Jews Witness the Hajj
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.