Picks and Pans Review: Jerusalem: of Heaven and Earth
Next to the Western Wall, devout, black-cloaked Jews gather in preparation for worship. A few hundred feet above them, at the Dome of the Rock, flocks of Muslims fall to their knees to pray at the spot where they believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. Just down the cobbled streets of the city, Christian pilgrims cluster at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was laid to rest following his death on the cross. "Jerusalem makes stern demands of its residents," says the narrator of this brilliant, three-hour-plus portrait of the city that Jews, Muslims and Christians all call holy. The evenhanded program is divided into eight sections, each focusing on a different aspect of Jerusalem's turbulent 3,000-year history. A segment featuring the old Jewish quarter will help explain the reasons why the intransigent Shamir government is not willing to negotiate with the PLO. In another segment, a portrait of a local Koran scholar provides more background into mainstream Muslims' objections to Salman Rushdie's novel Satanic Verses than do a hundred newspaper stories of book burnings. The film ventures outside the Old City walls as well, to the neighborhood of Mea Shearim, a time capsule of a European ghetto, where Jewish rituals and customs are still sacrosanct. If you never journey to Israel, watch Jerusalem. It will expand your horizons a thousandfold. (MPI Home Video, $59.95; 800-323-0442)
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