Barrister and broadcaster Robert Rinder and writer Sarah Agha explore their personal stories and those of four families of Jewish and Palestinian heritage in a new documentary for BBC.
The Holy Land and Us: Our Untold Stories is a two-part series exploring how family histories have been impacted by the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.
For Jews, it represented a longed-for opportunity to find a place of safety.
But for Palestinians, the events of this period created more than 700,000 refugees and resulted in hundreds of towns and villages being destroyed
The programme hears the deeply personal stories of people on both sides as the Middle East was reshaped.
We take a look at what this has meant for co-presenter Rinder and his family.
Why did Robert Rinder get involved?
The 44-year-old said he felt it was important because through his work as a barrister and arbitrator he had learnt “unless people find the courage to engage in difficult listening, there is no hope of resolving conflict and there is certainly no way of moving forward”.
As part of a large Jewish family, he said he felt he had “a strong connection to Israel”, but he added that he “acknowledged that there is another narrative that I must hear, however painful and challenging that may be”.
He hopes viewers will do the “difficult work of painful hearing” and acknowledge this is “complex” and not a one-sided story.
What did he learn about his own family?
Rinder has already explored some of his family’s heritage in the BBC’s show Who Do You Think You Are? and looked at the experience of Jewish families in My Family, The Holocaust and Me.
In this new series, he said he learnt “so much” about his own family.
“I had believed that my grandfather (whose story we followed in Who Do You Think You Are?) had his entire family wiped out in the Holocaust,” he said. “This turned out not to be the case.
“One day, someone recognised him on a beach in Tel Aviv. It turned out that he had a living first cousin with the same name, ‘Moshe Malinieski’.”
It turned out the two men had lived almost parallel lives. Both from the same part of Poland and both Holcaust survivors, Rinder’s grandfather had travelled to England while his cousin had journeyed to what was then Palestine under the British mandate.
“Every aspect of this man’s life was new to me,” he said. “Perhaps the thing that surprised me most was discovering that once he landed in Israel, despite having lived through the hell of Auschwitz, he had to endure the ugly indignity of being held in a British-run camp for illegal immigrants encircled with barbed wire.”
What did his own family think about him making the series?
His mother, Angela Cohen, who he describes as a “profoundly wise person”, reminded him of the importance of listening as a child with the maxim ‘always remember, the Lord gave you two ears and one gob for a reason’.
She did, however, express anxiety about the controversial nature of the show and its repercussions for her son.
“My mum was anxious for me to consider not taking part in this film,” he said. “Not because she didn’t think it would be important, but because she fears that I will be the subject of violence.”
When is it on television?
Episode one of The Holy Land and Us – Our Untold Stories is on BBC Two at 9pm on Tuesday 14 March. The second part will be aired on Tuesday 21 March.
Both will be available on the iPlayer.