotheistic religions. He lends voice to the key events in the city’s history as described in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, the Talmud, the Hagaddah, the Koran and the Hadith, and takes viewers through Jerusalem’s constantly shifting role in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Jerusalem: Center of the World
goes far beyond the city’s exteriors to follow the paths taken by Abraham, David, Jesus and Mohammed, among countless others. From a strikingly intimate perspective, Suarez travels deep into the city. He touches the walls of Hezekiah’s famed underground water-filled tunnels built from solid rock more than 2,500 years ago; he faces the same wall the Biblical King David likely faced when conquering the city in the 10th century B.C.E. Suarez also visits the recently discovered Siloam pool where Jesus, it is said, cured a man’s blindness and he takes viewers right into the Dome of the Rock, from where Mohammed, Muslims believe, ascended to heaven. With illustrations from more than 300 pieces of iconic artwork from every genre and period, Jerusalem: Center of the Worldbrings to life one of the oldest cities in the world.

Highlights include:

Mount Moriah, the site of the First and Second Temples: At the center and beginning of it all, this 60-by-40-foot piece of rock is where, according to the Bible, Abraham was instructed by God to sacrifice his son. The Rock was later enshrined by David’s son, King Solomon, and became the site of the First Temple. The First Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C.E., some four centuries after it was built, when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem; a Second Temple was built on the same spot just 70 years after.

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher
: One of the holiest and most visually amazing churches in all of Christianity, it was built to enshrine the collective sites of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and ascension to heaven. The numerous structures and buildings that make up the church have been damaged and rebuilt many times, but all operate to this day.

The Dome of the Rock
: Built over the Rock, this Islamic shrine is among the oldest extant Islamic buildings in the world and considered by many to be the most stunning. It is from here that Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Completed in the late seventh century C.E., the Dome is one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The Western Wall
: Roughly 2,000 years ago, King Herod the Great, ruler of Jerusalem, built vast retaining walls around Mount Moriah, where the Second Temple stood. Virtually all of it was destroyed when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 C.E., but the Wall remains and is considered the holiest site in the world for the Jewish people.

Jerusalem: Center of the World
captures the rich mosaic of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities that co-exist — not always peacefully — in the city today and offers a rare and unparalleled look into the powerful role of these communities in the lives of hundreds of millions of people today.