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Verdict on James ossuary thrills Toronto filmmaker

Simcha Jacobovici examines a 1st century burial tomb Simcha Jacobovici, an Emmy-winning documentary director and producer who is best known for his documentary TV series "The Naked Archaeologist," argues that the cave served as a burial cave for at least some of Jesus' disciples.

A happy Simcha Jacobovici believes Wednesday's verdict marks "a turning point in the history of the archeology of the early Jesus movement."

Speaking from Israel, the Toronto-based filmmaker said the ruling by Jerusalem District Court "will take the whole pattern of Jesus archeology out of personal attacks … where if you bring up things that don't fit with people's prejudices, you're accused of just doing it for the money … and put it in the academic and scholarly context where it belongs."

The Israel-born Mr. Jacobovici has been a self-described "unwavering" supporter of both Oded Golan's innocence and the authenticity of the James ossuary for at least a decade and in 2004 made a documentary on the issue for Discovery Channel called James, Brother of Jesus.

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Unsurprisingly, a Jacobovici film crew was in Jerusalem on Wednesday to capture the verdict and bag exit interviews with Mr. Golan and co-accused Robert Deutsch. Mr. Jacobovici, in fact, has been on hand for key moments throughout the trial's five-year duration. The hope is eventually to take this material, edit it with footage from James, Brother of Jesus and make "a comprehensive film that tracks this story from the very beginning to the end."

"I just feel very, very bad for the defendants," Mr. Jacobovici said. "I mean, Oded Golan lost 10 years of his life. He didn't hold up a bank; he didn't try to sell it to anybody. … The whole world turned against these guys and I'm sure there are still people who will say 'no' to any archeology associated with Jesus and the early movement."

Mr. Jacobovici has been on the receiving end of such criticism in the last decade, not least for his willingness to make sensational claims about a variety of archeological excavations in the Holy Land. Next month Vision TV is airing a Jacobovici documentary, The Jesus Discovery, that, he says, will "reveal reliable archeological evidence directly connected to Jesus's first followers – those who knew him personally – and to Jesus himself."

Mr. Jacobovici said he and others haven't suddenly come upon and identified "stuff that's been around for 2,000 years … and spinning these stories." Modern archeology in the Holy Land, he argued, is a relatively recent phenomenon, largely as a result of the building boom that began in and around Jerusalem in the mid-1970s and the excavations that have accompanied them.

"So in the last 30 years you've had 900 tombs discovered by bulldozers in Jerusalem, 3,000 ossuaries. This is all fresh."

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