Every morning I take a quick look in to the edit suite to see what the guys have been working on. This morning, Rich and the guys were looking at footage shot at the Cave of Patriarchs. The stuff I saw was pretty eye opening.
The Cave of Patriarchs is one of the most contentious holy sites in the world. It houses the tombs of Abraham, Jacob and others who figure prominently in the holy texts of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. And it is situated in the middle of Hebron in the West Bank, home to 165,000 Palestinians and about 500 Jewish settlers.
A wall partitions the Cave right down the middle; on one side, a synagogue, on the other, a mosque. There have been two massacres at the site in the 20th century. The first was in 1929, when 67 Jews were brutally murdered by a baying Arab crowd.
65 years later, a Jewish extremist walked in to the Cave of Patriarchs during Ramadan prayers and opened fire, killing 29 unarmed Muslims. This second massacre, coming right in the middle of tense negotiations between the two sides, it threatened to derail a fledgling peace process. The aftermath of the attack was one of the defining moments of Yasser Arafat’s leadership – and so getting footage at the Cave seemed the logical thing to do for the film.
As you can imagine, security at the Cave of Patriarchs is pretty tight. There is a heavy IDF presence in the area and numerous checkpoints to pass through. The Cave itself has guards on the entrance – and these guys proved a problem when the team tried to enter with the filming equipment. Despite the fact that the crew had been allowed access by the Israeli authorities, the soldier would not change his stance, and not even a phone call to the Prime Minister’s spokesman would change his mind.
Rich and Jo try in vain to get permission to film in the Cave
I suppose with the atmosphere being so fraught, and danger never seeming far away, maybe you can’t blame him. But then again, maybe the attitude of the IDF is only helping to serve the tension. “The oppression and unease are palpable in the whole city in general, and around the Cave and the Jewish settlement in particular. I didn’t feel comfortable,” says Jo, series producer.
Despite all this, the Cave is a beautiful place, and according to the crew, a place they are glad they got to visit. At this ground level, a conflict as enduring as this one is hard to comprehend. For me, the trouble's ugliness is thrown in to stark relief against the beauty of the Cave itself.
The IDF and the police carry out ID checks
A more tranquil moment inside the Cave of Patriarchs
This used to be a busy Arab market in the old quarter of Hebron. The grid was added above after settlers began throwing objects at the shoppers below
The team approach an armoured vehicle near a Hebron checkpoint
All photos © Alexandria Jackson for The Price of Kings 2011