Exile, A Myth Unearthed

Directed by Ilan Ziv

104 minutes / Color
Release: 2014
Copyright: 2013

It has been depicted in artwork, and lamented in poetry and prayer for nearly 2,000 years: the exile of the Jewish people from their homeland in the first century AD. But what if it never happened?

That is the central, provocative question explored in EXILE, A MYTH UNEARTHED, which looks at exile through the lenses of archaeology, history, myth and religion, and asks what it means for the contemporary struggle over land in the Middle East.

Under canvas tents, the members of an archaeological team painstakingly clean artifacts unearthed from the ancient town of Sepphoris, 150 kilometers from Jerusalem. Their findings are revolutionizing our understanding of Jewish history - including the central myth of Jewish exile following the destruction of the Second Temple during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

While Jews may have been driven out of Jerusalem, it turns out they continued to thrive in Galilee, in places such as Sepphoris. As the film travels from Sepphoris to Masada and Jerusalem, and on to remote caves in the Judean desert and the catacombs of Rome, a picture emerges of a complex relationship between Jews and Romans, and between Judea and the Jewish Diaspora. "The Romans did not force people into exile," says historian Israel Yuval. "This is a Biblical image based on the Babylonians and Assyrians, but it was never Roman policy."

EXILE, A MYTH UNEARTHED features interviews with leading historians and archaeologists, and takes us into the field where they are conducting their work. Throughout the film we also return to a group of tourists visiting sites in the Holy Land, and hear the traditional interpretation of events such as the siege of Masada - an interpretation which stands in sharp contrast to the evidence unearthed in recent decades.

Ilan Ziv opens the film with this question and returns to it in the end: "What is being unearthed here in the ruins of Sephoris and Safuri is a message of hope, and a warning. The promise of hope from a town that survived for hundreds of years because of its capacity to embrace many cultures and traditions. And a warning contained in the destruction brought about by blind faith in a single narrative of history at the expense of others."

The participants in the film are:

Suleiman Abu Ali, Refugee from Safuri

Dr. Moti Aviam, Archeologist

Ziad Awaiseh, Refugee from Safuri

Prof. John Gager, Department of Religion, Princeton University

Dr. Avner Goren, Guide/Archeologist

Dr. Mustafa Kabha, Historian, Open University (Israel)

Prof. Amnon Krakotzkin, Historian, Ben Gurion University

Claudio Procaccia, Director, Rome Jewish Museum (Italy)

Prof. Leonard Rutgers, Historian/Archeologist, Utrecht University (The Netherlands)

Seth Schwartz, Professor of Classical Jewish Philosophy, Columbia University (New York)

Riccardo di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome (Italy)

Wajee Tarabe, Journalist

Dr. David Ushiskin, Department of Archeology, Tel Aviv University

Prof. Zeev Weiss, Head of Archeology Department, Hebrew University (Jerusalem)

Prof. Israel Yuval, Director, Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in Jewish Studies, Hebrew University (Jerusalem)

"A compelling documentary… Explores the evidence for the exile of the Jews after their defeat in Jerusalem by the Romans."The Independent

"Clearly a hot potato!"The Sunday Times

"Earnest and courageous; issues a challenge to viewers, encouraging them to imagine what a different past could mean for today."Al Jadid Magazine: A Review and Record of Arab Culture and Arts

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A film by Ilan Ziv
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Alegria Productions, Amythos Media, and T.A.M.I. Productions

Select Accolades

  • 2015 MESA FilmFest


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