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Jerusalem: The Biography

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Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel–Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel–Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the ‘centre of the world’ and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a dazzling narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women – kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores – who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient city of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia. Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that is believed will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice – in heaven and on earth.

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Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel–Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel–Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the ‘centre of the world’ and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a dazzling narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women – kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores – who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem. As well as the many ordinary Jerusalemites who have left their mark on the city, its cast varies from Solomon, Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent to Cleopatra, Caligula and Churchill; from Abraham to Jesus and Muhammad; from the ancient city of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia. Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that is believed will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice – in heaven and on earth.

30 review for Jerusalem: The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tea Jovanović

    This is one of those non-fiction books that you read as fiction... And this is one of those books that I'm most proud of being its editor... It took us two years to complete it... I don't know anymore how many times I've reread it, worrying about every detail with my team... Beautiful book about biography of Jerusalem, for those who love history... And they don't have to be scholars to enjoy this book... I can call myself the Serbian editor of Montefiore family, since I'm Santa's editor as well.. This is one of those non-fiction books that you read as fiction... And this is one of those books that I'm most proud of being its editor... It took us two years to complete it... I don't know anymore how many times I've reread it, worrying about every detail with my team... Beautiful book about biography of Jerusalem, for those who love history... And they don't have to be scholars to enjoy this book... I can call myself the Serbian editor of Montefiore family, since I'm Santa's editor as well... :) And this book published right in time for Belgrade Book Fair in October 2012 just went for second printing... First edition is sold out! :) Miracle that rarely happens in Serbia with non-fiction titles... :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Let me explain my rating. This book was extremely hard for me - all the way through. I knew if I took a break with another book, I would never pick it up again. Nevertheless, the book IS informative and I AM glad I read it, but: -Books of non-fiction do NOT have to be this hard to get through. It is non-fiction books like this that make people think the genre is difficult. I protest. It need not be so, and say this with my one star rating! (Later changed to two because I did learn about the city' Let me explain my rating. This book was extremely hard for me - all the way through. I knew if I took a break with another book, I would never pick it up again. Nevertheless, the book IS informative and I AM glad I read it, but: -Books of non-fiction do NOT have to be this hard to get through. It is non-fiction books like this that make people think the genre is difficult. I protest. It need not be so, and say this with my one star rating! (Later changed to two because I did learn about the city's history. It was not a total waste of time.) -The book is extremely dense and portions should have been cut by the editor. One example: the very end, the “lyrical” ending of the epilog, which otherwise rapidly recounts all the historical events from the Six Days War to the present. -There are numerous derogatory statements that are completely unnecessary. These sweeping judgments are not suitable. Just one example: Truman is introduced as the "mediocre senator" from Missouri. -The author's personal relationship to characters of history should have been better clarified and irrelevant people with family connections to the author removed. I am not reading this book to learn about the author's family. -History's violence is on the verge of being graphically depicted in the book. -Even though this book is so extensive, it is best understood if you know a lot before you even open its covers. A word about the audiobook's narration by John Lee. I have absolutely loved Lee's narration of other books, but his narration here was a huge disappointment. The pacing is wrong, and by that I mean that the words in a sentence are not correctly emphasized. It is easy to follow, yes, but it is almost sung! So strange and so inappropriate for a book of non-fiction. In that every single sentence holds so much information, it is a book hard to listen to. I didn't need the pictures or maps included in the paper book since such is easily found on the internet. You do need access to internet when listening to the audiobook. It seems to me that the book's presentation of the three religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) is balanced. Perhaps I am not the best judge since I read this book to learn. Yes, you have to be a martyr to get through the whole book. It is over. Thank God, which ever one you happen to choose. I personally adhere to no religion. Look at the problems they cause. ************************************** In chapter 11: It isn't getting easier. If I say this is dense, I really mean it is d-e-n-s-e! I am going to be proud of myself when it is done. All the difficult names and places and boy what violence. What does it say about the human species?! Phew. Don't get me wrong. There is a lot to learn from this book, but I instead see it as a textbook at university where you spend a semester on it. (I in fact did take a semester on the the birth of Christianity and the facts that are known about Jesus, but that was years ago.) That is why I need this book. I like that in the audiobook the notes are read as part of the text. They are very helpful. What I am getting is history. Straight history. Too me it seems as a balanced view of the different religions/events, but I am perhaps not a good judge. I have heard complaints that if you have faith, well you just don't see the facts this way. Maybe I am wrong about it being balanced?! I don't yet have a feel for the city, but I assume that will come later as we reach modern times. You have to understand the history and the growth of the three religions to understand the city, so we are starting at the right end. Of course, this is not a book just about the city but also of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Chronologically speaking I am at the point where Jesus has been crucified and Christianity is developing from Judaism. Islam is of course far ahead. I liked that the book went back even to Moses, King David and the construction of the first temple by Solomon. I have no intention of stopping, but it is NOT an easy read. DAUNTING to say the least. ********************************* A few chapters in: This is hard for me on audio. It moves rather fast and you have to immediately know where old places and peoples are, like Thrace and the Samaritans and Phoenicia. I suppose if you know all this BEFOREHAND it is easier. I have to rewind incessantly. John Lee is the narrator and I thought, "He is great; this will be no problem!" Wrong, wrong wrong. He sort of sings the words. I want slow, clear, strong narration for a non-fiction book since I want to pick up every fact. It will probably get a bit easier when we get out of the early biblical times. I like that the book moves chronologically forward.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont

