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Review: 'Jerusalem: Center of the World' on KCET

March 31, 2009 |  3:40 pm
Jerusalem

Occasionally comes a documentary whose title tells it all.

Such an event is "Jerusalem: Center of the World," with the secondary title: "The Epic History of the World's Most Contested Piece of Real Estate." The two-hour program airs tonight at 9 on KCET.

Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for PBS' "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," walks the viewer through a city at the crossroads of three religions, where turmoil and contention are ever-present.

"Jerusalem" is careful to point out which stories can be validated and which are possible embellishments or based more on faith than facts. Suarez's walk through the underground water canals is a mini-gem. He visits the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall, making understandable their tangled history amid the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities.

It's a yeoman's task. Any part of the history of Jerusalem is worth its own documentary. The Crusades, for example, or the role of Muhammad and/or Jesus. If good documentarians aren't at work on a full-length look at Saladin, the Kurdish general, they should be.

"Jerusalem" may seem a bit slow in the beginning and a bit rushed at the end as it grapples with the modern warfare and feuding that continue to shape the city. But in the middle, it's a top-notch effort, not enough for the scholar or devotee perhaps, but an excellent primer for people who may know the name but not the full story.

Read more "Jerusalem: Center of the World"
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