Abraham, Joshua, and Jesus could walk the length and breadth of the Holy Land, from Nazareth to Beersheba.
When David Friedman, however, wanted to follow in their footsteps in 2017 as the US ambassador to Israel, the State Department banned him from following some of their most well-trodden paths.
He could read the biblical verses about Shiloh, which served as the capital of Israel before Jerusalem, or about Beit El, where Jacob is believed to have slept and dreamed of angels climbing a ladder.
However, government policy kept him from going there because those sites were located outside the boundaries of sovereign Israel, in a contested region for both Israelis and Palestinians, known as the modern West Bank or by its biblical names of Judea and Samaria.
It is also the cradle of the biblical heartland. Friedman, who is Jewish, and former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is Christian, want to highlight the biblical epoch of faith by erasing modern political divisions, revealing to the American public the spiritual unity of the land.
Together, they have created a feature-length film that will be screened in more than 1,000 theaters across North America on September 18-19 called Route 60: The Biblical Highway.
The ribbon of pavement 146 miles long weaves through the heart of the Holy Land, echoing with the whispers of time and faith.
It is also known as the Path of the Patriarchs.
The road winds through storied landscapes, where ancient tales from the Bible intersect with the complex narratives of the present and bind together the stories of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
“There is an amazing storyline here,” says
Matt Crouch, president of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and the film’s executive producer. “We share Jewish, Christian, ancient, and modern perspectives.”
This is not Friedman’s first film with TBN.
In 2021, they released a several-part documentary on the Abraham Accords. Crouch says that when they went into this project, he thought it would also be a TV special. But once they got started, everything changed.
“David pitched me the idea of traveling down this road and giving the Jewish perspective on all of these unique locations, with his Christian friend Mike Pompeo giving the Christian perspective,” Crouch recalls. He quickly discovered these were places that even he, a diehard Christian Zionist and tourist since birth, had never been to.
“My parents, Paul and Jan Crouch, had been coming to Israel since the late 1950s. We were taking tours to Israel from the mid1970s at least two or three times a year,” Crouch explains. “I have been to Israel more than 100 times. And yet, most of the places David was explaining as we were looking at maps and following Route 60 I had never been to.”
Crouch had never seen Hebron, where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah are buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs. Now moviegoers can experience what it is like to stand next to the Herodian-era structure that houses those graves.
“Israel just got more expansive to me,” Crouch says. “The Bible came alive for me, and I felt like a tourist again. I did not feel like the executive producer with a bunch of responsibilities. I felt like a tourist seeing Israel and hearing these stories, and it was one of the funnest things.”
For Friedman, the film is born out of his experiences as ambassador when he defied the State Department edict and traveled many times into Jewish areas of the West Bank.“I did not understand,” Friedman recalls. “There are close to 500,000 Israelis living there. It is most certainly one of Israel’s most diplomatically sensitive parts. I am a diplomat and am supposed to try to engage in diplomatic issues. Why would it make sense for someone like me, the chief American diplomat in Israel, not to inform myself by being there on the ground?”
During those four years, he says he realized that “the US had adopted a policy of intentional ignorance of this vital land and territory. But then I realized it was something that not only the US had done, but the world had adopted a policy of deliberate ignorance, and I wanted people to learn about it.
“People in a position to make decisions about their country’s policies were making those decisions based on deliberate ignorance, and I wanted to change that.”
Soon, Friedman realized it was not just a question of diplomats or world leaders. People in general, including those whose faith is so intertwined with this territory, do not understand this land’s ancient and biblical significance to the Jewish and Christian people.
“On a basic level, the Jewish people are referred to as Jews because they come from Judah,” Friedman says. “Judah is half of Judea and Samaria. Our history goes back to this land in an apolitical way.”
Ultimately, he admitted that nothing in Israel can be done without someone screaming politics.
So, “in a political way, we wanted to create something where people could understand the ancient biblical significance of this land. And that is what we set out to do – not to change someone’s mind politically but to cause people to care about this territory as something more than this obtuse reference to the West Bank.”
White House to the West Bank
To Friedman, the West Bank is made to be more controversial than it needs to be, he tells The Jerusalem Report. He says the settlers who argue for Judea and Samara are well-meaning but often need to be more skilled in understanding how to bring their messages to the world. He believes that he and Pompeo – “we are both deeply familiar with the issues and the landscape but not on the ground every day” – can bring a different and balanced perspective.
