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A new documentary by a Canadian Jewish filmmaker argues that the Exodus did happen, but that it took place a couple of hundred years before the commonly-accepted time frame.
The Exodus Decoded, a two-hour documentary by award-winning Israeli-born filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, suggests that the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt as recounted in the Bible occurred around 1500 BCE, about 230 years before the date most commonly accepted by contemporary historians.
The 10 plagues that smote the Egyptians, according to the Bible, are explained in the documentary to be the result of a volcanic eruption on a Greek island that occurred 3,500 years ago.
The documentary, which is narrated by the director James Cameron (Titanic), identifies a 3,500-year-old gold image - found in a museum in Athens - as that of the lost Ark of the Covenant. It also cites a hieroglyphic inscription discovered in an Egyptian museum that attests to the Exodus.
The film also claims to reveal the "true location" of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments according to the Bible.
None of the relics - or arguments - cited in the made-for-TV, state-of-the-art film, which is the result of six years of research, has been accepted by archeologists or any prominent archeological institution as proof for Jacobovici's theory.
And Jacobovici, who has produced an array of documentaries over the last two decades on subjects ranging from suicide bombing in Israel to the ebola virus to the global sex trade, readily agrees that he is no archeologist. But he asserts that this makes him no less qualified to investigate historical facts.
"I bring with me the same skills you bring to any investigation, whether it is sex trafficking, politics, terror or the Biblical archeological story," said the two-time Emmy award-winner, denouncing "minimalists" who say that the Exodus - and the Bible - is a fantastic fairy tale.
"I think it is a mistake when you have a situation in archeology where some academics have set themselves up as some sort of priesthood between us and the Bible," he added.
Jacobovici set out on his Exodus quest after doing a documentary in the 1990s on a group of people on the Indian-Burma border who claim to be the lost Israelite tribe of Menashe. That film was met with widespread criticism by people Jacobovici branded as "so-called experts." Jacobovici said he himself was skeptical of the tribe's Israelite claims until he researched the subject.
Similarly with the new Exodus documentary, he asserted that with his hefty $3.5 million budget, a lack of preconceptions, and none of the restrictions of conventional archeological wisdom, he was free to reach what he insists are credible conclusions about the Exodus.
The 55-year-old director, whose original claim to fame was his first-ever documentary Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews, made two and half decades ago and which focused on Ethiopian Jewry, said his research for the lost tribes film spurred him to question the widely accepted assumptions about what he called "the founding story of Western civilization" - the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
Six years later, mixing science, religion and a variety of archeological findings, Jacobovici is convinced that he has seen the light. Most of the archeological findings cited come from Egypt, with others from Greece. He said he researched in six countries, including Israel and the UK.
The film, which was first broadcast in Canada in April, premieres Friday at the Jerusalem Film Festival. It will be shown in the US on August 20 on the History Channel.