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Jews Witness the Hajj

October 30, 2011 – 10:20 pm5 Comments

A scene from the film

By Rachel Sacks-Davis & Anthony Frosh

The Jewish tradition was born in journey. From Abraham and Jacob to Moses and the Israelites, our mythic ancestors were wanderers whose encounters with God almost always occurred en route. Since the destruction of the Temple, however, although the Jewish people have moved across the globe, journey has not been part of religious practice.

Not so for Muslims, for whom the pilgrimage to Mecca remains one of the core religious obligations. Recently, a special screening was held of Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta at the IMAX in Carlton. Several members from the Jewish community, particularly from the JCCV, were in attendance at the invitation of the President of the Islamic Council Victoria (ICV), Hyder Gulam.

As the subtitle suggests, the film focuses on the Hajj undertaken by Ibn Battuta, the famous 14th century Moroccan Berber traveller.  At a little over 20 years old, he leaves behind his comfortable life as a law student in Tangier, setting out on a Hajj that sees him travelling close to 5000km to Mecca by foot and on camel-back in a journey lasting 18 months.

Whilst Ibn Battuta’s 14th century Hajj was much closer in time to us than our biblical forefathers, his experience of travel was surely much closer to theirs. The isolation, danger and vulnerability that marked his journey surely also marked theirs. And the spiritual gifts that so explicitly mark the journeys of our forefathers are also implicit in Ibn Battuta’s Journey to Mecca.

As is typical of IMAX films, the cinematography is breathtaking and the IMAX theatre set-up makes you feel as though you are present on the journey with Ibn Battuta. This is a unique opportunity for non-Muslims who are not usually permitted to enter Islam’s most holy city, and may also find it rather challenging to trek through the deserts of North Africa and Arabia.

Finally, Jewish film buffs will find a familiar voice. The film is narrated by Ben Kingsley, famous for his Oscar winning portrayal of Gandhi, but also having played several key Jewish characters including but not limited too Itzhak Stern (Schindler’s List), Moses, Otto Frank (Diary of Ann Frank) and even a senior Mossad commander (The Assignment).

Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta is currently playing at the IMAX theatre in Melbourne.

The Jewish tradition was born in journey. From Abraham and Jacob to Moses and the Israelites, our mythic ancestors were wanderers whose encounters with God almost always occurred en route. Since the destruction of the Temple, however, although the Jewish people have moved across the globe, journey has not been part of religious practice.

 

Not so for Muslims, for whom the pilgrimage to Mecca remains one of the core religious obligations. Recently, a special screening was held of Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta at the IMAX in Carlton. Several members from the Jewish community, particularly from the JCCV, were in attendance at the invitation of the President of the Islamic Council Victoria (ICV), Hyder Gulam.

 

As the subtitle suggests, the film focuses on the Hajj undertaken by Ibn Battuta, the famous 14th century Moroccan Berber traveller. At a little over 20 years old, he leaves behind his comfortable life as a law student in Tangier, setting out on a Hajj that sees him travelling close to 5000km to Mecca by foot and on camel-back in a journey lasting 18 months.

 

Whilst Ibn Battuta’s 14th century Hajj was much closer in time to us than our biblical forefathers, his experience of travel was surely much closer to theirs. The isolation, danger and vulnerability that marked his journey surely also marked theirs. And the spiritual gifts that so explicitly mark the journeys of our forefathers are also implicit in Ibn Battuta’s Journey to Mecca.

 

As is typical of IMAX films, the cinematography is breathtaking and the IMAX theatre set-up makes you feel as though you are present on the journey with Ibn Battuta. This is a unique opportunity for non-Muslims who are not usually permitted to enter Islam’s most holy city, and may also find it rather challenging to trek through the deserts of North Africa and Arabia.

 

Finally, Jewish film buffs will find a familiar voice. The film is narrated by Ben Kingsley, famous for his Oscar winning portrayal of Gandhi, but also having played several key Jewish characters including but not limited too Itzhak Stern (Schindler’s List), Moses, Otto Frank (Diary of Ann Frank) and even a senior Mossad commander (The Assignment).

Journey to Mecca is currently playing at the IMAX theatre in Melbourne

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5 Comments »

  • ariel says:

    Hope it’s on in Sydney.

    BTW, let’s reinvigorate aliya laregalim 3x a year to Jerusalem!

  • frosh says:

    Hi Ariel,

    From what I can tell from Googling, i think the film might have come to Sydney before it came it to Melbourne, but unfortunately, it looks like it isn’t on in Sydney anymore (or not the moment anyway).

    Also, I like the idea of doing an overland journey (maybe not by entirely by foot – how about Camel?) from the southern or northern tip of Israel to Jerusalem.

  • Jeff Meyer says:

    Frosh,I did it by bike, does that count?

  • frosh says:

    Hi Jeff,
    Was that from the southern tip or the northern tip?
    Either way, it’s impressive.

  • frosh says:

    Another IMAX film is soon to be released on the geography and history of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.

    See a preview here:
    http://jerusalemthemovie.com/

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