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What Would Moses Say?
The truth is out there.
Truthfully, laughs Simcha Jacobovici of his daring documentary, "I hadn't thought of it that way. But, yes, yes, it is."
The star here is history not Mulder and the Cigarette Man is overshadowed by smokescreens thrown up by naysayers, who question Jacobovici's key contention: The Exodus really did happen.
And a plague on their houses for those who don't believe? Much credit and credence is given the filmmaker's theory in "The Exodus Decoded," premiering in America this Sunday night at 8 on the History Channel.
What the famous filmmaker channels is fact not fiction, using science to center his arguments. With the backing of Hollywood titan James Cameron, who knows a thing or two about rowing against the tide, Jacobovici hijacks history for a ride through the sands of time, finding pyramid power in his claim that the story some consider a fable may be the most fabulous story of all.
The Emmy Award-winning Israeli documentarian is real about his passions, and his History Channel special is as sandals-sensational as they make them.
He comes up with scientific explanations for the existence of the Lost Ark of the Covenant but is at a loss to understand why those in the know don't know better and gainsay his gains in educational enlightenment.
"I have been in an e-mail exchange with an archaeological scholar who took the film very seriously," says Jacobovici. "I was expecting his arguments to be archaeological," but instead, they unearthed a different root: "They became theological."
In God, he trusts, some find arguments beyond their ken. "This person is agnostic, and yet, he said that the trouble he had with the film was this whole God idea, that I was diminishing God through [emphasizing] the importance of nature."
What hath Jacobovici wrought? "The whole point of this biblical tale is that you should be able to find science behind the miracles," muses Jacobovici, who does just that onscreen with scientific justification for the parting of the Red Sea and the occurrence of the plagues plaguing Pharaoh, as well as other intriguing insights.
Certainly, Ramses has been depicted as unenlightened in movies and myth, but if Pharaoh's not a jolly good fellow, he was certainly not a stupid one. "Pharaoh is no dumbo," says Jacobovici. "Pharaoh worshiped nature, and that's why he was impressed by Moses. He knew that what Moses was doing was not accomplished [by trickery] -- turning staffs into snakes, water into blood.
"He understood that Moses' God was in charge of nature."
And it was in God's nature to show His hand His way, not as a high heaven Houdini. "People have created God as a magician," reasons Jacobovici. "And once a year on Passover, they want to [encounter and discuss] His special effects."
Take a chair and sit down, Elijah, there's a profitable message in this. "The answer is that the God who works through nature is one we have to deal with on an everyday basis, not once a year at a High Holidays show."
And that is a God "who allows some Katyushas to hit and others to miss, a God you have to confront."
Jacobovici confounds the critics, many ardent archaeologists. And what is he? "I am not one," says the investigative journalist with a bachelor's from McGill University and an M.A. from the University of Toronto.
But a master of this domain he remains, even to the degree of gaining begrudging respect from academicians whose ivory towers have turned green with envy over the years.
In "Exodus Decoded," Jacobovici codifies the conceits with records and ruminations. "Moses lived a more complex drama [than given credit for]; we've mythologized it."
Make no myth-take, he argues: "Exodus Decoded" debunks the inaccuracies as just that and redeposits us "back in Moses' world."
Climb every mountain ... well, there is one of special interest. Has the ingenious Jacobovici geographically pinpointed the existence of Mt. Sinai? Take two tablets and call him on it?
It's there, he says -- and the film shows it. No burning bush this time, just the resultant burning debate over his assertions.
After all, say the naysayers, how can he make such claims? Again, Jacobovici's not an archaeologist. Face facts, he counters -- and he has faced the facts on land and in the sea of Israel. "I do stories about nuclear safety but I'm not a physicist."
"Everything," says the documentarian, "is documented."
Evidence mounts for Mt. Sinai and his other revelations: "We've shattered myths about it all being a myth. To date, no one has shown me what is wrong with any of my arguments."
The rites of religion depend so much on what he claims after all is said and documented -- and debated. "People say the Exodus story is all a matter of faith; we make a case that it's history."
Case closed? Or just opened? Why are people so scared that the Exodus actually existed? Because, he avers -- Jack Nicholson, listen up! -- they can't handle the truth. "Because this story is the cornerstone of Judaism, and when we say it really happened, we are saying that God works through history."
Works for him, but Jacobovici is no jackanapes without a sense of humor. "If you say the Exodus didn't happen, you're a scientist," he says. "If you say it did, you're a religious fanatic."
Fanning the fires of controversy? "People who make these arguments," he says of those who consider his work sideways science, "are fighting without ammunition."
In many ways, Jacobovici is the Bomb. His visionary 1983 documentary, "Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews," was behind the expedited exodus of many Ethiopians to Israel, earning not only the Israeli government's attention and action but a citation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Ah, again, film and science ... "Things that are ha-ha jokes one year" are proved anything but targets of ridicule later on, he says in reference to his once-derided work about the Ethiopians and, now, about the Exodus.
And if Tom Hanks won't be playing him in "The Da Exodus Code," at least, says Jacobovici, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code -- "He claimed his was fiction; we claim ours is history" -- helped Jacobovici, generating a welcome aura for examining past mysteries of history. Jacobovici's code word: Appreciative.
But is it all ephemeral? Come next Passover will scholars pass over the filmmaker's claims, or will celebrants be asking more questions than four at the seder table? "I don't know about that," says Jacobovici, but without question, he does know one thing that intrigues him.
Hide the afikomen; Jacobovici has that Exodus edge in his voice. With a book coming out based on the documentary, the filmmaker would also like to make book on another venture.
"I would like," he says, "to make an 'Exodus Decoded' Haggadah."
What would Moses say of all this? "I think he'd like it."· · ·
While Larry Kane's having a Comcastic time as the popular "Voice of Reason" on CN8, he hasn't forsaken the write stuff, nor those edifying editorials that prove the term "in-depth broadcast journalist" need not be an oxymoron.
Smart and ever mindful of the media's evolution, he's on the line now, talking about his new online venture (www.larry kane.com), an insightful site that's bigger than a blog and bona fide in the cred that Kane brings to his work, whether on Comcast or KYW or as a media maven with newsmakers.
He hasn't left Philadelphia, but Kane's extended his outreach online, with perceptive postings and international links to other news sources. It's an intriguing new added beat for the author/broadcaster the Beatles once tried to lure away with a job on Abbey Road.
Luckily, instead, Kane's path kept pace with the news world. And, in this cyberspace system, a step ahead.