One Rock, Three Religions examines Haram Al Sharif or The Temple Mount - Jerusalem’s sacred site for Muslims, Christians and Jews, and one of the most contested religious sites in the world. The 84-minute documentary takes on the ambitious and difficult task of summarizing the complex layers of political and religious conflict in a city with a long history of being attacked, besieged and destroyed.
Initially wanting to focus on the beauty of Jerusalem, the outbreak of the most recent Gaza War changed the way Director Isaac Hertz looked at production, illustrating how difficult it is to stay above the conflict in this highly contested part of the world. The filmmakers made valiant efforts to show all sides of opposing claims to the “rock”, but so deeply divided are the parties that they can’t even agree on the name that is so holy to three religions. My aim was “to allow our film to expose the humanity of all parties,” said Hertz whose last film Life is Strange tells the stories of Jewish people displaced during the Second World War.
“It’s not easy to have all those religions in one movie,” said the film’s editor and writer Alain Jakubowicz at a Q&A panel after the screening. “Sometimes it’s very difficult to watch, especially the scenes with the horrifying pictures.” The film takes us through numerous historical events marked by violence – from the UN’s 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine, to the first Arab-Israeli War in 1948 after which the Jordanians took control of the Western Wall, to 1967 when Israel captured the Old City, to suicide attacks in the 2000s. A journalist in the film shares her account of hearing the explosion from the Café Hillel bombing in 2003, and says her ex-boyfriend and friends were killed. Interspersed throughout the film are images of Jerusalem today, a place described as “a city whose streets have remained the same, while the people have not.” Residents are shown living vastly different lives and “living seconds from each other and not knowing each other” - their only connection being the city they call home.
At first, because of the controversial subject matter of their film “no one would talk to us,” said producer and founder of Quinn Studios Valentina Castellani in the panel discussion. Momentum began to build and open doors for their project after gaining access to the Pope and the Dalai Lama. Among others who provided commentary for the film were Founder of YPO Peace Action Network Bobby Sager, President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, and NYT bestselling author Marianne Williamson.
In addition to Castellani, Hertz and Jakubowicz, the panel discussion at the Museum of Tolerance included Founder of The Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and President of the Bayan Claremont Islamic School Jihad Turk, and Monsignor Giacomo Pappalardo from The Vatican in town from Rome. My hope is to “not cede religion to those who, as was indicted in the film, use it as a cover for hatred and animosity, “said Turk whose teacher and mentor was featured in the film. Asked about the choice of images used to depict victims of Arab-Israeli violence, Hertz responded, “trying to present both sides and present the pain on both sides is a major challenge for the filmmaker.”
In the audience was 91-year-old Holocaust survivor William Harvey. “You come to this world with nothing and you leave with nothing,” said Harvey referring to the aim of the film to promote understanding and reconciliation. “It doesn’t mean a thing if you didn’t do the good deed, to help your fellow man.”
The screening was presented by Quinn Studios, Lookback Productions, the Wiesenthal Center and the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.
Q&A panel after the screening. From left to right:
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder of The Wiesenthal Center
Isaac Hertz, Director of One Rock, Three Religions
Jihad Turk, Founder & President of the Bayan Claremont Islamic School
Valentina Castellani, Producer of One Rock, Three Religions
Monsignor Giacomo Pappalardo from the Vatican, Rome
Alain Jakubowicz, Writer & Editor of One Rock, Three Religions