“People think of Judea and Samaria as an area of conflict, but they do not know why there is a conflict.”
The narration by two men who formerly served in the White House also offered a specific angle.
During Pompeo’s term as secretary of state, he presented a new US policy on the settlements: Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley do not contravene international law, he announced shortly before leaving office – an approach that the Americans have held to under President Joe Biden.
At the same time, Friedman led the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The building now sits only minutes from Derech Hebron and Route 60.
For Pompeo, the movie was meant to be a journey of faith and history and a way to show viewers “the reality – real places with real history, whose archeology matches the stories of the Old and New Testament.
“We hope we did it in a fun and historically accurate way, and folks can then form their own judgments,” Pompeo tells the Report.
However, these historical and spiritual connections cannot be completely disentangled from the complex Palestinian-Israeli conflict that has enveloped the area. Despite the spiritual allure of the West Bank, it remains an explosive and contested territory.
The conflict over land ownership, self-determination, and political sovereignty has fueled decades of animosity between Palestinians and Israelis. The struggle over control of this region has overshadowed its religious and cultural significance, resulting in violent clashes, border disputes, and humanitarian concerns.
A particularly noteworthy element is the narrative lens through which the story is presented. In the context of the West Bank and its religious significance, the perspective of two key figures from the Donald Trump administration inherently introduces a layer of political agenda. The Trump administration was distinctly aligned with evangelical Christians who interpret the Bible in a literal sense, associating the return to the land with the fulfillment of prophecy. This alignment significantly influenced regional policy decisions, especially in Judea and Samaria.
Friedman and Pompeo themselves brought about substantial changes on the ground.
Right-wing Israelis embraced these changes but were often viewed as hostile by Palestinians and others who advocated for a twostate solution. The influence of these leaders cannot be divorced from the narrative they present, thereby infusing the video with an undercurrent of tension stemming from their roles in the administration.
“The issue of Judea and Samaria is largely going to be resolved not by the United States but by the people who live there,” Pompeo says. “When you talk about it being a high priority for the Trump administration, we were unambiguous: We declared the Golan Heights the rightful land of the people of Israel. We declared Jerusalem its rightful capital. And when it comes to Judea and Samaria, it is absolutely the case that Israel is not occupying the territory. Israel is not an apartheid state. There is a real democracy there.”
He says that the Trump administration made an offer to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that would have made the lives of Jews and Palestinians better. However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected it.
“That is their failure,” Pompeo says. “The Palestinians need to pick leadership that does not promote terrorism or pay people to kill Jews. I pray one day that they get the leadership they deserve.”
The former secretary of state adds, “We intended to go to these places and share a world different than the one you hear about. We all see the violence in Jenin, protectors along the concrete wall. But in Judea and Samaria, there are Jews, Arabs, and Christians living alongside each other peacefully.”
Although glossed over in the movie, producing the film in these contested areas was a production nightmare, Crouch describes.
He said that sometimes the team could not do pre-production but instead had to show up at the site unseen and set their cameras and other gear.
“On the day we went to Joshua’s altar, it was David Friedman, Mike Pompeo, the cameramen, the security team, and me. We got there, standing there with our mouths open, trying to figure out where to put the cameras,” Crouch recalls. “But David was so excited, he could not even see straight. We were scrambling around, and then we just snapped our fingers and said, ‘Just roll, just roll.’
“The energy, excitement, and uniqueness are hard to describe.”
Footsteps of faith
The whole film had to be painstakingly coordinated with the US State Department and the IDF, Crouch says. But he and his colleagues say it was worth the challenge.
While the theological conclusions differ for Jews and Christians, Pompeo notes that the journey is similar. He says Christian evangelicals understand the importance of their deep ties to their Jewish brothers, and he believes Route 60 honors that.
“I think people of all faiths will certainly have their faith reinforced by this film,” Friedman adds. “It will take their faith and concretize it regarding how their faith was born. It will recharge their batteries.
“People not of faith will nonetheless appreciate the significance of the Bible to the modern State of Israel, and I think they will appreciate the film as well.”
Crouch says that God was with them on Route 60 and throughout the making of the film.
“Route 60 was meant to be,” Crouch concludes. “We are thrilled to hand it to our audience.”