    City of the Book My first sight of Jerusalem was in a taxi, driving up from the airport at Tel Aviv. It was a winter afternoon in late November, with the sun well down on the horizon. The colour tones were all light-grey, not drab, just grey upon grey, dramatically punctuated by a brilliant flash of gold from the Dome of the Rock: it was almost as if I had been allowed the briefest glimpse of the celestial city, Zion itself! It was the new city we drove into, with the old beyond, the Turkish wal City of the Book My first sight of Jerusalem was in a taxi, driving up from the airport at Tel Aviv. It was a winter afternoon in late November, with the sun well down on the horizon. The colour tones were all light-grey, not drab, just grey upon grey, dramatically punctuated by a brilliant flash of gold from the Dome of the Rock: it was almost as if I had been allowed the briefest glimpse of the celestial city, Zion itself! It was the new city we drove into, with the old beyond, the Turkish walls prominent on the horizon. My first impression was of sheer ordinariness, all a bit anti-climatic. After all, Jerusalem is a place that one has visited countless times in the imagination - the city of David, the city of Jesus, the city of Mohammed, the city of God. It was only gradually that the reality caught up with the romance. Yes, this is an ordinarily extraordinary place; here I am walking on the flagstones of history itself, on the paths of destiny. I’ve now visited the city again through the pages of Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem; the Biography. What a story he has to tell, tragic and bloody, exhilarating and uplifting; how well he tells it, with style, ease and a superb eye for detail, for the artist’s colourful vignettes that bring the place to life. It’s the story of us all: it’s the story of civilization itself, of the rise and fall of empires and dynasties; but it is the particular story of the Jews, the people who might be said to be defined by a place that for so long existed only in prayer and longing – “Next year in Jerusalem.” Largely driven out by the Romans in AD 70 and again in AD 135, they began an epic wandering of exile and return, one that has an almost mythic and Biblical quality, a greater Exodus. In place of the Jews came so many others – the Romans and their Byzantine inheritors, the Persians, the Arabs, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Crusaders, the Seljuk Turks the Kurds, the Mamaluks, the Mongols, the Ottomans and, in 1917, the British, General Allenby achieving something that had proved too much even for Richard the Lionheart. Jerusalem is not so much a place, more an obsession. It was obsession, faith and persecution that finally saw the return of the first people of the Book. Montefiore’s ‘biography’ is a stunning achievement given the range of time and the vastness of detail that has to be covered, given the stages of the life. History has been laid down here layer by layer, one civilization building on the stones of another, one religion laid down on the beliefs of another, the sediments of time and faith. But given the sensitivity of the place, given its importance in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the kind of archaeology that would uncover so much of what is hidden has always been problematic, particularly around the area of the Temple Mount. In this particular regard the author touches on the story of one Captain Monty Parker, a louche Englishman, a sort of Flashman-like figure, whose archaeological explorations in the city before the First World War in search of the Ark of the Covenant were carried out with an Indiana Jones lack of finesse. He is the only man in history to have caused a riot that united Muslims and Jews! The other thing about this deeply impressive and lucid book is that Montefiore manages to pack in so much so effortlessly without seeming to overwhelm one with detail; but there is detail and detail aplenty, from high history to the comically Rabelaisian. I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts, not just his account of Captain Monty but also his sketch of some of the earlier pilgrims, who did not always arrive filled with holy purpose and celestial thoughts. It’s important to remember that Jerusalem is on so many ways a city of sinners rather than saints (Chaucer’s Wife of Bath visited three times!) There is Arnold von Harff, a German knight, who visited the city in the fifteenth century, armed with a few phrases in Arabic and Hebrew, which leave little doubt as to his profane intentions; How much will you give me? I will give you a gulden. Are you a Jew? Woman, let me sleep with you tonight. Good madam, I am ALREADY in your bed. Yes, there are moments of comedy but it’s heavily outweighed by the tragedy of a place where so much suffering and death has been caused by zealotry and fanaticism. There is the madness of the city during the siege of Titus; the horror of the mass crucifixions that followed its capture; there is the massacre that took place after it fell to the Crusaders in 1099, which caused the streets to stink with decomposing flesh for months after; massacre, mayhem and murder, century after century. The tragedy, and the pettiness, has even invaded the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed site of Christ’s crucifixion, where the various Christian sects acted out ancient debates and hatreds, not stopping, on occasions, short of murder. Montefiore is an excellent historian, the writer of superb biographies of people as diverse as Prince Potemkin and Josef Stalin. I expect the highest degree of accuracy from him, which makes the occasional minor lapses all the more annoying. It was Louis IX and not Louis XI, the treacherous Spider King, who led the last effective crusade (the idea of the latter on Crusade is more than ridiculous!). I can excuse that, a mere slip of the Roman digits, but what I find more difficult to overlook is the contention that General Charles Gordon helped to suppress the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, which took place fifteen years after his death! But this is a minor quibble that did next to nothing to stop my enjoyment of a work of history that also manages to transform itself into a superlative work of literature. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Jerusalem is a masterpiece. 10 stars. Read this book. In Jerusalem Simon Sebag Montefiore presents not just a history of the city but of the region and much of the western world. One finds that virtually every prophet and charlatan, king, queen, prince and despot, priest, politician, conquerer and crusader in recorded history has some connection to the city and has often trod its streets. Jerusalem is the center of three of the world’s religions yet until the 1900s was rarely larger than a small Jerusalem is a masterpiece. 10 stars. Read this book. In Jerusalem Simon Sebag Montefiore presents not just a history of the city but of the region and much of the western world. One finds that virtually every prophet and charlatan, king, queen, prince and despot, priest, politician, conquerer and crusader in recorded history has some connection to the city and has often trod its streets. Jerusalem is the center of three of the world’s religions yet until the 1900s was rarely larger than a small town (<30,000 inhabitants). It has been fought over, raised, and rebuilt countless times, more than any other city in history. It has known little peace and remains a city in conflict today. All of this history from Biblical times to the present Montefiore chronicles in clear, concise and importantly balanced detail—the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Egyptian, European, Turk, Persian, and Arab experience all presented without favoritism, warts and all—with a novelist’s eye for character and narrative that makes Jerusalem a brisk and captivating read. Montefoire’s balanced approach presents some very interesting contrasts. For example, while most identified with the Jewish people, Jerusalem prior to the 1880s often saw its worse days when ruled by Jews, infighting between various sects and nationalities often producing terrible unrest and blood shed. Adding Christians to the mix typically made matters worse. Western literature describes the Crusades as an attempt to free the Holy City from tyranny and persecution by unbelievers. The Crusades were in fact a land grab; European rulers seeking to expand their realms into North Africa and the Middle East with the Catholic church providing justification. Contrary to the crusader narrative, history shows that Jerusalem’s Egyptian, Turk, Persian and Arab rulers where often more tolerant of other beliefs than its Jewish and Christian rulers. Saladin and Suleiman not Richard the Lion Heart saved the city from squalor and turned it into one of the most treasured of the age. Montefoire clearly shows that from the 1500’s to today European and later US rulers are largely responsible for much of the conflict between Jews, Christians and the Arab world, granting there is certainly a long line of Egyptian, Turk, Persian and Arab rulers who have also contributed. Much of this conflict results from attempts to create a Jewish homeland beginning in the 1900s which I was shocked to learn was initially intended not to protect Jews from persecution but rather to provide a base to convert them to Christianity to bring about the Rapture. Ill treatment by the British and French in particular at this time caused many Arabs to side with anti-Semite leaders in WW I (Kaiser Wilhelm) and WW II (Hitler), giving birth to many of the militant organizations we read about today. Sadly many reasonable proposals for peaceful Jewish-Arab coexistence have been made and rejected over the years, often for selfish reasons. In the end one finds that Jerusalem, a city that commands so much of the worlds attention for its size (only 1MM people and 48 square miles, less 1/10 the population and over 100x times smaller than most US and European capitals), is unlikely to ever be the city of peace that Jews, Christians and Muslims wish it to be. Too many people with competing visions for its future will continue to hold it hostage. The Bible and Koran teach that the final battle between good an evil will take place at Jerusalem. Reading Montefoire’s Jerusalem one can argue that battle began two millennia ago and continues today. On my buy it, borrow it, skip it scale: Buy ten copies, keep one and give the other nine to family, friends, acquaintances and or strangers on the street. Jerusalem is that good. Enjoy!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Jerusalem is a fascinating city. Holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims it has at times been the center of internaational intrigue, conflict, and reverence and at other times a forgotten backwater pile of rocks. Its history stretches over thousands of years and has been the subject of countless prayers, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. It has inspired awe of the divine and hatred for our fellow human. Its history is the history of East meeting West, of religion and realpolitik, of imperialism and Jerusalem is a fascinating city. Holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims it has at times been the center of internaational intrigue, conflict, and reverence and at other times a forgotten backwater pile of rocks. Its history stretches over thousands of years and has been the subject of countless prayers, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. It has inspired awe of the divine and hatred for our fellow human. Its history is the history of East meeting West, of religion and realpolitik, of imperialism and indigenous rights. It is a messy, complicated, and bloodstained city that has at times been Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. It is, simply put, as complicated a place as it is holy. Jerusalem: The Biography sets out the very ambitious task of telling the story of this embodiment of contradictions. It presents an unbroken account of what was happening to the city and the surrounding area from its founding through the present day. I think in some ways the book succeeds in relating the events of Jerusalem but fails in telling the story of Jerusalem. What I mean by that is Montefiore does a very thorough job cataloging the important events and happenings of Jerusalem but for much of the book I felt like I was reading one long Wikipedia article. The writing, for most of the book, was very dry and had a very simple structure of A happened then B happened then C happened. It was not terribly engaging and I didn't feel as though Montefiore provided much added value to the narrative of events. This did diminish as the narrative approached contemporary times and my guess is there just wasn't a ton of sources for a lot of Jerusalem's early history for Montefiore to draw upon. But lackluster writing aside the story of Jerusalem is fascinating. It has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. It has fluctuated in importance over the course of its existence. Sometimes having massive amounts of wealth poured into it to beautify it, sometimes ignored as an inconsequential town. Its population has likewise fluctuated significantly over the period from a bustling metropolis to a ghost town. While I consider myself an appreciator of history there was much that I was surprised to learn such as: -The early Jewish dynasties and ruling families (Macabees and Herodians for instance) were just as petty, scheming, shortsighted, and conniving as Western aristocrats (I guess we all are human underneath, warts and all). -Even at the height of its power as an independent kingdom Jerusalem was very much a small fish in a pond with much, much bigger fish and had to play them off against each other to maintain some degree of independence. -The aforementioned fluctuation of Jerusalem's importance and size over the years. It was as though Christian Bale's amazing power of losing and gaining weight for movie roles was manifested as a city. -I had no idea how serious the Russians took Jerusalem and how important of a role Jerusalem played in international power politics of the Ottoman era. Heck, a French (Catholic)/Russian (Eastern Orthodox) dispute over control of the Church of the Holy Sepluchre basically started The Crimean War -Speaking of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the many churches that maintain it violently hate each other: (from Wikipedia) "On a hot summer day in 2002, a Coptic monk moved his chair from its agreed spot into the shade. This was interpreted as a hostile move by the Ethiopians, and eleven were hospitalized after the resulting fracas." Last time I checked a "fracas" does not end in ELEVEN hospitalizations. And compared to historic HS "fracases" detailed in the book this fracas was a relatively timid affair. -Apparently for a good chunk of time under the Ottomans Jerusalem was a wretched hive of scum and villainy in so far as it was a crass tourist trap AND a freewheeling/anything goes city. Sort of the wild west in the middle east. Montefiore quotes a bunch of people's experiences there as being completely turned off or disgusted by the state the city and holy places are in. Having visited this ancient city twice I have a very difficult time reconciling that version of Jerusalem withe modern, holy, and religious city it is now. And those were just some of the many nuggets of history I uncovered with this book. This book does not lack for historical insights, I just wish the writing was up to the monumental task of telling this complex and unique story of humanity and the divine.

