Date: 24/11/2017
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Christian Broadcasting Network docudrama In Our Hands-The Battle for Jerusalem – a review

Last night, the eve of Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day in Israel , upwards of 400,000  people in 700+ theaters across America watched the engrossing, and at times emotionally charged, Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN ) production of In Our Hands-The Battle for Jerusalem.  Those of us  who were young adults in 1967, with  fear and anxiety were  glued to transistor radios waiting to  hear whether Israel would survive annihilation.   Viewing this excellent factually based production with superb Israeli casting brought back memories of the miracles and sacrifices made by the heroic and valiant commanders,  soldiers, airmen and sailors of the T'zahal. 

Mike Bates  and I had interviewed Shoshana Bryen , senior director of the Washington, DC - based Jewish Policy Center about the legacy of the June 1967 Six Day War that we published in the NER/Iconoclast.  She  discussed the significance of how the stunning victory against enormous odds transformed the Israel that we have come to know, today: happy, confident, a technological powerhouse with a global reach and democratic, with a small “d” ally of the US in the Middle East.

For those of us who have served in the military the camaraderie, heroic resolve and raw emotions of liberation and reunification of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of modern Israel,  depicted in the film gave it persuasive power.  The interaction between  Col. Mordechai “Motta” Gur,  charismatic commander of the 55th Brigade and his intelligence officer , Arik Achmon, as well as  combat battalion and company commanders had the ring of truth. As an ex US Army Intelligence officer, I appreciated the scenes between Gur and Achmon when he dragooned the  later away from his  Economics studies at Hebrew University to ‘learn’ how to be his intelligence officer. Then there was the exchange when in preparation for the War, Gur  asked Achmon  to prepare a  battle plan for a jump  by the 2,000 strong brigade  into the Egyptian town of El Arish behind enemy lines.  Then , Gur informed Major Achmon that plans had been changed, and  in less than 10 hours he had to prepare for the critical Battle of Jerusalem. 

In Our Hands deftly segues between dramatized exchanges like these and interviews with the Achmon, 71st battalion company commander Zamosh, the son of the 66 Battalion commander killed leading troopers in the ‘alley of death, battle,’ when they had lost their way and were confronted with Jordanian fighters. The depiction of the bloody battle of Ammunition Hill, reminiscent of WWI trench  warfare was realistically portrayed. The episode commentary  noted  that 39 IDF troopers and  71 Jordanian Legionaries  were killed  and many maimed and wounded  on the Israeli side. The surviving  troopers of the Ammunition Hill Battle in the film version are shown digging a mass grave for the Jordanian dead. Later there is the recollection of a meeting between a brigade  survivor and a Jordanian legionnaire commander at an occasion 45 years after the battle for Ammunition Hill when they could laugh and talk of peace.

  In Our Hands depicts a dinner given by a Jewish family in Jerusalem on the eve of the battle that was most effective.  An 86 year old grandmother, a refugee from the Jewish Quarter  in the Old City overrun by Jordanian legionnaires brings out an Israeli flag that had been taken down when she and 1,600 others were forced to leave at the end of the siege.  She  gifted it to Zamosh with the hope  for returning  to fly from the Temple Mount.

One  Battle for Jerusalem episode depicts Gur confronted by IDF Chaplain Rabbi Goren who had driven by jeep from the front in El Arish in the Sinai running breathlessly carrying a torah and shofar to pray at the eventual  breakthrough at  the Temple Mount. Goren urges Gur not to wait for orders from General Uzi  Narkiss of the Central Command. Nevertheless, with Jerusalem surrounded on all sides there is a dramatized conference on the southern overlook involving fabled Gen. Moshe Dayan, IAF operations Commander Ezer Weizmann, General Narkis and Col. Gur when the decision is made, despite some trepidations. to enter the Old City.  In Our Hands shows archival color footage of the breach of Lions Gate and audio of the race to the Western Wall and Temple Mount, amidst sniper fire with Gur’s dramatic  radio transmission, “the Temple Mount is in our hands.”

Gur’s intrepid troopers find a ladder and scamper up with Zamosh’s gifted  Israel flag to fly it from the Dome of the Rock Mosque.  Minister of Defense, Dayan sees the act of reclaiming Jewish sovereignty and requests Gur by radio to have it taken down.  That act of Dayan redounds to this 50th Commemoration given the unresolved  matter of  Israel’s sovereignty over its eternal capital of Jerusalem.  The flag is then flown on the Temple Mount fence overlooking the Western Wall. The dramatized scene of two soldiers at the wall, one Orthodox, the other secular, the latter being  trained to pray the shema was most effective. Another touching scene was Gur breaking down when he asked Achmon to read the list of the 55th brigade fallen in the retaking of  Jerusalem.  55th  brigade commander Gur eventually becomes IDF Chief of Staff and enters politics to serve in Israel’s Knesset. Tragically he took his own life after contracting terminal cancer at the age of 65.

Gordon Robertson, head of CBN and  producer of its Israel documentaries  of which , In Our Hands was the latest, is shown narrating a 10 minute afterward using scripture from Old and New Testaments about the Jewish heritage of Ha  Shem’s gift to his covenanted people of Jerusalem.  Robertson  addressed the attack on Israel’s legal and biblical claims to Jerusalem in UNSC 2334 passed in December 2016 with a 14 to 1 abstention by the former Obama  US Ambassador  to the UN,  Samantha Power. He notes the election of President Trump with  promises to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and long delayed move of the US Embassy to Israel’s capital.  However,  following the President’s  first trip to Israel and dramatic pictures of him and his entourage  praying for the Peace of Jerusalem at the Kotel or Western Wall appears not in the cards in the foreseeable future. 

We commend your reading and viewing  the video excerpts in Professor Miriam  Elman’s review published  Legal  Insurrection of the CBN production of In Our Hands-The Battle for Jerusalem. It sent an important message about the legacy  of the June Six Days War in 1967 portrayed vividly in the CBN docudrama emblazoned on every Hanukkah dreidel: Nes Gadol Hayah Sham – "a great miracle happened there".

If you missed the one night showing of In our Hands reprise performances in selected theaters as well as the eventual sales of DVDs by CBN.



 

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