In his new documentary, “Roadmap Jerusalem,” Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz argues that Israel should control access to all the religious sites in the nation’s capital.
After almost a decade working in Hollywood, Lebovitz decided to go to rabbinical school. He graduated in 2016 from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University in Los Angeles and currently serves as the rabbi of Adat Shalom in West Los Angeles.
The grandchild of four Holocaust survivors, Lebovitz initially began creating “Roadmap Jerusalem” in 2017, and the 26-minute film premiered at Adat Shalom last month.
“We live at a time when the international community at large, [and] UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has called into question our Jewish historical narrative,” Lebovitz said in an email to the Journal about the impetus for his film. “The Jewish Community needs to become more vocal about the significance of facts when discussing Israel. If we believe Jerusalem to be so foundational in our ties to the land, and I believe it is, then we should do a better job explaining to people why we hold it in such regard.”
Lebovitz wanted the movie to explore the biblical, archaeological and political history of the city, and focused on three specific Jerusalemites with expertise in these areas: Rabbi Dov Lipman, who served in the Knesset from 2012-2015 as a member of the Yesh Atid secular centrist party; Jon Seligman from the Israel Antiquities Authority, who discussed the Jewish archeological and historical connections to the Temple Mount; and Vered Hollander-Goldfarb of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, with whom Lebovitz studied biblical texts.
In conducting these interviews, Lebovitz said he came to realize that only under the control of the modern State of Israel could all religions have unfettered access to their holy sites.
“I came to understand the prohibitive nature of the foreign empires [that] occupied the city for the last 2,000 years before 1967,” he said. “This is the first time in the history of Jerusalem that the ruling authority does not control the top of the Temple Mount.”
Lebovitz argues because Israel gave up control of the Temple Mount to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (Islamic religious trust) as a goodwill gesture, and because Israel also protects the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it is Israel that should control all of the city’s holy sites.
“We now live during a time of incredible access for all religions to all holy sites, and that is because of the State of Israel,” he said.
Asked by a viewer at the screening who the best audience for the film is, Lebovitz said he believed “friendly communities who already advocate for Israel need to add their voices to this conversation.” He added that communities critical of the film’s viewpoint “need to learn the history and significance of Jerusalem for the Jewish people and the Jewish state, and to see the current controversy in a broader context.”
Lebovitz believes Jerusalem is “the linchpin to the land of Israel. Jerusalem cements our right to a homeland there as our rightful inheritance.”
Jerusalem has been the spiritual and political capital of the Jews for over 2,000 years, Lebovitz said. “We [have] prayed three times a day [for thousands of years] to return to Jerusalem. I think that yearning and the return of Israeli control is similar to a compelling Hollywood love story with a happy ending.”
Mark Miller is a humorist and writer.