  6. 4 out of 5

    WarpDrive

    A very detailed, in-depth history of one of the most complex, troubled, emotionally and religiously intense cities of the world, the ideological center of all three Abrahamic religions. An emotionally exhausting tour, spanning across millennia of war, pilgrimage, cooperation and coexistence, fanaticism, corruption, mysticism and enlightenment. The history of Jerusalem is the history of the World, it has been stated, and I definitely see some merit in this statement. The weight of history feels o A very detailed, in-depth history of one of the most complex, troubled, emotionally and religiously intense cities of the world, the ideological center of all three Abrahamic religions. An emotionally exhausting tour, spanning across millennia of war, pilgrimage, cooperation and coexistence, fanaticism, corruption, mysticism and enlightenment. The history of Jerusalem is the history of the World, it has been stated, and I definitely see some merit in this statement. The weight of history feels overwhelming here, it really is a very special place. It is also the city where these religions and people are forced to live very close together, and as such it is a litmus test for the maturity of human kind - a test that currently, considering the political situation in the Middle East, is far from delivering flattering results. The author provides a well-researched, balanced history of this ancient city, providing an amazingly detailed overview of Jerusalem: its history, people, religions, and architecture. The book is well written, but I think that some of the author's selection choices are a bit questionable: there is too much focus on the personal idiosyncrasies and histories of specific individuals (who cares if the wife of some mid-rank British officer had so many affairs), at the expenses of the coherence and explanatory depth of the main historical patterns and developments. I think the author, who is certainly passionate about Jerusalem and its history, tried hard to keep the reader's interest alive, but in doing so he create something that occasionally feels disjoint and uneven. I must admit though that for me reading this book has been at times an enlightening and occasionally even an exhilarating experience. I have learned a lot about what Jerusalem is about, and the deep emotional, cultural, political and religious links that tie this unique city to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions. It is inseparable part of the DNA of all three religions, and only solutions that take into account this historical truth can be viable in the longer term. Jerusalem is a treasure of the world. I personally learned a lot by reading this book: I already knew about the deep links between Christianity, the Muslim religion and Jerusalem, but only by reading this book I came to the full appreciation of the very profound links between Jerusalem and the Jewish culture, identity and tradition. I think that now I have a more complete perspective of things. And, while I knew that the history of Jerusalem and of the overlapping networks of conflicting claims to this city were something complex and difficult to accommodate, I did not know that it was so maddeningly complex. I also learned about the important relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Jerusalem, and the important part played by the Russian Jewish immigrants. And, most importantly, I also learned that there were periods when the three different religions happily coexisted together. I wish we could learn from these enlightened periods, rather than using history as a means to justify exclusivity and extremism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    List of Illustrations List of Family Trees List of Maps Preface Acknowledgements Notes on Names, Transliterations and Titles --Jerusalem Family Trees Maps Bibliography Index (The full and extremely extensive references for this book are available in the hardback edition and also on the author's website at: http://www.simonsebagmontefiore.com. In order to make the paperback a manageable and readable size, the author and publishers have decided not to include the notes in the paperback. We hope readers will a List of Illustrations List of Family Trees List of Maps Preface Acknowledgements Notes on Names, Transliterations and Titles --Jerusalem Family Trees Maps Bibliography Index (The full and extremely extensive references for this book are available in the hardback edition and also on the author's website at: http://www.simonsebagmontefiore.com. In order to make the paperback a manageable and readable size, the author and publishers have decided not to include the notes in the paperback. We hope readers will agree that, for most, the balance of convenience is best served by this policy.)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    To try and tackle the history of one of the most famous cities in the world, in one book, is not the easiest of writing challenges, but Montefiore has had a pretty good go at it. He has tried to cover from the very earliest references to relatively recent events, and this has made this a very substantial book indeed. I won't try and surmise all 600 plus pages into a couple of paragraphs would be nigh on impossible, but suffice to say Montefiore has filled these pages with immense amounts of deta To try and tackle the history of one of the most famous cities in the world, in one book, is not the easiest of writing challenges, but Montefiore has had a pretty good go at it. He has tried to cover from the very earliest references to relatively recent events, and this has made this a very substantial book indeed. I won't try and surmise all 600 plus pages into a couple of paragraphs would be nigh on impossible, but suffice to say Montefiore has filled these pages with immense amounts of detail and history of the lives of the people that have occupied this city. It has played a significant role in many world events and is considered one of the holiest places by the three abrahamic religions. He sets the context for each of the eras and highlight the movers and shakers of that time. All good stuff, or so you would think. But this amount of detail makes this so difficult to read at times, along with literally a cast of thousands over the millennia, it did feel like I was wading through it at times. Jerusalem has been the place where much blood has been shed, and there is almost too much detail with regards to this. My other big bugbear with it was footnotes. These should be a small piece of information that adds to the main body of text, but some of these were huge. A foot note that long should be in the main body, but if that were the case then it would have been more unreadable. The author does add in some personal opinions too, not the done this for a history book, which should be impartial and non judgemental. That said is a book I'm glad I have now read, and I feel a sense of achievement having done so, but I will be unlikely to pick it up again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    4 1/2 stars actually. This book was massive in it's scope and reach, the best sentence to summarize it and get a sense of The amount of work and the nuances that went into this book comes from the book itself "Jerusalem's history is a chronicle of settlers, colonists and pilgrims, who have included Arabs, Jews and many others, in a place that has grown and contracted many times. During more than a Millennium of Islamic rule, Jerusalem was repeatedly colonized by Islamic settlers, scholars, Sufis 4 1/2 stars actually. This book was massive in it's scope and reach, the best sentence to summarize it and get a sense of The amount of work and the nuances that went into this book comes from the book itself "Jerusalem's history is a chronicle of settlers, colonists and pilgrims, who have included Arabs, Jews and many others, in a place that has grown and contracted many times. During more than a Millennium of Islamic rule, Jerusalem was repeatedly colonized by Islamic settlers, scholars, Sufis and pilgrims who were Arabs, Turks, Indians, Sudanese, Iranians, Kurds, Iraqis and Maghrebis, as well as Christian Armenians Serbs, Georgians and Russian Jews who later settled there for similar reasons. " this books tries to chronicle all of this migrations , and at the same time trying not to offer anyone's claim to the Holy City. It is a great work of study , but you will define get information overload and in a case as complex as Jerusalem even more so. Definitely recommend it , but remember this is a study of very different multitude of cultures, peoples and nationalities , so don't expect this to be an easy book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bou

    If there's one city that needs a biography, it must be Jerusalem. In a highly readable style, Simon Sebag Montefiore takes us on a tour from the earliest recorded history to today's Jerusalem. The history of Jerusalem is a chronicle of colonists and pilgrims, whether they are Arab, Jew or Christians. The city itself witnessed a large amount of different masters, each with their own beliefs and each thinking they were the true and only religions. Nowhere in the world did so many people die on acco If there's one city that needs a biography, it must be Jerusalem. In a highly readable style, Simon Sebag Montefiore takes us on a tour from the earliest recorded history to today's Jerusalem. The history of Jerusalem is a chronicle of colonists and pilgrims, whether they are Arab, Jew or Christians. The city itself witnessed a large amount of different masters, each with their own beliefs and each thinking they were the true and only religions. Nowhere in the world did so many people die on account of their beliefs and religion, and yet they kept coming to this Holy City. Nowadays, both the Arabs and the Jews have historical claims to the city. According to the author, Jerusalem is on the crossroads on becoming a religious nationalistic state or the road to a liberal Western city. I really hope it's the last one, there have enough people died already whose sacrifices all have been in vain.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Grumpus

    Two distinct ideas came to mind as I listened to this one. Since I could not weave them into one coherent treatise I thought I’d share them both. Commentary #1 - If you like John Lee as a narrator, this book is possibly for you. - If you like your history dense, this book is probably for you. - If you wonder why this area continues to be so f*ed up, this book is likely for you. Sadly, Jerusalem’s history has been determined by dynamite, sword, and blood. It’s violent past has earned it the moniker, Two distinct ideas came to mind as I listened to this one. Since I could not weave them into one coherent treatise I thought I’d share them both. Commentary #1 - If you like John Lee as a narrator, this book is possibly for you. - If you like your history dense, this book is probably for you. - If you wonder why this area continues to be so f*ed up, this book is likely for you. Sadly, Jerusalem’s history has been determined by dynamite, sword, and blood. It’s violent past has earned it the moniker, “The maim, rape, and pillage capital of the world”. SO,. . . - If you like beheadings, heads on poles, heads on gates, or mutilated bodies left rotting on the ground for years and/or enjoy the putrid odor as a result this book is for you. - If you like eviscerations, bisections, slow dismemberments starting with fingers and toes and working your way through the body joint-by-joint, or dismemberments of noses, ears, hands, etc., for punishment, this book is for you. - If you like hangings, garroting, fingernail pulling, or heads crushed in vices, this book is for you. - If you like eye gouging, hacking of bodies until they are no longer recognizable as human and then kabobed, this book is for you. - If you enjoy torture such as being forced to drink molten gold, or suicide bombings this book is for you. I don’t know if it was the author’s intent but I interpret the overriding theme to be the historic brutal violence of this place. I had known of the Crusades and assumed there were military battles but never imagined the sickening degree of violence. It reminds me a quote from William Wilberforce (an English social reformer and abolitionist) that I referenced in my review of The Slave Ship, that sums it all up for me, “So much misery condensed in so little room is more than the human imagination has ever before conceived.” Commentary #2 (George Burns speaking as God) “What in my name have you done? Yeah, you! I’m talking to all of you. Christians. Muslims. Jews. Arabs. Europeans. Palestinians. You know who you are. You, who invoke my name. This disgusting, vile, abhorrent behavior has gone on for over 2,000 years and must stop. What’s wrong with you people? Did you lose or misunderstand the tablets I sent down regarding your expected behavior? I have granted you dominion over all my creations and in return I ask you to follow 10 simple rules. Is that really too much to ask? As your Father, I try to be understanding and patient. And, like a father, I am sometimes forced to discipline. Remember, the 40 days/nights of rain? Sodom and Gomorrah? The plagues of Egypt? How soon children forget. But, be forewarned! Know that I’m watching. Learn to play nice with the other children and stop justifying your actions in my name. I am a God of peace and love. Don’t make me bring all of you up here for your personal judgment. If that happens, let’s just assume I won’t be in a good mood.” As-salamu alaykum. Shalom Aleychem. Peace.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    Review to follow...when I have the energy to compile all my feelings, beyond the fact that i didn't like it. A month later...I still don't have the energy to write a full review for this book. There are some good points: - the sheer amount of research, - the wealth of facts, - the non bias of religion. The bad points: - it reads like a textbook, - there is too much information at times and it needed condensing, - other parts felt dealt with too swiftly and left me wanting more, - the bits I enjoy Review to follow...when I have the energy to compile all my feelings, beyond the fact that i didn't like it. A month later...I still don't have the energy to write a full review for this book. There are some good points: - the sheer amount of research, - the wealth of facts, - the non bias of religion. The bad points: - it reads like a textbook, - there is too much information at times and it needed condensing, - other parts felt dealt with too swiftly and left me wanting more, - the bits I enjoyed best were not really to do with Jerusalem (bible stories, Anthony and Cleopatra etc) - despite being such a dense book I never got a proper feel of the city (often needed to look up facts/pictures online) - I thought this was an account of Jerusalem's rulers and religions, rather than a description of the city, it's people, or it's culture That's it. There are other good reviews of this book out there. Some praising it, some finding the same faults as me. I appreciate the sheer amount of work that Simon Sebag Montefiore put into the book, but I had too many problems with it and ended up not finishing the book. I can only rate it 1 star - did not like it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick Van der Graaf

