Simcha Jacobovici (/ˈsɪmhə jəˈkoʊboʊvɪtʃ/; born April 4, 1953) is an Israeli-Canadian film director, producer, freelance journalist, and writer.
His parents are from Iași, Romania.
Simcha Jacobovici earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science (with honors) from McGill University and an M.A. in International Relations from the University of Toronto. He is an Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Huntington University, an affiliate of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Jacobovici has been a guest lecturer at numerous conferences and on various campuses including Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, McGill University, UCLA, and York University. He is married and the father of five children.
Jacobovici is a three-time Emmy-winner for Outstanding Investigative Journalism and a New York Times best-selling author. His filmmaking awards also include a certificate of Special Merit from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a Gold Medal from the International Documentary Festival of Nyon, three U.S. CableACE Awards, a Royal Television Society Award, two Gemini awards, an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award, two Gold Dolphins from the Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards, a Jack R. Howard Award from the Scripps Howard Awards for In-Depth National and International Coverage, the Norman Bethune Award from the Canadian Medical Association for Excellence in International Health Reporting and, from the Overseas Press Club of America, two Edward R. Murrow Awards and a Carl Spielvogel Award.
As an early advocate of airlifting Ethiopian Jews to Israel, he wrote an op-ed piece on the subject for New York Times and made a documentary entitled Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews (1983).
His film on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Deadly Currents (1991), was runner-up for the Peace Prize at the 1991 Berlin Film Festival. His film Tales from the Organ Trade (2013), co-produced and directed by his associate Ric Esther Bienstock, explored the sale of kidneys.
Over the past decades, Jacobovici has engaged in what he calls "investigative archaeology." His most controversial claim is the identification of a tomb in Jerusalem as that of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The tomb was discovered in the Talpiot neighborhood. In 2012, he investigated a Second Temple-era burial cave in Armon Hanatziv by means of a robotic arm with a camera. He believes the cave may be the burial site of disciples of Jesus.
Jacobovici hosted three seasons of The Naked Archaeologist on VisionTV in Canada and The History Channel in the United States. In 2013, the series began to be broadcast on the Israel Broadcast Authority (IBA) Channel 1.
Jacobovici has written for The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, The Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Times and other newspapers. He blogs on SimchaJTV, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post. He occasionally writes for the Jerusalem Post.
He has been interviewed on numerous television shows, among them Anderson Cooper 360, Larry King Live,The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC Today Show, and ABC Nightline.
His new book with Professor Barrie Wilson, The Lost Gospel: Decoding the Ancient Text That Reveals Jesus’ Marriage to Mary the Magdalene, was published in November 2014 (Pegasus in the US & HarperCollins in Canada).
Jacobovici is also the co-author of two eBooks; “Michelangelo’s Angels and Demons" and “The James Revelation", published by Zoomerbooks, as a companion to his television series “Biblical Conspiracies”.
- Atlantis Rising (National Geographic/Discovery, 2017)
- Bride of God (Science Channel/VisionTV, 2014)
- The Jesus Discovery/The Resurrection Tomb Mystery (2012)
- Secrets of Christianity/Decoding the Ancients (2010)
- The Lost Tomb of Jesus (2007)
- Charging the Rhino (2007)
- The Naked Archaeologist (2006–2010)
- The Exodus Decoded (2005)
- James, Brother of Jesus (2003)
- Quest for the Lost Tribes (2000)
- The Struma (2001)
- Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies & the American Dream (1997)
- Expulsion and Memory: Descendants of the Hidden Jews (1996)
- Deadly Currents (1991)
- Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews (1983)
- Tales From the Organ Trade (2013)
- Living in the Time of Jesus (2010)
- Sex Slaves/The Real Sex Traffic (2005)
- Yummy Mummy (2005)
- Impact of Terror (2004)
- Tell It Like It Is (2003/04)
- Penn & Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour (2000)
- Frozen Hearts (1999)
- Pandemic: Case of the Killer Flu (1999)
- The Selling of Innocents (1996)
- Jesus in Russia: An American Holy War (1996)
- Ebola: Inside an Outbreak/The Plague Fighters (1996)
- The Plague Monkeys (1994)
- AIDS in Africa (1990)
- 2017 Gordon Sinclair Award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television
- 2015 Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program from the Canadian Screen Awards for the documentary "Tales from the Organ Trade".
- 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club of America for the documentary "Tales from the Organ Trade".
