The upcoming premiere of Jesus:Rise to Power with National Geographic in the US on Holy Thursday and in the UK on Easter Sunday, made me think about the time we spent filming these programmes in November and December 2011. I remembered that I had written a travel diary for each day of filming with some thoughts about our locations and the people we were fortunate enough to meet.
This was my entry for the first day of filming:
“December 2nd 2011: Flew in from Egypt via Amman to Tel Aviv and arrived in Jerusalem late last night. Caught first sight of the stout walls of Jerusalem old town. This morning we headed first to the Wailing Wall – the section of surviving outer precinct wall of the Great Temple destroyed by the Roman in 70 AD. I came to it as an ancient historian expecting to be impressed by the historical importance of the monument, but could not but be overwhelmed by the emotion and sanctity of the place as well. Yet the heavy security presence reminded us of the constant tensions that went with that emotion.
Our next stop was a meeting and discussion with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem. It was an extraordinary privilege to have a chance to meet and interview him. He in turn was a wonderful host and gave us free rein to film in his offices, providing superb views of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I asked the Patriarch what Jerusalem meant to him. He felt it was a city that was blessed and cursed as a city of many religions, but one that was crucial to people the world over as a place to come to find food for the soul.
Jerusalem is an extraordinary city, full of intoxicating smells and sounds, the hardness of its stone worn smooth by the generations of people who have worked, lived and died there. And yet, it does not feel like the history overwhelms it. There is still so much vibrant life here – this is a city of the present as much as the past.’