    Jerusalem: The Biography is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s sprawling history of the world’s holiest and possibly most cursed city. Sacred to the three Abrahamic religions and the current centre of an ongoing religious/political/military dispute which shows no sign of ever being resolved, Jerusalem’s history is a mad mix of devastation, pilgrimage, hucksterism and blood-drenched fanaticism. Montefiore does an excellent job of stringing it all together, weaving a tale of considerable complexity into som Jerusalem: The Biography is Simon Sebag Montefiore’s sprawling history of the world’s holiest and possibly most cursed city. Sacred to the three Abrahamic religions and the current centre of an ongoing religious/political/military dispute which shows no sign of ever being resolved, Jerusalem’s history is a mad mix of devastation, pilgrimage, hucksterism and blood-drenched fanaticism. Montefiore does an excellent job of stringing it all together, weaving a tale of considerable complexity into something eminently enlightening. My Knopf hardcover edition is a weighty 544 pages, not including notes, maps, etc. which sounds like an impressive tome, but it covers over 5000 years of history, starting in the early Bronze Age and continuing right to the present day. There is so much material that it at times feels a bit rushed – many of the episodes and character sketches (and oh what characters!) are all too brief. This epic history could easily have been expanded into two volumes. I suspect the editing process must have been a particularly difficult experience for Montefiore and his editors, no doubt having to leave out so many historical jewels. Still, the book is comprehensive enough to leave the reader agog at the sheer magnitude of sanguinary history pressing down on this “most illustrious of cities.” Established as a small defensible hill fort c. 3000 B.C., Jerusalem eventually became modest Canaanite village, stuck in a remote but strategic location between the major Bronze Age empires of the Egyptians, Hittites and the Akkadians and their successors. For centuries the town was more often than not under the Pharaohs’ protection if not direct rule. Jerusalem came into its own with the rise of the Israelite kingdom which flourished in the power vacuum heralded by the advent of the Iron Age, c. 1000 B.C. This was the time of the ‘City of David,’ that the biblical Book of Samuel chronicles. The Bible is a less-than-reliable history of the region, but in recent decades intriguing bits of evidence dug up by archaeologists have indeed confirmed the historicity of David. However, the good times didn’t last long; the kingdom itself soon split into two acrimonious rival Jewish states, and they were both eventually conquered by the resurgent Assyrian and Babylonian empires in turn. The Babylonian Exile of the Jewish elite lead to the first real compilation of the books of the Bible, but the trauma of the Exile also sharpened their faith into fanaticism. When the Exiles’ descendents were returned to Jerusalem by the Persian liberation, it marked the beginning of a long history of fanatical devotion to place that has marked Jerusalem ever since, and subsequently affected both Christianity and Islam as well. Montefiore relies heavily on the account of the Jewish historian Josephus in the chapters covering the story of Herod the Great’s modernization of Jerusalem into a great city and the subsequent Roman period which culminated in its savage destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D. The Emperor Hadrian eventually rebuilt it as a small classical Roman town named Aelia Capitolina, and despite occasional Jewish rebellions it remained so until the Christian era. It was then that the Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, journeyed to Jerusalem and ‘miraculously’ found the True Cross, and consecrated new churches. Thus the city became a place of Christian pilgrimage. Only a few years later it was lost to the rising power of Islam, the record of which Montefiore describes as “mysterious and contested.” But in essence the Byzantines were too weak to resist and, after negotiating a guarantee of religious toleration, surrendered the city to Omar, one of the Prophet Muhammad’s immediate successors. With the exception of the brief and bloody rule of the Crusader kingdoms, thereafter the city was ruled by Islamic authorities of one stripe or another until the British conquest during the First World War campaign against the Ottoman Empire. For the most part the Caliphs and Sultans ruled with toleration, but like all other rulers of Jerusalem throughout the ages, they occasionally instituted repressions, massacres, and what we now call ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Jerusalem became a sleepy place of holy sites largely forgotten by the West until the 19th century. The rise of evangelical movements in America and Britain, and the growth of the early Zionist movement among the Jews of the West and the Russian Empire fostered a growing number of pilgrims who were apparently often disappointed by the dusty backwater where local entrepreneurs (including numerous brothels) and Ottoman officials did their best to extract every last penny from the visitors. The pilgrims themselves were regarded by the locals as creepy and disreputable. Many were (and still are to this day) subject to a psychosis called “Jerusalem Syndrome,” in which the pilgrim becomes convinced that they are a prophet reborn, their antics even causing civil disturbances. In the 19th century official support for Zionism led to large numbers of Jews from the West emigrating to Jerusalem and its environs. Many more came fleeing Russian pogroms. Just a few years after British General Allenby walked through the Jaffa Gate in late 1917, Jews had again become the majority group in Jerusalem and Christian and Muslim Palestinians were thoroughly alarmed by their loss of land and power. During the British mandate inter-communal riots became frequent. Anti-Semitism, already assuming deadly proportions in Western Europe, infected Arab resistance. The aftermath of WWII led to massive Jewish immigration and amidst the chaotic British withdrawal and the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews and Arabs committed atrocities against the other. Considering the shockingly brutal episodes presented in his book, Montefiore’s epilogue assesses the current state of the city as remarkably hopeful. People tire of war and hateful propaganda. Militants often mellow and have to admit their absolutist aims are simply impractical. Despite the forcible separation of Jews and Muslims by the building of the ‘security wall’, many Jerusalemites still understand that “the others” are only human and are in fact cultural brethren. He includes a quote from Palestinian writer and philosopher Sari Nusseibeh describing what can happen despite ‘mined and barbed barriers’: “Islam was no different for families like ours than I would learn later that Judaism was for (Israeli writer) Amos Oz a couple of hundred feet away , just beyond No-Man’s-Land.” Nusseibeh and Oz remain friends and opponents of fanaticism. While the wars and massacres command our attention, Montefiore’s remarkable book does show that these events have been the exceptions to a long history of different communities living side by side in peace.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Read by John Lee Tel Dan Stele Titus has just plundered then razed the city, a bit like the young one playing soldiers on the kitchen table: Anthony Hopkins Wiki sourced: The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century honorific arch located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c. 82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus' victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. SUPERB! The best I Read by John Lee Tel Dan Stele Titus has just plundered then razed the city, a bit like the young one playing soldiers on the kitchen table: Anthony Hopkins Wiki sourced: The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century honorific arch located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c. 82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus' victories, including the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. SUPERB! The best I have read on the city and will be retaining this file for a re-read in my rocking-chair years.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

    Another impressive work by Mr. Montefiore, detailed the extremely long and vivid history of one of the world's most famous cities into a very readable and flowing history, from King David, to David Ben-Gurion, and beyond.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lamia Al-Qahtani

    كتاب مهم جدا ويغطي تاريخ القدس لمدة ثلاثة آلاف سنة مع أسلوب جميل وتقسيم رائع

  17. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    This is one of those books with so much sheer information packed into such a small space (even running at 600+ pages) that it is enough to induce mental whiplash. The narrative is relatively readable, but for such a high-profile work I was actually surprised at the occasional sloppiness with well known facts and even the number of editing errors that it contained. Trying to pack whole life stories into a page and a half is never easy and gets rather tiresome for the reader after about 300 pages. This is one of those books with so much sheer information packed into such a small space (even running at 600+ pages) that it is enough to induce mental whiplash. The narrative is relatively readable, but for such a high-profile work I was actually surprised at the occasional sloppiness with well known facts and even the number of editing errors that it contained. Trying to pack whole life stories into a page and a half is never easy and gets rather tiresome for the reader after about 300 pages. Having said that, there are a number of gems that the book contains and as a whole it provides enjoyable depth for those who love the city. The author tells the story of the great families of Jerusalem, much of which he seems to have gotten from primary sources and which is definitely unknown to most people. I was interested that Jews were allowed to pray on the Temple Mount in the first decades after the Islamic conquest, and also that Charlemagne paid the jizya tax of the city's Christians during his time. Also the footnotes about Samuel ibn Nagrela, a Jewish commander of Islamic armies, and the battles between the Abbasids and the Chinese Tang Dynasty were also fascinating. Because of some other obvious errors though (including mischaracterizing or at least very poorly explaining the death of Hazrat Ali) I was not always sure of the exact veracity of everything I read. Worth reading for those very interested in Jerusalem and the three monotheistic faiths, but maybe not for everyone.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anatoly

