On a normal day, cars travel down a highway that runs through the land of Abraham and Jesus.
Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former ambassador to Israel David Friedman want to teach Christians and Jews about the places where Ruth wept and Jacob dreamed in an upcoming Trinity Broadcast Network documentary called Route 60: The biblical highway.
“As you stand in some of these spots, you think back to the days when there were pilgrimages to Jerusalem, over a period of a thousand years,” Friedman said as he sat in his Jerusalem apartment.
“You try to put yourself back in time and think of the ancient life of the Jewish nation and what it was like,” Friedman said. He had just completed a number of days of filming with Pompeo, who was returning to the US.“We were deeply moved by all these places,” Friedman said.
The documentary produced by filmmaker and TBN president Matt Crouch sets out a “challenge to the viewer,” Friedman said, adding that “this is where the Bible happened, and it’s still here.”
“It happened within kilometers of this road in any direction,” he said. “Do you care about it? Do you think it’s important that the Bible not just be taught but actually be experienced the way it was experienced thousands of years ago?"
“The theme is to educate. At every place along the way, we explained what happened – anything from Jesus’s birth to the burial of Rachel along the side of the road.”
The theme is to educate. At every place along the way, we explained what happened – anything from Jesus’s birth to the burial of Rachel along the side of the roadDavid Friedman
The documentary begins in Nazareth and ends in Beersheba, which are both located within sovereign Israel. It also includes sections of the route that traverses an area under Israeli military control that is outside sovereign Israel, known either as Judea and Samaria or Area C of the West Bank.
The former diplomats
As diplomats working for the former Trump administration, both Pompeo and Friedman changed US policy in regard to that territory. What is known as the Pompeo Doctrine said the West Bank settlements were not inconsistent with international law and recognized the Jewish historic and religious roots of the area.
They both used the language of Judea and Samaria and were the first diplomats in their respective offices to visit Jewish communities, businesses and historic sites in Area C of the West Bank.
What is it about?
But the documentary is not political and does not delve into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Friedman said.“The point is not to make a political argument,” he said. “You won’t hear anything in the documentary about two states [or] one state.”
The documentary sidesteps the labels and instead transports the viewer to the era of 2,000 years ago, Friedman said.
To cover the most ground in a timely manner, he and Pompeo flew by helicopter to the different locations. At each site, they were met by crews who were ready to film.
In some cases, such as Joshua’s altar, it was Friedman’s first visit. In respect to Hebron, it was his first time there in five years. He never went as ambassador.
“It’s no secret how I feel about these places,” he said. “But I don’t need to [impose] my views on anyone else... I was pretty careful not to make it into a piece of advocacy.
“I want [people] to understand that many of the values that we hold dear today come from the Bible and these places. These are not just towns along the way.”
Many states in the US have towns named Hebron or Shiloh, but “these are the originals,” Friedman said.Many of the events in the Bible took place in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, he said.
“This isn’t a political argument; it’s just the reality,” Friedman said. “There wasn’t a lot of biblical lore coming out of Tel Aviv or Haifa. The biblical heartland of Israel is in Judea and Samaria. That’s why we thought it made sense to do it by reference to a road. It was an interesting way to show [Route 60] is the spine of biblical Israel.”