Dateline NBC
NBC News
updated 2/20/2004 7:56:40 PM ET 2004-02-21T00:56:40

It is hard to imagine an uninteresting or uneventful visit to Jerusalem. And sure enough, while taping there for our report, The Last Days of Jesus, our Dateline production team witnessed something of a meteorologic miracle.  It snowed! To see Gethsemene, Via Dolorosa, and the Ecce Homo Basilica blanketed in white was a rare sight, indeed. And yes, the possibility of divine intervention did cross my mind when the blizzard resulted in a much-needed day off from our shooting schedule!    

This was my second visit to Jerusalem. In August 1982, I spent a few days decompressing there after five weeks of war coverage as a correspondent in West Beirut. Back then, the war in Lebanon was the hot topic in Jerusalem. Today, it's the wall. The massive security divider being erected across much of the West Bank seems to be on everyone's minds.   

Of course, the controversy that led us to Jerusalem is not made of concrete, but of celluloid.  Interestingly, Mel Gibson's new film, The Passion of the Christ, has not generated quite as much buzz in Israel as it has in the U.S. Perhaps that's because the film does not yet have a release date there.  Still, people we spoke with in Jerusalem expressed interest in the movie and in our documentary.  

Dateline NBC
In introducing The Last Days of Jesus, I tell viewers that we are not exploring the mysteries of faith, but rather the mysteries of history. We sought out some of the world's most respected scholars -- believers and non-believers-- to find out what they think happened in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago. As a philosophy and religious studies major, I grappled with some of these mysteries in college. As a person of faith, I continue to grapple with them today.   And as a journalist, I found working on this report to be a profound and thought-provoking experience. I hope those of you who watch it find value in it.

Our Dateline production team, led by the immensely talented Liz Cole, labored for months to make The Last Days of Jesus a balanced and visually beautiful hour.          

The subject matter is challenging to say the least. Which brings me to one final note. A few years ago I was visiting with one of my former philosophy professors. Our conversation turned to history and religion, and I asked him how he thought journalists should measure the truth of a spiritual claim. I was sure that, for once, the student had stumped the professor with a difficult question. But without skipping a beat, he answered, "Spiritual truth is measured by the lasting, positive impact it has on people's lives."  Wise words.

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