Mar 24, 2014
Watch Tuesday, March 25th at 8 and 9pm (Parts 1 & 2)
Noted historian, author and critic Simon Schama explores the Jewish experience from ancient times to the present day in this new five-part series.
In The Beginning
The story of the Jewish experience begins 3,000 years ago with the emergence of a tribal people in a contested land and their extraordinary book, the Hebrew Bible, a chronicle of their stormy relationship with a faceless, formless, jealous God. It was loyalty to this “God of Words” that defined the distinct identity of the ancient Jews and preserved it despite all that history could throw their way — war, invasion, deportation, enslavement, exile and assimilation. The story unfolds with a dazzling cast of historical characters: Sigmund Freud dying in exile in London; Victorian evangelicals and explorers following “in the footsteps” of Moses; Jewish mercenaries living, prospering and intermarrying in the pagan land of Egypt; Messianic Jews dreaming of the Apocalypse; and a Jewish historian, Josephus, who witnessed first-hand the moment when the apocalypse finally came and the Romans destroyed the Jewish High Temple in Jerusalem.
Simon Schama’s epic series continues with the story of medieval Jews struggling to preserve their identity — and sometimes their lives — under the rule of Christianity and Islam. Whether labeled “Christ-killers” by the Christians or “dhimmi” (non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic community) by the Muslims, diaspora Jews built new lives and invented new ways of being Jewish in exile in the face of discrimination, blood-libels and persecution interspersed with periods of tolerance, protection and peaceful co-existence. Drawing on some of the extraordinary documents they left behind, this episode offers a vivid portrait of Jewish bankers, merchants, doctors, poets and artists flourishing in Lincoln, Cordoba, Venice and Cairo and tells the heart-rending story of their mass expulsion from Spain in 1492.