- 2014 Jack R. Howard Award for Television/Cable In-Depth National and International Coverage from the Scripps Howard Award for the documentary "Tales from the Organ Trade".
- 2014 Norman Bethune Award for Excellence in International Health Reporting from the Canadian Medical Association Media Awards for Health Reporting for the documentary "Tales from the Organ Trade".
- 2013 Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards Gold Dolphin in the category of "Science & Knowledge" for the documentary "Resurrection Tomb Mystery" (also released as The Jesus Discovery).
- 2013 Raven Award for Best Feature Documentary from the Southern Utah International Documentary Film Festival for the documentary "Tales from the Organ Trade".
- 2013 Banff World Media Festival Rockie Award in the category of "Social & Humanitarian Documentaries" for the documentary "The Age of Anxiety".
- 2013 New York Festivals Gold World Medal in the category of "Best Innovation" for the documentary "Resurrection Tomb Mystery" (also released as The Jesus Discovery).
- 2010 CINE Golden Eagle Award in the "History" category for the documentary "Beasts of the Bible".
- 2010 CINE Golden Eagle Award in the "Science & Technology" category for the documentary "Science of the Soul".
- 2010 Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Award in the "Television, Documentary" category for the documentary "Science of the Soul".
- 2007 News and Documentary Emmy Award in category of "Outstanding Investigative Journalism" for the documentary "Sex Slaves" (also released as The Real Sex Traffic).
- 2006 Overseas Press Club Edward R. Murrow Award awarded to Ric Esther Bienstock, Felix Golubev, Simcha Jacobovici, David Fanning, and Ken Dornstein for 2005 documentary by Ric Esther Bienstock created in association with CBC, Channel 4 and Canal D, in the category of "Best TV interpretation or documentary on international affairs" for their PBS Frontline documentary "Sex Slaves."
- 2006 UK Royal Television Society Award awarded to Ric Esther Bienstock, Felix Golubev, Simcha Jacobovici, David Fanning, and Ken Dornstein for 2005 documentary by Ric Esther Bienstock created in association with CBC, Channel 4 and Canal D, for their PBS Frontline documentary "Sex Slaves."
- 2004 Overseas Press Club Carl Spielvogel Award awarded to Tim Wolochatiuk, Simcha Jacobovici, Ric Esther Bienstock, Jennifer Hyde, and Sid Bedigfield for 2003 documentary by produced by Associated Producers for CNN and CNBC in the category of "Best international reporting in the broadcast media showing a concern for the human condition" for their documentary “CNN Presents: Impact of Terror."
- 1997 News and Documentary Emmy Award in category of "Outstanding Investigative Journalism" for the documentary "The Plague Monkeys".
- 1997 Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television Gemini Award in category of "Best Science Documentary" for the documentary "Ebola: Inside an Outbreak" (released internationally as Plague Fighters) for PBS’ NOVA, Channel 4 and the CBC, written and directed by Ric Esther Bienstock and produced by Simcha Jacobovici, Elliott Halpern, and Ric Esther Bienstock for Associated Producers, Ltd..
- 1997 Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism for the documentary "Ebola: Inside an Outbreak" (released internationally as Plague Fighters) for PBS’ NOVA, Channel 4 and the CBC, written and directed by Ric Esther Bienstock and produced by Simcha Jacobovici, Elliott Halpern, and Ric Esther Bienstock for Associated Producers, Ltd..
- 1996 News and Documentary Emmy Award in category of "Outstanding Investigative Journalism" for the documentary "The Selling of Innocents".
- 1992 National Academy of Cable Programming CableACE Award for the documentary Deadly Currents produced in association with City TV.
Selected Documentaries and television programs
Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews
In the 1983 documentary, Falasha: Exile of the Black Jews, Jacobovici tells the story of Ethiopian Jews, also called Falasha (strangers) and properly known as Beta Israel. According to the documentary, the group was conquered by neighbouring tribes in the 17th century and suffered persecution. After the movie, during the Israeli Operation Moses (Hebrew: מִבְצָע מֹשֶׁה, Mivtza Moshe), the Falasha were evacuated from Sudan during a famine in 1984 and airlifted to Israel.
Expulsion & Memory: Descendants of the Hidden Jews
In this 1996 documentary, Jacobovici studies the Crypto Jews of New Mexico and the tiny population of Jewish descendants in Spain and Portugal, known as nuevos Cristianos ("new Christians"). He explores the Jewish ancestry of the New Mexican Hispanic families presently living in New Mexico, and finds many of them have always been aware of their Jewish heritage.
