Orthodox Jewish terrorists plot to destroy one of the most sacred sites in the Muslim world: Given the controversial subject matter, it may come as a surprise to learn that Manhattan-born Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar's debut feature was a box-office sensation in Israel and garnered six Israeli Film Academy awards, including best picture. Young Israeli Army officer Menachem (Aki Avni), a student at a West Bank Orthodox yeshiva, is recruited by his teacher, religious zealot Rabbi Meltzer (noted director Assi Dayan, son of former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan), to lead a company of religious soldiers hand-picked by Meltzer himself. The rabbi is not only deeply committed to the Israeli settlement of the West Bank, but also the reclamation of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, where Orthodox Jews believe two ancient temples once stood. But the site is also sacred to Islam and under tight Muslim control; Jews are strictly forbidden to pray there. It is time, Meltzer preaches, to build the Third Temple, an event the Torah teaches will herald the coming of the Messiah, but which necessitates destroying the Dome of the Rock mosque that now sits atop the Temple Mount. Meltzer has other plans for his star student, Menachem's best friend, Pini (Edan Alterman): his daughter, Michal (Tinkerbell). But Michal resents being treated like a prize in an arranged marriage, and besides, she and Menachem are deeply in love. Embittered by his friend's betrayal and enflamed by Meltzer's radical teachings, Pini steals 40 kilos of explosives from the army and makes his way deep into the tunnels that course under the Temple Mount. For all its genre trappings, Cedar's thriller is in fact grounded in historical truth: Ancient tunnels, accessible through cisterns, do indeed run under the holy sites (one was the site of an extremely tense situation in 1982, when a rabbi was caught digging his way toward the restricted area surrounding the Temple Mount) and there have been several attempts made on the Mount itself by Jewish extremists, including a foiled 1984 plot to bomb the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosques. But the package in which this fascinating and timely content comes wrapped is disappointingly generic: The set-up revolves around a draggy love triangle, while the climax slo-mo leap through the air and all could have come out of any direct-to-video action flick.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
- Review: Orthodox Jewish terrorists plot to destroy one of the most sacred sites in the Muslim world: Given the controversial subject matter, it may come as a surprise to learn that Manhattan-born Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar's debut feature was a box-office sens… (more)