    A very interesting read which encompasses pretty much the entire historical scope of this unique city. The main downside was pretty much due to that. Montefiore tried to write little about lots of events, even those who are not that important when looking on Jerusalem's broader history. It would have been better to write only about the major events and times. That being said, this book is quite an achievement, and though I`m familiar with a lot of the history regarding Jerusalem this was quite a A very interesting read which encompasses pretty much the entire historical scope of this unique city. The main downside was pretty much due to that. Montefiore tried to write little about lots of events, even those who are not that important when looking on Jerusalem's broader history. It would have been better to write only about the major events and times. That being said, this book is quite an achievement, and though I`m familiar with a lot of the history regarding Jerusalem this was quite an informative and enjoyable read, spiced with lots of small anecdotes. Also, it`s important to note (and this is a strong point in favor of this book) that it`s not just the chronicles of Jerusalem but rather a glimpse at the history of the entire region which allows the reader to really understand the role Jerusalem had (and still has today) in the history of the world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    Jerusalem: The Biography is a sweeping and meticulously researched biography and history of Jerusalem from the early biblical times of King David, Moses and the Canaanites, including the history and significance of Jerusalem to Judaism and Christianity as well as the Muslims over the expanse of history and time through the administration of President Barack Obama. This is an engrossing and all-encompassing narrative of the sweeping and volatile history of Jerusalem including the genesis and imp Jerusalem: The Biography is a sweeping and meticulously researched biography and history of Jerusalem from the early biblical times of King David, Moses and the Canaanites, including the history and significance of Jerusalem to Judaism and Christianity as well as the Muslims over the expanse of history and time through the administration of President Barack Obama. This is an engrossing and all-encompassing narrative of the sweeping and volatile history of Jerusalem including the genesis and importance of Jerusalem to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. "The Dome has a power beyond all this: it ranks as one of the most timeless masterpieces of architectural art; its radiance is the cynosure of all eyes wherever one stands in Jerusalem. It shimmers like a mystical palace rising out of the airy and serene space of the esplanade which immediately became an enormous open-air mosque, sanctifying the space around it." "It ranks with the temples of Solomon and Herod as one of the most successful sacred-imperial edifices ever built and, in the twenty-first century, it has become the ultimate secular touristic symbol, the shrine of resurgent Islam and the totem of Palestinian nationalism." "If a land can have a soul, Jerusalem is the soul of the land of Israel."--David Ben-Gurion "No two cities have counted more with mankind than Athens and Jerusalem."--Winston Churchill

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jovi Ene

    ”Dacă această carte are o misiune, sper cu pasiune să îndemne fiecare parte să recunoască și să respecte moștenirea antică a Celorlalți.” ”Construirea așezărilor coloniale evreiești subminează încrederea arabilor și caracterul practic al unui stat palestinian. Și totuși negarea de către palestinieni a moștenirii antice evreiești și a caracterului evreiesc al statului modern sunt la fel de dezastruoase pentru procesul de pace.” E doar o părticică din ceea ce își propune această carte, minuțioasă, f ”Dacă această carte are o misiune, sper cu pasiune să îndemne fiecare parte să recunoască și să respecte moștenirea antică a Celorlalți.” ”Construirea așezărilor coloniale evreiești subminează încrederea arabilor și caracterul practic al unui stat palestinian. Și totuși negarea de către palestinieni a moștenirii antice evreiești și a caracterului evreiesc al statului modern sunt la fel de dezastruoase pentru procesul de pace.” E doar o părticică din ceea ce își propune această carte, minuțioasă, foarte documentată și descrie atent toată istoria multi-milenară a Ierusalimului și a ținuturilor dimprejur. O lectură obligatorie pentru cei care vor să înțeleagă istoria locurilor.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    This book was an ambitious undertaking. Montefiore, in the end, does an OK job. The book is really slow to start off and there seemed to be a lot of holes in his storytelling. The first 2/3 of the book comes across as choppy and poorly written. There are gaps in the history and, at times, his writing comes across as awkward. In this portion of the book, he is essentially telling a history of war in Jerusalem, which is certainly important, but not the whole story for sure. I would have loved to h This book was an ambitious undertaking. Montefiore, in the end, does an OK job. The book is really slow to start off and there seemed to be a lot of holes in his storytelling. The first 2/3 of the book comes across as choppy and poorly written. There are gaps in the history and, at times, his writing comes across as awkward. In this portion of the book, he is essentially telling a history of war in Jerusalem, which is certainly important, but not the whole story for sure. I would have loved to have heard more about the geography, architecture, technology available, sitz im leben, etc. of the city during these various periods. As the story and history itself moves on, Montefiore seems to get into it more and his expertise in modern history comes out. Those other aspects begin to appear and the story itself becomes more detailed. Some pluses about this book are that he ties together a load of archaeological information in one volume, he does a good job of offering a fair account of the deeds and misdeeds of all three major religions over the years, and he has a unique and personal perspective to offer concerning this sacred city (particularly in the epilogue). Sadly, a lot of the archaeological data is found in the footnotes. I think he would have been well-served to integrate this information into his narrative. Also, while he is a popular historian by trade, I would have rather just read his personal reflections on this history than an "objective" account because of his unique relationship to the city. Three other niggles I have about this book are 1) his use of the King James Version for biblical quotes while he uses more contemporary English to translate all other primary sources 2) his misunderstanding or lack of engagement (I can't tell by reading which is the case) with the hermeneutics of ancient texts and genres, particularly biblical apocalyptic 3) he also spends a lot of ink diverging his history to talk about other places than Jerusalem. I understand that context is important, but he often spends paragraphs providing context that could be summed up in a few sentences. Although it is neat to have all of this information in a single monograph, there are surely better narratives and more accurate histories. My suggestion is to look to those sources first and then read the epilogue of this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Simon Sebag-Montefiore's acclaimed and bestselling history of Jerusalem is an intriguing read, full of interesting lesser known facts, personages and new angles. At times, it reads almost like a well-paced novel, and is as hard to put down. Certainly, it provides a timely, as well as carefully balanced, account of this extraordinary city's long history, from the earliest times to the present day. The prologue of this heavy volume begins with the destruction of the Second Temple and genocide of Je Simon Sebag-Montefiore's acclaimed and bestselling history of Jerusalem is an intriguing read, full of interesting lesser known facts, personages and new angles. At times, it reads almost like a well-paced novel, and is as hard to put down. Certainly, it provides a timely, as well as carefully balanced, account of this extraordinary city's long history, from the earliest times to the present day. The prologue of this heavy volume begins with the destruction of the Second Temple and genocide of Jerusalem's Jewish population by the Roman legions commanded by Titus. The first chapter proceeds with the period of Jerusalem's beginnings The father of the Israelite nation, Abraham who travelled to Canaan was greet by Melchizedek the priest-king of Salem in the name of El-Elyon the Most high God. This was the city's first mention in the Bible, suggesting Jerusalem was already a Canaanite shrine, ruled by priest-kings. He continues with the capture of the town by King David of Israel who made the city great and made it is capital. Continuing through the saga of the city and of the Land of Israel. The glorious reign of King Solomon was followed by the disastrous division of his kingdom into the realms of Judah and Israel and the two destruction of the two kingdoms-most catastrophically the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews to Babylon. Following on the growth of the Samaritans and the return of the Jews to their homeland at the behest of Persian Emperor Cyrus. An incorrect bit is his referral to the ancient Land of Israel as Palestine , when speaking Irael in Biblical times The term "Palestine" came from the name that the conquering Roman Empire gave the ancient Land of Israel in an attempt to obliterate and de-legitimize the Jewish presence in the Holy Land. The name "Palestine" was invented in the year 135 C.E. Before it was known as Judea, which was the southern kingdom of ancient Israel. The Roman Procurator in charge of the Judean-Israel territories was so angry at the Jews for revolting that he called for his historians and asked them who were the worst enemies of the Jews in their past history. The scribes said, "the Philistines." Thus, the Procurator declared that Land of Israel would from then forward be called "Philistia" [further bastardized into "Palaistina"] to dishonour the Jews and obliterate their history. Hence the name "Palestine." Following on the return is the Hellenic period, the Maccabees and the coming of the Romans, together with the tyranny and bloody intrigues of the Herodian dynasty. The author has a controversial and interesting view of Jesus and the origins in Israel of Christianity. Then again Montefiore takes us the to Jewish Wars, the destruction by Titus of Jerusalem and exile of Jews from that city. After the crushing of the Bar Kochba rebellion of 130 CE, Cassius Dio wrote of the Jews in that are that 'Very few survived. fifty of their outposts and 985 villages were raised to the ground and many more and many more by starvation, disease and fire' Roman Emperor Hadrian expunged the name Jerusalem and renamed it Aelia Capitolina "Seventy five known Jewish settlements simply vanished" continues the author "So many Jews were enslaved at the Hebron slave market that they fetched less than a horse. Hadrian not only enforced the ban on circumcision but banned the Jews from even approaching Aelia on pain of death. Jerusalem had vanished. Hadrian wiped Judea off the map, deliberately naming it Palestina after Jews ancient enemies, the Philistines" Interesting episodes in this digest include the brief return of Jerusalem to the Jews in 614 by Persian Emperor Shabaraz, known as the Royal Boar who two years later expelled the Jews and restored Christian rule. In the section of the book on Mohammed it is interesting to note that in persecuting the Jews for refusing to adopt Islam, after expelling the Jews from Medina, executing the men and enslaving the women and children, then changed the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. "God had destroyed the Jewish Temple because the Jews had sinned so they have not followed your qibla Jerusalem" This has two very pertinent implications. by rejecting Jerusalem Mohammed was ironically confirming Jerusalem's Jewish essence. And one cannot therefore in all fairness affirm Jerusalem as being as central to Islam as it is to Judaism. This relates the quibbles I have with Montefiore about this book. Montefiore espouses the thesis that Jerusalem belongs equally to Jews, Christians and Muslims. However it is self-evident in the history covered here that Mohammed rejected Jerusalem and made Mecca the Islamic centre. Jerusalem was later conquered by invading Arabs and absorbed into their empire. All Islamic rule of Jerusalem being an occupied part of the various Arab, Mamluk, and Ottoman Empires. In the section on the Mamluks there is a discussion on the great Torah scholar Rabbi Moses ben Nachmann known as Nachmanides or the Ramban. Ramban believed that the Jews should not merely mourn Jerusalem, but return, settle and rebuild before the coming of the Messiah. In other words the Ramban was a pioneer of religious Zionism. Zionism is a movement that has existed ad developed since the Romans exiled the Jews from Jerusalem. The reader can discover more in this volume about the Islamic persecution of Jews in Jerusalem and the Levant. It is a myth and pro-Islamic propaganda that that the Jews were well treated in this land during Islamic rule. In this period Jews in Jerusalem were prohibited from wearing white on their Sabbath or Muslim headgear or to wear nails in their shoes. Christian lived under similar ordinances. Both had to make way for Muslims in the streets. Oppressive fees were enforced with cruel violence. "When a stray dog wondered onto the Temple Mount, the qadi ordered the killing of every canine in Jerusalem. As a special humiliation, every Jew and Christian had to deliver a dead dog to a collection point outside the Zion Gate. Gangs of children killed dogs and then gave their carcasses to the nearest infidel". The Jews were extorted and robbed and many left the city for this reason. "The Polish Ashkenazis were broken finally in 1720 forcing imprisonment, banishment and bankruptcy, the synagogue burned down-this became known as the Ruin-the Hurva Synagogue. and remained a wreck for over a century. It was reconstructed in the 19th century but destroyed by the Jordanians in 1967". In the 19th century the plight of the Jews under Ottoman rule was made worse. In April 1854 Karl Marx wrote in the New York Daily Tribune after a visit to Jerusalem "None equals the misery and suffering of the Jews of Jerusalem, inhabiting the most filthy quarter constant objects of Musulman oppression and intolerance, insulted by the Greeks, persecuted by the Latins". The British vice-consul James Finn reported that a Jew who walked past the gate leading to the Holy Sepulchre was beaten because it was illegal for a Jew to pass it. Another was stabbed by an Ottoman soldier and Finn reported that a Jewish funeral was attacked by Arabs. The idea of Jews in the Middle East being sovereign in an independent state, and not subjugated to Muslim rule and humiliated under Dhimni status is what was intolerable to the Arabs and the roots of the violent Arab rejection of the state of Israel, and before that of migration of Jews into the Land of Israel. This was anathema to the demand for Arab supremacy and dhimnitude. With the coming of the Zionist movement Arabs were enraged by the prospect of having to live with the Jews as equals after centuries of being masters of the Jews. This is one of the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict which continues to this day. The first real challenge in centuries to Muslim dominance was carried out by General Napoleon Bonaparte who entered Palestine in 1799 from Egypt, conquered Jaffa and laid siege to Acre. At Ramle, 25 miles from Jerusalem on 20 April 1799 Napoleon issued a call for the restoration of Jewish rule in their ancient homeland, the Jews being the rightful heirs in the Holy Land. Interesting chapters on the restoration of Zionism in the 19th century, when there was already a considerable Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, and a Jewish majority in Jerusalem from 1860. Fascinating chapters on the British mandate period and the pogroms carried out by Arabs against Jews in Jerusalem, under the instigation of Amin el Husseini in 1920 and 1929. As well as the Nazi backed 1936 Arab Revolt. In 1936 the mufti called the German consul in Jerusalem to state his support for Nazism and wish to co-operate. The closing chapters discuss Jerusalem during World War II, when the Jewish community of pre-State Israel was threatened with the Nazi conquest of the Holy Land, given German advances in Egypt under Rommel and and Nazi penetration of the Soviet Union into the Caucuses. This is followed by the Dirty War by the British colonial forces of the Jews of the Palestine Mandate, the War of Independence, the first 20 years of the restored State of Israel and there-unification of Israel after the Arabs forced the Six Day War on Israel. The Epilogue discusses the conflict until today and the author's views on it. While Montefiore saliently points out "It is often forgotten that all the suburbs outside the Jerusalem walls were new settlements built between 1860 and 1948, by Arabs as well as Jews and Europeans. The Arab areas such as Sheik Jarrah are no older than the Jewish ones and no more or less legitimate". Given this point I cannot understand why he should then oppose the growth of Jewish communities in East Jerusalem and Judea after 1967 as an 'obstacle to peace' I cannot agree that is illegitimate for Jews to build anywhere in the City of David or Judea. But the author seems to aim in some of his conclusions to please everybody. He however pertinently points out the absurdity of the claims by the PLO, Palestinian Authority and Hamas et al that the Jewish Temple never exited in Jerusalem easily disproved by architecture and recorded history. The denial of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Israel should be regarded as equally offensive to the Jewish people as Holocaust denial and no less dangerous. So should the diabolical claim that the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is somehow an act of 'colonialism'.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kiersten

