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4.4 out of 5 stars67
4.4 out of 5 stars
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This three-part BBC series is an informative and revealing documentary. It tackles a very delicate subject; the most revered city on earth, holy to the three major Abrahamic faiths. Wars have been fought over Jerusalem for centuries, and this series helps to explain why - and how the current situation in Israel developed. I've heard of the term `Zionism' for all of my life, but never really understood what it meant to the different groups involved, until now.

The presenter, Simon Sebag Montefiore, isn't just a journalist, author and historian. His family are descended from a group of Sephardic Jews, who had links to influential financiers like the Rothschilds. Brought up in Britain, SSB has spent a considerable amount of time with relatives in Jerusalem and brings first-hand experiences and insight to his explanation of its history. He explains some of this during the programmes so there's no question of questioning his standpoint and - from his extremely even-handed approach to all parties - I felt that his interpretations weren't unduly biased towards any particular faith. He came over as trustworthy, especially in his careful consideration about what might be mythological, and what is reasonably certain historical fact.
Over three hours, the series follows the linear development of Jerusalem from its earliest days as a small settlement, through the construction of the temple by Solomon, the life of Christ and the importance of the church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Roman period and then the change to life under Muslim caliphs and the building of the Al-Aqsa mosque. Of course the Crusades are covered, but the series also reveals less well-known historical episodes - such as the demolition of the city walls by the inhabitants which left it undefended, Queen Melisende's embellishment of crusader Jerusalem, the encounter between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart, and an early power-sharing arrangement brokered in the 13th century.
The final episode considers recent history. It highlights that, since the collapse of the Ottoman empire, the conflict in Jerusalem has been influenced by broader global concerns. When the world was at war, the Allies were quite capable of offering Jerusalem to both Jews and Palestinians at the same time, providing they would help with local battles. It also explains how complicated the current situation is, and makes clear the nature of the over-lapping territorial claims, all rife with religious significance.

However, the whole series isn't about politics - and SSB takes pains to demonstrate some of the astonishing architecture and beautiful buildings which make the city unique. The filming captures the contrasts of modern Jerusalem; a congested ancient city filled with modern people, some praying but many of them selling souvenirs; some in full religious garb but some with sub-machine guns slung over militia uniforms; some undoubtedly pious, but many westerners gawping a re-enactments of biblical ceremonies. So the programmes are never dull, although sometimes I struggled to see the beauty in the city.

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on 2 May 2012
Having seen the series on the BBC channel, I was so impressed that I decided to order 3 copies, one for myself and the other 2 for presents. This DVD does not come at you from the religious side, but a documentary about a truly holy city, and it full of fact and figures, which keep you interested at all times. I have watched it a second time and enjoyed it just as much and will watch for a third time to pick up what I missed the first 2 times
Well worth the buy
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2014
While I think this is a wonderful introduction to Jerusalem and its history - with some excellent background information - I think three hours is quite long. Inevitably, because it was shown over three weeks, there is a fair amount of overlap and a bit of repetition each time the programme starts up and there is really rather a lot of footage of Simon S.M. wandering about. I have read his book on the same subject which is totally brilliant so if you are really interested in the subject, read the book as well, or even instead of, the DVD.
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on 28 September 2015
A holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims, Jerusalem has been fought over more than any other city in the world and has been possessed or coveted by virtually all of the great empires of Europe and the Middle East. In this superb three hour, three-part BBC series from 2011, the historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of 'Jerusalem: The Biography', takes the viewer on a whistle-stop tour of over three thousand years of history.

Surprisingly, I missed this series when it was first shown on TV and I only came across this DVD accidentally while looking for travel guides to Jerusalem. Initially, the fact that this is a BBC production put me off buying it due to the broadcaster's reputation for anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian bias which I felt was likely to taint any discussion of the city's recent history. However, I needn't have worried as Sebag Montefiore knows both Arab and Israeli Jerusalem well and is impeccably impartial throughout. While he certainly acknowledges the contentious status of the Holy City in both the present and the past, his narrative is heavy on facts and light on opinion, making this an excellent introduction to what is, perhaps, the most important city in world history.
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on 17 January 2015
I had watched Simon Sebag Montifiore's 3 part series on Rome and his 3 part series on Constantinople. Both were insightful, beautifully presented and educational, managing to hold your attention throughout. When I saw Jerusalem on sale, I immediately purchased it and watched it without delay. It simply is a fantastic use of 3 hours, watching this documentary on the holy city. The city has such a long, rich history which is covered in great detail. Simon Sebag Montifiore is not intrusive in any way as some historians can be when making documentaries. His passion for providing us with the history of the city is what makes this probably the best documentary on Jerusalem there is.
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on 17 April 2013
A concise but rewarding 3-hour series about the history of Jerusalem from ancient times to the present day, featuring all its tribulations. Very well presented. Recommended viewing.
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on 27 December 2011
This is a remarkable historical account of this religious city. The extent of the research undertaken, the pictorail coverage and the depth and scope are truly amazing. Bravo!
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on 9 March 2013
This DVD covers Jerusalem from stone-age times to the present. I shows the conflict and conquest enduring to the present day - rarely, at peace.
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on 8 April 2013
This DVD gave an interesting and informative overview of the development of the three Abrahamist religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I had no idea why the city was so important to all three. Seems a variation on a theme, really!
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on 28 March 2013
I really like this DVD. I missed it when on TV. I think the presenter did a fabulous job and I could really identify with him.

This is the best history of Jerusalem that I have come across.
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