The pair of American diplomats who during the Trump administration secured the landmark peace agreements at the Abraham Accords have partnered up for a fascinating new venture — tour guides on a 146-mile highway packed with more history than any other in the world.
For a new documentary, “Route 60,” the two statesmen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, took cameras along as they traveled down the spine of the Jewish state. Though both Pompeo and Friedman are political figures, their film is primarily a religious history: tracing biblical events that took place over millennia and putting them on a literal map, all within walking distance from one road.
The religious diversity of the pair — Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, and Friedman, an Orthodox Jew — is necessary in matching the diversity of the road’s religious offerings. Of significance to Christians, the road cuts through Nazareth, where Jesus was conceived and lived his life; Bethlehem, where Jesus was born; and Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was laid to rest.
But its biblical history begins long before the story of Jesus. Jerusalem was, of course, made Israel’s capital city by King David roughly a thousand years before Jesus was born. The road also cuts through Shiloh, which for 369 years served as the center of Israel, as well as some of the most revered sites in Judaism — Rachel’s Tomb, and the Altar of Joshua, where the first real formation of a Jewish state took place.
The road fittingly ends in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, the site of a biblical peace agreement made by Abraham, who is commonly viewed as the patriarch of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths alike. Friedman calls it the site of “the first of the Abraham accords, the real Abraham accords.”
Pompeo and Friedman complement each other in the film. Both bring an immense knowledge of their own faith, and exhibit a desire to learn from each other’s. They both also seem to have genuine joy at the experience of stepping into the history of the Bible, visiting sites that even Friedman, who lived for years in Israel as the United States ambassador to the Jewish state, had never stepped foot on before.
The film provides stunning visuals and access to historic sites and gives new life to moments in the Bible — the pair, for example, walk into the garden that Jesus is said to have prayed in after the Last Supper. Some other stops are less well-known, such as the rooftop in the City of David where King David is believed to have seen a woman bathing, and gone on to have an adulterous relationship with her before being admonished by the prophet Nathan. (That scene is part of a lesson on political accountability.)
The film stays true to its focus on religion — the third-most heard voice is a narrator reading straight from the Bible — but the trip through Israel also serves as a sort of victory lap for Pompeo and Friedman. Throughout the discussions are mentions of their policy triumphs, including a detailed walkthrough of how Friedman prevailed against prominent figures in Donald Trump’s White House to convince the president to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
There is also discussion of the positive impact of the so-called “Pompeo Doctrine,” which stated that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria — the area where virtually all of the history of the Bible took place, often referred to as the “West Bank” — were not inconsistent with international law. The capacity of businesses in settlements to write “Made in Israel” rather than “Made in the West Bank” on their products has significantly boosted sales, the film claims. A rabbi at the Western Wall in Jerusalem hails Pompeo as a “great friend of Israel.”
Pompeo also celebrates a triumph outside Israel, recounting how he used the courage he found in his Christian faith to demand that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un release three Americans detained by the dictatorship. The prisoners were released, a historic triumph for the Trump administration.
The film feels like a continuation of Pompeo and Friedman’s mission with the Abraham Accords, which saw Israel make peace with its Arab neighbors based on an agreement to “promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace among the three Abrahamic religions and all humanity.”
The road, a majority of which is in Palestinian-controlled territory in the West Bank, holds significance to the three major Abrahamic religions, and can be a tool to further advance peace, Friedman believes. The Abraham Accords were a momentous step for the region, but there is plenty of work to be done.
“We confronted, and I think we defeated hatred,” Friedman says in the film. “We haven’t broken it fully.”
The film from the Christian-based Trinity Broadcasting Network will be in theaters for just two days, September 18 and 19, at select theaters.