    Wow. This book was intense. It was an incredible overview of the history of Jerusalem, beginning with King David and wrapping up with Zionism in the 20th Century. It is a long book, coming in at 650 pages, after the bibliography and notes, but I actually wish it had been longer, or a set of several volumes. There is so much history here, and the thought of all the research that Montefiore must have put into writing this makes me exhausted, but I felt like I was barely skimming the surface. One e Wow. This book was intense. It was an incredible overview of the history of Jerusalem, beginning with King David and wrapping up with Zionism in the 20th Century. It is a long book, coming in at 650 pages, after the bibliography and notes, but I actually wish it had been longer, or a set of several volumes. There is so much history here, and the thought of all the research that Montefiore must have put into writing this makes me exhausted, but I felt like I was barely skimming the surface. One example, in telling the story of Baldwin IV, the Frankish leper-king of Jerusalem in the 12th century, Montefiore mentions that "Baldwin was ambushed, his horse bolted and he escaped thanks only to the courage of the old Constable of the Kingdom who gave his life to save the boy" (p. 245). What? Who was this old Constable (this is the first time that either the man or the title is mentioned), and how did he save Baldwin? I'm sure there is a great story there, but just not enough time to tell it. And there were so many fascinating characters that were, of necessity, just skimmed over--Theodora, showgirl-turned-empress? I would love to read an entire book about her (and I will as soon as I can find a good one). My biggest problem with the book: I feel like Montefiore tried to cut down on his character count by leaving out punctuation. Or something. Seriously, there must be some explanation for it, because there were so many run-on sentences that I could hardly keep the story straight. Here's an example (I just opened up to a page, and this is what I found): "Khaled and the other generals joined Amr around the walls but the Arab armies were probably too small to storm the city and there does not seem to have been much fighting...Amr suggested solving this problem by passing off Khaled as the Commander but he was recognized so Omar was summoned from Mecca" (p. 182). Just reading that sentence makes me light-headed. There are about 18 thousand commas and several dozen periods missing. Is this just a British thing (I've heard that they do punctuation differently), or is it a serious failure in editing? I hope it's the latter. It makes my head spin to think that there is an entire nation out there running around and serially leaving out commas. Overall, I thought that this book was an amazingly researched overview of Jerusalem: its history, people, religions, and architecture. Everyone, even those who know very little about Jerusalem, has an opinion about it; I'm sure that someone who has researched as much as Montefiore have several. However, I felt that he did a good job of reining in those personal opinions and hiding his biases. Each "dynasty" had its heroes and its villains (there were a lot of villains--this book is not for the faint of heart or the gore-averse), and each character, at least those studied in any depth, was multi-faceted. Unfortunately, I don't have plans to travel to the Middle East any time soon, but as soon as I do, this will be at the top of my list of books to [re]read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    'Jerusalem: The Biography', as the name would suggest, is an in-depth biographical-history of the 'Holy City of Jerusalem'. It addresses a wide range of themes, other than just pure chronological-historical narrative. Namely, religion (encompassing the rise of faiths, and their battle for the city), politics, trade, population booms and declines etc... In other words, it examines all the facets required to get a picture of the city at any given time in its long history and it does this with rema 'Jerusalem: The Biography', as the name would suggest, is an in-depth biographical-history of the 'Holy City of Jerusalem'. It addresses a wide range of themes, other than just pure chronological-historical narrative. Namely, religion (encompassing the rise of faiths, and their battle for the city), politics, trade, population booms and declines etc... In other words, it examines all the facets required to get a picture of the city at any given time in its long history and it does this with remarkable clarity. The narrative runs from the city's foundation which is more speculative due to the lack of surviving sources, and continues right through to the foundation of the modern Israeli State putting particular emphasis on the currently volatile situation in the area of Palestine and the Levantine Coast. The book was a really impressive and objective history of a city that is in the habit of causing controversy. This is primarily due to the turbulence of its history, and the hetrogenous and cosmopolitan make-up of its citizenry, past and present. This is the first book I have read by this particular author. I had up to this point associated this particular author with purely modern historiography, which has never really appealed to me. So, I was pleasantly surprised by the pure scope of research that went into the chapters of the book that cover the earlier periods of Jerusalem's history. As a result, no particular period is shown favour at the expense of the other by the author over the course of the narrative; at least, in terms of coverage accorded to each individual period. Sebag Montefiore's style of writing is what I would characterize as elegant but at the same time accessible. This book is a must read for those looking for a broad overview of the city's history. In addition, due to its layout, this book can be consulted regarding specific periods in Jerusalem's history. This is not a book that has to be read from cover to cover, on the contrary, it can be dipped in and out of at one's leisure. Anyway, hope this helps anyone considering picking up the book. Happy Reading, Gavin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Femj86

