At the very end of our rainy museum day, we were in trouble. The tombs where we’d planned to film the following day were muddy, and flooded. We were running out of ideas. A few silent prayers went up, as our wet clothes dripped onto the rented van’s carpeted floor. “There is one more place,” said the ever-resourceful Aran, “but it is 20 minutes outside of town. Do you want to go?” It was our last chance. We went.
The Biblical Gardens were a gift. They were beautifully landscaped, had low traffic, and sat on a hill, high above the flooding. And nestled in the heart of the garden, by a lovely cluster of olive trees, was an authentic, ancient tomb, with an actual rock-hewn entrance and a round stone to roll away. Just what we needed, and in the nick of time. Aran went to the office which was about to close, and quickly asked if we could film on the site in less than twelve hours. Incredibly, the owners agreed. And at 6 AM the next day, we were there.
The location was gorgeous, and historically accurate. There were actual bone boxes from Jesus’ time inside of the tomb, and the exterior was picture-perfect. But the empty tomb scene became one of my favorite memories for an entirely different reason: the people who joined our team for the day.
It was our first time working with actors outside of our long-term crew, and they were incredible. Three exuberant young women came to discover the tomb, and a lovely young man joined them to play the angel that their characters meet.
Working with a bigger crew was a new challenge, and time was extra tight that day, but these lovely people made it an adventure. When I gave them their costumes, they danced, posed, and took pictures. When we slated the shots, they laughed with excitement. When Aran and I shared the tale of the rabbi who rose from the dead, they played their parts happily, even though the story wasn’t familiar to them. “You don’t believe that this man is really an angel,” I told the three actresses. “You don’t believe this is really happening.”
“Do I believe I’m an angel?” the angel asked.
“ Yes,” I told him. “You know exactly where you came from.” He nodded seriously.
Everything we asked our actors to do, they did with double enthusiasm. They stayed an extra half hour, so we could finish, and when filming was done, they took selfies with us, and shook our hands. “We want to see the movie when it’s done!” they chorused.
“Can I read this story in Hebrew?” The angel asked.
“It was so wonderful working with you,” said one actress, as she gave me a hug goodbye.
I’m glad she had a wonderful time. I hope they all did. I hope we gave those four lovely people something to smile about, a new story, an adventure. But no matter how much they enjoyed the experience, we won’t even have begun to pay them back for what they gave to us. They were our miracle.
In the morning, we were tired, behind schedule, and starting to break down. But then, their enthusiasm, the light in their eyes, brought us back to life. It gave us the energy we needed to push on.
And that afternoon, we flew. We filmed burial caves on a hillside, in the famous Valley of Hinnom. We broke out our light wands inside a giant, underground tomb, creating fantastic lighting effects. We shot in an enormous cemetery that covers one whole side of the Mount of Olives. The rows and rows of white limestone graves seemed to cover everything in sight.
By evening, we’d finished our checklist, and taken a bite out of our backlog of work from other days. And back at the house, as I sat with Gary, the cinematographer, and watched the footage, we laughed with joy at our new friends’ exuberant and wonderful performances. That was the night when I started to believe we could finish, after all. We’d prayed for a miracle, and God had sent four, with skin on. And by now I’d learned enough to know there would be more.