“Hope In The Holy Land,” a new documentary which debuts May 14, Israel Independence Day, seeks to broaden the dialogue between Christians and Jews about the future of Israel.
The film was produced by two Christian Zionists with more than a decade of experience, leading pilgrimages to Israel and discussions about the role that Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, play there.
Justin Kron, one of the creators of the film, is particularly concerned about addressing the criticism of Israel in recent years among a number of mainline Protestant denominations. Kron is distressed by the way Israel’s relationship with Palestinians has been portrayed.
“Within the Protestant community there is a growing skepticism towards Israel’s legitimacy, toward Israel’s perceived treatment of the Palestinian people. I think they see Israel more and more as a foreign colonialist movement that illegally stole land from the Arabs. And because of that there is less and less support for Israel.”
The hope that is the subject of “Hope In The Holy Land” is what Kron sees as the important role that Palestinians can play when they recognize Israel’s right to exist and abandon what he sees of the “party line” of militant Palestinians in Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank.
“Hope resides in those courageous Palestinians who are willing to step across the line to love their neighbor, to see that the other is a human being who deserves to be treated with dignity and to be heard, when we see Israelis and Palestinians working together it gives us great hope. Until the majority of Palestinians agree that Israel has the right to exist, we are not going to see peace between the two peoples.”
The film follows a California Evangelical religious leader, Todd Morehead, as he travels to Israel and the West Bank to sample a broad cross section of public opinion about the future prospects for peace.
He concludes that Palestinian Christians, while they represent a minority with a problematic future, have an important role to play in changing the discussion about the future.
“I believe that if Palestinian Christians recognize the Jewish roots of their faith and God’s plan for the future of Israel that would be the key for God to do something extraordinary to heal the rift between the two peoples.”
Kron, who has been working to finance and develop the film project since 2014, is hoping that it will help to defuse some of the heated rhetoric that has often characterized discussion about the Jewish state among religious leaders and their followers.
“We definitely want to bring more light than heat to the subject. We think there is a polarization that comes with the subject. Christians on both sides of the issue need to be challenged to see what life is really like for those on the ground.”
While the film represents a thoroughly Christian viewpoint, it was largely financed by the Philos Project, which is backed by Paul Singer, a wealthy Jewish Wall Street fund manager who has a deep commitment to Israel.
The Philos Project works closely with Christian supporters of Israel to fund visits and internships there, to sponsor publications and projects like the documentary and to create a greater awareness of Israel among Christians here.
In February, the Philos program sponsored a visit by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Gilad Erdan to Charleston, S.C., and Montgomery, Ala., to learn more about African American history and religion in the South. It was Erdan’s first trip in this country as ambassador.
The film has been welcomed by such prominent commentators as the Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi who described it as “beautiful, nuanced and morally sensitive.”
It’s also been supported by David Gordis, the prominent Israeli historian and commentator who served as a consultant on the production.
The documentary comes at a time of considerable uncertainty in both the Palestinian and Israel Arab communities. Mahmoud Abbas, who has been the autocratic leader of the Palestinians since 2006, recently abruptly canceled elections that were widely seen as a step toward a more democratic future for the West Bank.
In Israel, Arab political participation in the country’s recent election dropped significantly. The Arab Joint List, which had been the third-largest political bloc in the Knesset, lost three seats in this year’s election amid considerable apathy among Arab voters.
Despite a strong campaign for their votes, including an unprecedented political appeal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there were at least 250,000 fewer Israeli Arabs who voted this time.