A Rock And A Hard Place, a remarkable new two-part documentary special from Al Jazeera English, goes behind the scenes with residents from each of the three monolithic faiths who share one of the world’s most extraordinary cities: Jerusalem.
Here, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims and Christians exist in close geographical proximity and are bound in many ways by a common history.
But as these films reveal, they are also worlds apart.
The stark, every-day challenges of life in a city shaped by 70 years of Israeli occupation – with its oppressive discrimination, security walls and endless petty restrictions – aren’t always fully understood by outsiders. To followers of different faiths, Jerusalem is a sacred and spiritual place, to many tourists it’s most famous for its culturally significant monuments, but to those who live here its status is much more complex.
These two insightful episodes go beyond some of the common misconceptions, tracing the roots of the occupation and exploring the relationship that Jerusalem’s different communities have with their city and with each other.
For Omar Harami, a young Palestinian Christian, and a lead character in the film, the consequences of Jerusalem’s divisions are too often ignored. “This is an apartheid in the 21st century and the world is silent,” he says. “Israel builds walls to hide the [settler only roads] highway, so it becomes an invisible part. We Palestinians in East Jerusalem are invisible”.
Others, including some surprising voices from across the divided community, explain how the Zionist project to establish a Jewish homeland in the territory continues to reinforce inequality and prejudice in Jerusalem today.
Dr. Meir Margalit is a former soldier and settler turned human rights activist, who researches the history of the Jewish community. “Forty percent of the city’s residents are not citizens of the state, “he says. “They don't have the right to be elected. More importantly, they can lose their right to live in their city. “
Sahar Vardi, a young Israeli woman who refuses to serve in the armed forces, also condemns the divisions. “The education system, media, everything around us is by definition defined by fear,” she says.
The film also features interviews with UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov and South Africa’s ambassador to Palestine talking about their experiences in one of the most renowned cities.
Both episodes of A Rock and Hard Place have been produced and directed by Awad Joumaa and edited by Jameel Hodzic in cooperation with executive producer Stephen Phelps. They will be shown consecutively across all Al Jazeera English platforms on March 31 and April 7.