The 2002 documentary The Struma, directed by Jacobovici, tells the story of MV Struma, a small ship chartered to carry Jewish refugees from Axis-allied Romania to Mandatory Palestine in World War II. Ten people were let off the ship in Istanbul, including a woman who had just had a miscarriage, and one man who was the representative of the Mobil Oil Company in Romania, and was helped by Mobil's representative in Turkey, Vehbi Koc. Koc asked this favour of the Istanbul Chief of Police, Sabri Caglayangil, who later became a Minister of the Interior. On February 23, 1942, with her engine inoperable and her refugee passengers aboard, Turkish authorities towed Struma from Istanbul harbor through the Bosphorus back to the Black Sea, where they set her adrift without food, water, or fuel. Within hours, on the morning of February 24, she was torpedoed and sunk by the Soviet submarine Shch-213, killing at least 768 men, women, and children, and possibly as many as 791, of whom 785 were Jews.
The movie won the Audience Award at the Portland International Film Festival as best documentary.
Quest for the Lost Tribes
In this 2003 wide-ranging documentary, Jacobovici goes on a worldwide search for the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel (stating there are actually only nine since the remnant of the Tribe of Dan was confirmed to be the Ethiopian Jews). Traveling from western Europe to China and India, Jacobovici finds tantalizing evidence that the "lost tribes" are not really lost. The tribe of Dan is the only original tribe of Israel which is not included in the list of tribes which are sealed. No mention is made of why they are excluded.
Impact of Terror
Impact of Terror, produced by Jacobovici and directed by Tim Wolochatiuk, is a 2004 documentary about Israeli victims of terrorism struggling to cope in the aftermath of the August 2001 Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
The Exodus Decoded
The Exodus Decoded is a 2006 History Channel documentary created by Jacobovici and the producer/director James Cameron. The documentary explores evidence for the biblical account of the Exodus. Its claims and methods were widely criticized both by Biblical scholars and by mainstream scientists.
Jacobovici suggests that the Exodus took place around 1500 BC, during the reign of pharaoh Ahmose I, and that it coincided with the Minoan eruption. In the documentary, the plagues that ravaged Egypt in the Bible are explained as having resulted from that eruption and a related limnic eruption in the Nile Delta. While much of Jacobovici's archaeological evidence for the Exodus comes from Egypt, some comes from Mycenae on mainland Greece, such as a gold ornament that somewhat resembles the Ark of the Covenant.
The documentary makes extensive use of computer animation and visual effects made by Gravity Visual Effects, Inc. It runs for 90 minutes and was first aired in Canada on April 16, (Easter Day) 2006 (Discovery Channel Canada). Shown in the US on August 20, 2006 (History Channel US), UK on December 23, 2006 (Discovery Channel UK) and Spain on December 25, 2006 (Cuatro).
The Lost Tomb of Jesus
The Lost Tomb of Jesus is a documentary co-produced and first broadcast on the Discovery Channel and Vision TV in Canada on March 4, 2007, covering the discovery of the Talpiot Tomb. It was directed by Jacobovici and produced by Felix Golubev and Ric Esther Bienstock, while James Cameron served as executive producer. The film was released in conjunction with a book about the same subject, The Jesus Family Tomb, issued in late February 2007 and co-authored by Jacobovici and Charles R. Pellegrino. The documentary and book's claims are disputed by most experts within the archaeological and theological fields, as well as among most linguistic and biblical scholars.
The Naked Archaeologist
The Naked Archaeologist was a television show produced for VisionTV in Canada and History International in the US that was hosted and prepared by Jacobovici together with Avri Gilad. The show ultimately reviewed Biblical stories, then tried to find proof for them by exploring the Holy Land looking for archaeological evidence, making personal inferences and deductions, and interviewing scholars and experts. Subsequent to its original run on VisionTV, it was picked up in the U.S. by The History Channel and its sister network, History International.
The episode "A Nabatean by Any Other Name" won the Special Jury Prize at the 8th International Archaeological Film Festival in Brussels.
Jacobovici was involved in the production of a documentary shown in March 2010 on the National Geographic Channel in which he claimed that Atlantis has been found in Spain, and has said that evidence found by University of Hartford Professor Richard Freund includes the unearthed emblem of Atlantis, and that "Tarshish is Atlantis itself.”