Simon Schama looks at the impact of the Jews and those moments when the Jewish experience - what Jews have thought and written, uttered, mourned and acclaimed - has changed the fate of the world. Drawing on his scholarship, his original viewpoints, and his own family history, Schama presents a series about the Jewish story that is at once deeply historical and bracingly contemporary. Travelling the globe from New York to Odessa, Berlin to Jerusalem, he tells ancient and modern stories that illuminate the passions and perplexities of the Jewish people today. Sure to capture a wide and appreciative audience, The Story of the Jews rests at heart on the difference between distinctiveness and isolation. Since the creation of the Bible, the Jewish world has been distinct, but never truly isolated. The Jewish story needs to be told afresh because it is a story of our deep human connectedness.
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.
See other parts of this series:
The Story of the Jews - Episode 2 - Among Believers
The Story of the Jews - Episode 3 - A Leap of Faith
The Story of the Jews - Episode 4 - Over the Rainbow
The Story of the Jews - Episode 5 - Return