`Within These Walls' catches the true spirit of Jerusalem

After 3,000 years of strife, even now in the midst of ongoing political disagreements, Jerusalem remains as in Isaiah, ``a praise from the earth.'' Jerusalem: Within These Walls (PBS, Wednesday, 8-9 p.m., check local listings) manages to tiptoe delicately through the mine fields of religious and political controversy to present an inspiring picture of modern-day Jerusalem, the fountainhead of three of the world's great religions. This National Geographic Society/WQED-Pittsburgh program, underwritten by Chevron, walks softly (and gingerly) but carries a big (and selective) camera. Both the ancient and modern city are visited, as well as Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sites and activities. The documentary visits the carefully preserved cellar of the Siebenberg home with its connections to ancient Jerusalem, the Greek Orthodox protector of holy places, survivors of the Armenian Holocaust, and a Muslim actor on Israeli television. There are visits to ethnic schools and religious ceremonies. And, of course, there is a session with Jerusalem's ubiquitous mayor, Teddy Kollek, who sees the city as more a mosaic than a melting pot. His job, he says pragmatically, is to help Jews, Arabs, Armenians, Christians, and Muslims ``live side by side, equally, in tolerance, if not in love.''

Narrated with restraint by Christopher Plummer, written and produced with sensitivity by Miriam Birch, photographed by Joe Seamans (who catches the true spirit of the city), ``Within These Walls'' focuses on the beauty and the authenticity of Jerusalem. What comes nobly is the quaintness and the resilience that gives Jerusalem its timeless quality of inner tranquillity no matter what battles rage without.

This documentary will probably not please those who would prefer it to become a partisan argument for one side or another. It chooses to look at the positive side of all quarters. And thus ``Jerusalem: Within These Walls'' becomes, in its own way, a testament of love to an eternal city.

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