One of the most pivotal conflicts in the storied history of Israel, the Six-Day War waged on June 5-10, 1967 was an inexplicable struggle: thirteen Arab nations aligned together against the nascent Jewish nation, with double the military manpower, surrounding Israel on multiple fronts.
Yet when the dust settled, the opposing nations sustained twenty times more casualties—a resounding Israeli victory that altered the Middle Eastern landscape. One military unit, the 55th Paratrooper Brigade in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), led a mission to recapture the nation’s capital of Jerusalem. It ended with the legendary words of General Motta Gur: “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”
Fifty years later, their story is revealed in a major documentary entitled In Our Hands—told partly in first-person interviews with the soldiers themselves, and largely through dramatic reenactments filmed on-location in Israel. For writer/director Erin Zimmerman, the film represents over a decade of work as CBN Documentaries has progressed from producing low-budget online videos to now a major theatrical release.
Zimmerman pulled together an award-winning team for In Our Hands, including producers Sharon Schaveet (Mysteries of Jerusalem) and Avner Peled (Schindler’s List) for the Israel-based group Biblical Productions. An Emmy-nominated director, she takes us behind-the-scenes in an exclusive interview.
Christian Headlines: Why has the Christian Broadcasting Network started a documentary unit to chronicle the history of Israel and the Jewish people?
Erin Zimmerman: From the beginning, CBN founder Pat Robertson has been committed to both spiritual and practical support of the State of Israel. We believe that telling the true history of both ancient biblical Israel and also the modern State of Israel is important for two reasons.
First, politically, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and as Americans, we should support this thriving democratic nation surrounded by hostile nations. Israel is the only country in the region where all people have equal freedom and rights, regardless of gender or religion. Who wouldn’t want to support that?
Second, the Bible commands us to bless Israel. God promised Abraham that those who blessed him and his descendants would be blessed, the Psalms compel us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” noting that “they who love you shall prosper.”
CBN is dedicated to blessing Israel any way we can—our presence in Israel includes humanitarian outreach to help elderly Holocaust survivors, a news bureau, and now a documentary unit dedicated to telling the true story of Israel’s past and present.
Christian Headlines: In Our Hands is CBN’s largest production to date, with most of the film a reenactment of historical events. Could you share about where it was filmed and the experiences on-set?
Erin Zimmerman: The production was run by an Israeli film company called Biblical Productions, owned by a producer named Sharon Schaveet. Sharon was an amazing asset and has become a wonderful friend to CBN. She hired the very best team in Israel, from makeup and wardrobe to cameramen and special effects and weapons experts. Every person on the team was a gift to us, personally and professionally.
Whenever possible, we filmed in actual locations relevant to the Six-Day War in Jerusalem, such as the Mount of Olives, the battlefield at Ammunition Hill, where the bloodiest battle of the war was fought, and the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, the headquarters for the 55th Paratrooper Brigade before they entered the Old City.
Because of today’s political situation, it wasn’t always possible to film in the exact places, so our excellent location managers found some beautiful alternate locations, including the Tower of David and Mount Zion in Jerusalem, the kibbutz museum Machon Ayalon in Rehovot and the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheva.
Christian Headlines: How have audiences responded to In Our Hands?
Erin Zimmerman: People have embraced In Our Hands passionately. We began talks last year with Fathom Events, who offer a different sort of theatrical release for movies. The initial plan was for a one-day-only national event, but those first screenings sold out—so Fathom added two more!
Overall, more than 200,000 people gathered at 1,976 Fathom screenings in theaters nationwide to watch the film. Fathom Events revealed to us that it was their fifth-highest-grossing faith-inspirational release of all time. In Our Hands even broke into the top 100 highest-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, so this really exceeded our expectations.
Christian Headlines: What have you heard from Jewish and Christian leaders regarding In Our Hands?
Erin Zimmerman: All of us who worked behind-the-scenes are humbled that so many leaders noticed what we poured into this production.
Danny Seaman, who was recently a prominent official in the Israeli government, said, “We needed the right person, a dear non-Jewish person, to tell our story and remind us who we are and what was at stake.” He called the film “simply perfect” and applauded how “it does historical justice to the memory of Motta Gur,” whose heroic leadership is dramatized in the movie.
To hear Brigadier General Michael Herzog, who served in the IDF with distinction for decades, praise our film meant even more to us. He said, "The battle for Jerusalem was a watershed event in Israel’s history. Fifty years after this historic battle, In Our Hands provides an outstanding medium to reflect on it.”
A dear friend of CBN and founder of Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee had a unique take on the film, saying, “Not only does this movie look back in time, it also casts a beautiful vision for Jerusalem's future, the eternal city of God.”
Christian Headlines: When you consider current events in the Middle East, how does this film speak to conflicts that continue to rage?
Erin Zimmerman: If you don’t understand the history, you won’t understand the headlines. For example, we hear many politicians and pundits urging Israel to “return to the pre-1967 borders.” Part of what they mean by that is that Israel should “return” the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Arabs—but most people are too uneducated on the Middle East to realize that that those lands never actually belonged to the Palestinian Arabs.
People who know history know that returning to the so-called “pre-1967 borders” would in reality mean giving the Gaza Strip back to Egypt, who controlled it before 1967—and giving the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Jordanians, who controlled those places before 1967. But those pushing the narrative of Palestinian independence have overtaken the media and convinced the world that those pieces of land need to be “returned” to a people who never ruled them in the first place.
I believe General Herzog captures the big picture when he says: “Let us all pray for peace between religions and people in the embattled Holy Land."
The hit film ‘In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem’ recently released on DVD.
Josh Shepherd has served on staff at The Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, Bound4LIFE International, and two Congressional offices. His articles have appeared in media outlets including The Federalist, The Daily Signal, Boundless, Charisma News and Christian Headlines, where he serves as a contributor. He earned a degree in Business Marketing from the University of Colorado. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow Josh on Twitter @joshMshep.
Photo: Israeli actor Sharon Friedman portrays General Motta Gur in the new CBN Documentaries film In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem, which dramatizes the 1967 Six-Day War.
Photo Courtesy: CBN Documentaries
Publication date: July 7, 2017