The Holy Land And Us: Our Untold Stories follows actor and writer Sarah Agha and barrister, author and broadcaster Rob Rinder, MBE, along with four families of Jewish and Palestinian heritage, as they explore their personal family stories, and the ways in which they have been defined by events in Palestine and Israel.
Sarah will learn about the circumstances under which her family fled their village in Galilee in 1948, and Rob will follow his relative’s journey to escape the horrors of the Holocaust and start a new life in the recently established state of Israel.
2023 marks 75 years since the State of Israel was founded. For Jews across the world, this represented a longed-for opportunity to find a place of safety. For Palestinians the events of this period, which created over 700,000 refugees and resulted in hundreds of towns and villages being destroyed, are known as the Nakba, Arabic for the Catastrophe.
Through powerful and profoundly moving family stories, this series gets to the heart of what happened to people on both sides of the conflict as the Middle East was reshaped.
Rather than presenting a comprehensive history, the series lets the human stories of the time speak for themselves, enabling viewers to reach a richer understanding of the divisions that have lasted to this day.
Sarah Agha, Actor and co-Presenter, says: “My Palestinian father was just two years old when his family was displaced from their village near Tiberias in Galilee in 1948. I was always told they were forced to leave, but I know little about the exact circumstances in which they left, so I want to follow in their footsteps and uncover what happened. My father also told me that our Palestinian ancestors used to have a lot of land and influence in the nineteenth century. I want to find out how in less than a century they went from power-brokers to refugees.”
Rob Rinder MBE, Barrister, Broadcaster and co-Presenter, says: “I am from a Jewish family and for me, the State of Israel was a sanctuary, at the heart of the yearning of the few Jewish prayers I knew, which begins with ‘Hear O Israel’. It was a place where Jewish people from all over the world could go to finally feel safe...
"Tracing the journey of my grandfather’s cousin, Moshe Malinicky, I want to understand why he risked so much to reach this land and why he made this choice. Israel offered a refuge to Jews across the world but the land remains a place of enduring conflict, and the key to understanding where we are today is to hear the stories from that time, from both sides.”
Daisy Scalchi, BBC Head of Religion and Ethics, says: “Hearing deeply personal accounts of the search for a home and dispossession, Rob and Sarah will let the human stories speak for themselves. Despite the horrors of war, this documentary will uncover stories of strength, courage and defiance, and will look for the light as well as the shade in the experiences of both Israeli and Palestinian families.”
Colette Flight, Executive Producer at Wall to Wall Media, says: “Hearing these powerful and moving family stories, which still resonate through the generations, gives a fresh and deeply personal perspective on the human impact of these events. Our thanks go to Sarah Agha and Rob Rinder and all our contributors for their bravery in delving into and sharing these stories.”
The Holy Land And Us: Our Untold Stories will air on BBC Two and iPlayer in spring 2023. The composer for the series Theo Elwell and the director is David Vincent.