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The Beginning

series: Story Of The Jews With Simon Schama

air date: 3/26/14 3:00 AM

The story of the Jewish experience begins 3,000 years ago with the emergence of a tribal people in a contested land and their extraordinary book, the Hebrew Bible, a chronicle of their stormy relationship with a faceless, formless, jealous God. It was loyalty to this "God of Words" that defined the distinct identity of the ancient Jews and preserved it despite all that history could throw their way - war, invasion, deportation, enslavement, exile and assimilation. The story unfolds with a dazzling cast of historical characters: Sigmund Freud dying in exile in London; Victorian evangelicals and explorers following "in the footsteps" of Moses; Jewish mercenaries living, prospering and intermarrying in the pagan land of Egypt; Messianic Jews dreaming of the Apocalypse; and a Jewish historian, Josephus, who witnessed first-hand the moment when the apocalypse finally came and the Romans destroyed the Jewish High Temple in Jerusalem.

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