    Overall a good read. History is always partial and I expected the author to be biased towards Jews, as a book written by a Muslim or a Christian writer on such a sensitive topic would be equally susceptible to bias in favor of their own communities. Was this book biased? Not flagrantly so. It may have been, but it was done so subtly that I couldn't really tell. A reader better acquainted with the history of Judaism, Islam and Christianity can perhaps identify better. Regardless, the story itself Overall a good read. History is always partial and I expected the author to be biased towards Jews, as a book written by a Muslim or a Christian writer on such a sensitive topic would be equally susceptible to bias in favor of their own communities. Was this book biased? Not flagrantly so. It may have been, but it was done so subtly that I couldn't really tell. A reader better acquainted with the history of Judaism, Islam and Christianity can perhaps identify better. Regardless, the story itself was so absorbing and the wealth of information imparted so interesting that any suspicious comments here and there could be easily discounted. I think, the writer very wisely ended the book with Israel's victory in the Six-day War of 1967. Beyond that point it would have become difficult not to sound inclined towards one side or the other. Indeed his portrayals of Ben Gurion, Menachim Begin and other Jewish leaders were way too sympathetic; even their many reprehensible acts of violence and their infringement of the rights of the Arab population somehow appeared heroic in their struggle for the cause of Israel. So it is well that the writer finished where he did. To conclude, the book is wonderful as far as the history of Jerusalem is concerned. Very comprehensive, very engaging and very well written. So it serves its main purpose beautifully. However the account of the Zionist struggle for Israel and the role of their leaders as presented in the book paints only one side of the picture. It actually made me want to read about Israel's creation from a Palestinian point of view. Any suggestions for such a book will be much appreciated!

  26. 5 out of 5

    K

    Hmm. This was a nicely flowing layman's history of Jerusalem, over the 4,000 or so years from the time King David consecrated it as his capitol until 1967. The writing was easy to read, and Sebag Montefiore peppered the narrative with a healthy dose of salacious historical gossip to keep the reader going when things ran dry. It was, however, a very long and detailed read, a mixture of the more relevant and the less relevant, and a non-academic work which means it needs to be taken with a grain of Hmm. This was a nicely flowing layman's history of Jerusalem, over the 4,000 or so years from the time King David consecrated it as his capitol until 1967. The writing was easy to read, and Sebag Montefiore peppered the narrative with a healthy dose of salacious historical gossip to keep the reader going when things ran dry. It was, however, a very long and detailed read, a mixture of the more relevant and the less relevant, and a non-academic work which means it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, at least until reviewed by people with more of an academic background in the subject than I have. In any case, it seemed balanced and inclusive and I learned a lot about the Christian and Muslim attachment to Jerusalem. It's certainly a book that makes you question whether religion made the world a better place, and feel disgusted by imperialism and colonialism. I admit that I often just wanted it to be over, but I suspect that that reflects the book's length combined with my hectic schedule rather than the book's actually quality or objective ability to engage the reader.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Doubledf99.99

    A hard look at a very turbulent city, learned quite a bit of its history, and the politics on the situation of today.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Manal

    two reviews are included: the first in Arabic and the second in English.. Enjoy!! فاتنة أسر جمالها الألباب وسحر حسنها الأعين. أحبها الجميع وكل من أحبها أرادها لنفسه. أوقد الحب في قلوب عشاقها نار الغيرة, نار أبت أن تنطفئ, أعمت نار الغيرة محبيها عن الحقيقية لتصبح ضحية لهذا الحب المزعوم. مسكينة هي القدس, نعم مسكينة هي تلك الأرض الطاهرة التي احتضنت الديانات السماوية الثلاث: الإسلام و المسيحية و اليهودية. لكن كما هي عادة البشر أبو إلا أن تلطخ أرضها الطاهرة بالدماء حتى أصبحت ارض القدس جرح غائر لا يندم two reviews are included: the first in Arabic and the second in English.. Enjoy!! فاتنة أسر جمالها الألباب وسحر حسنها الأعين. أحبها الجميع وكل من أحبها أرادها لنفسه. أوقد الحب في قلوب عشاقها نار الغيرة, نار أبت أن تنطفئ, أعمت نار الغيرة محبيها عن الحقيقية لتصبح ضحية لهذا الحب المزعوم. مسكينة هي القدس, نعم مسكينة هي تلك الأرض الطاهرة التي احتضنت الديانات السماوية الثلاث: الإسلام و المسيحية و اليهودية. لكن كما هي عادة البشر أبو إلا أن تلطخ أرضها الطاهرة بالدماء حتى أصبحت ارض القدس جرح غائر لا يندمل في جبين البشرية جمعاء. كتاب القدس: السيرة للكاتب اليهودي سيمون سيباج مونتفور من اشهر المراجع الحديثة عن تاريخ القدس.كما يعتبر هذا الكتاب تحدي للقارئ لضخامة المعلومات فهو يمثل سلسلة من الكتب التاريخية في كتاب واحد. يأخذنا سيمون في رحلة تاريخية ممتعة يذكر فيها تاريخ القدس بالتفصيل بأسلوب يميل إلى الكتابة القصصية وهذا ما يميز كتابة عن الكتب التاريخية الأخرى . يصور لنا المؤلف تاريخ الأرض المقدسة خلال أحقاب زمنية مختلفة كما يذكر لنا القادة الذين توالوا على حكم القدس. حيث خضعت ارض القدس لحكم الرومان مرورا بالإغريقيين، الفرس, المقدونيين , المكابيين, هيرودس وحكام المسلمين من قادة الدولة الأموية و العباسيين و الفاطميين و الدولة الأيوبية و العثمانيين الى العصر الحالي. الكتاب ينقسم الى تسع فصول رئيسية الى جانب عدد كبير من الفصول التوضيحية لبعض الأسماء والمصطلحات المستخدمة كمايتضمن الكتاب بعض الخرائط للمسجد الأقصى ومخططات توضيحية لأشجار العائلات التي حكمت القدس.يبدأ الكاتب بالحديث في مقدمة الكتاب عن حصار القدس وصلب المئات من اليهود على يد الرومان بقيادة تيتوس. يسهب الكاتب في ذكر تفاصيل وحشية الرومان تجاه اليهود ومن عمليات تدمير للمعابد ونهب أموال اليهود التي كانت محفوظة في المعابد وكأنه يستجدي تعاطف القارئ مع اليهود. ومن الملاحظ أن سيمون يبالغ كثير في وصف معاناة اليهود خلال صفحات كتابه بينما نجده يتجاهل ما عانى ولا زال يعاني المسلمين على أرض القدس. ينتقل مونتيفور يعد ذالك للحديث عن مملكة إسرائيل في عهد كل من طالوت و من ثم داوود وسليمان عليه السلام . كما يذكر العمارة في عهد ملوك إسرائيل حيث تم إعادة بناء كثير من المعابد كم تم بناء ما يسمى بمعبد أو هيكل سليمان. والجدير بالذكر بعض القصص حول الانبياء ةالرسل يشوبها نوعا من التحريف ومن ذالك قصه عيسى عليه السلام مع أخيه. لا يخفى على الجميع أن مريم عليها لم تتزوج لا من قبل ولا من بعد ولادة عيسى عليه السلام. في الفصل الثالث من الكتاب ينتقل الكاتب للحديث عن خضوع القدس للمسيحية على يد قسطنطين الأول الذي بدوره قام بتدمير المعابد اليهودية و أمر بتشجيع من والدته هيلينا ببناء العديد من الكنائس على أنقاض المعابد اليهودية لتصبح القدس مزار للحجاج المسيحيين .لم يتوقف قسطنطين عند هذا الحد بل اجبر الكثير من اليهود على اعتناق المسيحية. لكن لم يكن في الحسبان أن جوليان ابن أخ الإمبراطور قسطنطين سيتبع سياسة مرنة مع الأقليات اليهودية ، حيث سمح لهم بإعادة بناء بعض المعابد حتى يتسنى لهم ممارسة العبادات وفق الدين اليهودي. ينتقل بعد ذالك سيمون للحديث عن أهمية القدس في الإسلام حيث تعبر القبلة الأولى للمسلمين وهي ارض الإسراء والمعراج . يذكر لنا الكاتب كيف خضعت ارض القدس للقادة المسلمين وكيف أصبح كلا من اليهود والمسيحيين تحت سيطرة المسلمين ، وكيف تم تدمير الكثير من المعابد والكنائس لتقام على أنقاضها المساجد وخاصة مسجد قبة الصخرة الذي أمر ببناءة عبدا لملك بن مروان على أنقاض هيكل سليمان .في الجزء الخامس من الكتاب يصب الكاتب جل تركيزه على عن الحملات الصليبية ، و انتصارات صلاح الدين الأيوبي والظاهر بيبرس وسقوط الدولة المملوكيةز كما خصص سيمون جزء كبير من الكتاب للحديث عن الدولة العثمانية بقيادة كلا من السلطان سليم وسليمان القانوني. في الأجزاء الأخيرة من الكتاب يتحدث سيمون عن الصهيونية والاستعمار الاوروبي لأرض القدس وبلاد الشام . ويتحدث عن زيارة نابليون وعدد من ملوك إنجلترا للمقدس. كما يتحدث عن الحرب العالمية الأولى وما عانى اليهود في روسيا من عنصرية ثم يعطي مساحة كبيره من الكتاب للحديث عن الدولة الهاشمية و ملوك مصر ووعد بلفور و الثورة العربية. بعد ذالك ينهي قصته الطويلة بالحديث عن حرب الستة أيام أو ما تسمى بالنكسة حيث خسر العرب ارض القدس للإسرائيليين وكما يتحدث عن الانتفاضة الفلسطينية و الوضع الحالي المتأزم والصراعات المستمرة بين الفلسطينيين واليهود على ارض القدس. لا يخلو و الكتاب من قصص الحب والخيانة . كتلك بين كيلوباترا وانتوني ، وقصة حب هيرودس لمريم اخت نبي الله موسى عليه السلام . كما لم يغفل الكاتب عن الحديث عن بعض الشخصيات المهمة مثل لورانس العرب ، هرتزل و عازف العود. انتهى!! O city of the world, most Chastely fair, In the far West, behold I sigh for thee. Oh! Had I eagles' wings, I'd fly to thee, And with my falling tears Make moist thine earth. Halevi Who does not love Jerusalem? It's my dream to visit Jerusalem! Jerusalem: the biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore is an epic book. The holy land of Jerusalem is the shrine of the three Abrahamic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. This book by Montefiore is a long chronological narrative about the bloody history of the holy city. Montefiore spent three years in writing this biography. To be honest, I finished this book 3 weeks ago. It's one of the most compelling books I've ever read. It's a daunting task to write a short review about this long history of Jerusalem. I was tempted to give up writing a review, but I decided to give it a shot! The book is rich with a large number of historical figures and violent acts. But, what make this book special and sets it apart from a lot of historical books about Jerusalem, is the style. The book truly sounds like a collection of intertwined stories rather than a non-fiction book. Montefiore tells the history of Jerusalem through the lives of different characters who lived within and out of the walls of the holy city. Also, the religious significance Jerusalem for Muslims, Christians and the Jews is clearly established throughout the pages of the book. The main theme that runs through the book is the cruelty and the abuse of power by the different conquerors of the holy land. Great historical emperors have shed much blood fighting over Jerusalem. Many people were executed. Women and kids were burned alive. In addition, Christian, Muslim and Jewish conquerors contributed to the destruction of Jerusalem. Rival places of worship (mosques, Temples, and Churches) were completely destroyed. Unfortunately, many of the honored emperors of Jerusalem were blinded by their prejudice to realize the tragic consequences of their oppression . The book is divided into nine main parts. The book also includes illustrations , notes on the names , maps and family trees of all the conquerors of Jerusalem. Montefiore traces the history of Jerusalem from its begging focusing on every conquest of the holy land of Jerusalem. The story of Jerusalme is clearly told from the Jewish perspective. the opens with the Roman invasion of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temples. In late July AD 70, Titus, the roman Emperor, ordered his army to destroy the temples and many Jews faced famine, death and those who survived were sold as slaves. The most interesting part of the book is that about the establishment of the new Kingdome of Israel and the political rivalry between Saul and young David. Saul was anointed by Samuel to be the first king of Israel. The honored king of Israel threatened to kill the young David. David escaped to Judah where he was able to raise to power and capture Jerusalem. After the death of King David, Solomon inherited the united Kingdome of Israel. And Solomon's greatest achievement is the building of the magnificent Temple of Mount Unfortunately, peace never lasts in Jerusalem. The holy land fell in the hands of many conquerors including the Babylonians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Maccabees, and Herod and his descendants. The third section of the book is dedicated to Christianity. Christian emperors took full control of Jerusalem. The roman emperor Constantine imposed Christianity on the Jews. Based on the request of his mother empress, Helena, new churches were built and remolded on the ruins of the old temples. Unlike his uncle, Julian, Constantine's nephew, was tolerant of the Jews. He allowed the Jews to practice their religion and to rebuild some of the old temples. However, during the rule of Theodosius the Jews were banned from Jerusalem. Clearly, Montefiore has invested much effort in the first three parts of the book. But, some of the information and most of the stories about the Jewish and the Christian prophets lack authenticity For example, he referred to 'James' as Jesus brother. In fact, everybody knows that Mary is virgin and she never got married. In the forth chapter, The writer turns his attention to the importance of Jerusalem in Islam and the Arab conquests (the Umayyad, Abbasids, the Fatimids). Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) accompanied by Gabriel was transported on Buraq from Mecca, the sacred place of worship, to Jerusalem where he met Abraham, Moses and other prophets before ascending to heaven. In fact, the 7th century, marks a turning point in the history of Jerusalem. Both Christians and Jews were under the control of the Muslims emperors. The temples and the churches were remolded again and many mosques were built. The Dome of the Rock was built on the ruins of the old Jewish temples by the Caliph, Abd-al Malik. Later, the entire area was called the "Haram as Sharif" The position of the Dome of the Rock on 'Mount Moriah' created a controversy among the Jews because it defeated all their hope of rebuilding the temple of Solomon. The fifth part of the book is concerned with the Crusades. In 1099 the first crusader army captured Jerusalem, the site of the Crusader kingdom and Jews and prohibited Jews from living there until their defeat by Salah Eddin. The most enjoyable part of this book is the story of Salah Eddin and his dynasty. Among the highlights of the book in chapter six is the the Mamluk conquest of Jerusalem and Baibars' victories over the Crusaders. In Chapter seven Jerusalem falls into the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The author gives much attention to the Ottoman Sultans especially Selim the Grim and the Sultan Suleiman. Under the rule of Turkish, Mamluk, and ottoman empires, Jews and Christians were not permitted into the Haram as Sharif. The remaining two chapters of the book explore the European colonization of the Arab world , arrival of Napoleon, the prince of England in Jerusalem, the Albanian conquest, the suffering of the Jews in Russian, the world war, the Arab nationalism, Balfour declaration, and the Arab revolution. Finally, the book ends with the tragedy of the six- day war in 1967, which marks the loss of Jerusalem to the Jews (Israel). Throughout the book, the author shows a great deal of sympathy with the sufferings of the Jews. However, nothing is mentioned about the sufferings of the Muslims and the massacres committed by the Jews against the Palestinians. Aside from the bloody scenes, one can find stories about love like that of Antony and Cleopatra, Herod and Mariamme. Also one can find joy in reading about some interesting figures like the butcher, Theodor Herzl, the oud player, Lawrence of Arabia, the mufti of Jerusalem, Hussein the Sherif of Sherifs and many others. I'll end my review praying for peace and more love in the holy city of Jerusalem…

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    This is a very in depth overview of the history of Jerusalem. The great benefit of the book is gaining a better understanding of the catalyst for current conflicts in Jerusalem today. The historical claims to the City (and parts of the City) are so diversified as to diminish the hope for sustained peace. The fervent nature of diversified worship is quite amazing, especially when read from an overview, or broad perspective. It is quite amazing that so many people put so much of their worship ener This is a very in depth overview of the history of Jerusalem. The great benefit of the book is gaining a better understanding of the catalyst for current conflicts in Jerusalem today. The historical claims to the City (and parts of the City) are so diversified as to diminish the hope for sustained peace. The fervent nature of diversified worship is quite amazing, especially when read from an overview, or broad perspective. It is quite amazing that so many people put so much of their worship energy into a particular site, or a sticks & bricks edifice; but this book explains the extensive history of those occupancies that have caused such fervent positions. As the book says, "No other place evokes such a desire for exclusive possession". Certainly, the bloodshed and back-and-forth occupancies make it clear to me that the true temple is in the hearts of men, an in-dwelling that may survive the physical destruction of that which is temporal. I'm not sure that I would recommend this book, as it is somewhat difficult to wade through and you wouldn't finish it unless you carry a sincere motivation to learn more about the history of the city. As a result of reading this book, I became particularly interested in the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia and so I'm now enmeshed in a biography of him by Michael Korda entitled: "Hero: The LIfe and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia." It is providing a cross section of insight into the life of a man caught between the cultural pressure from his Nation State (England) and the pull of his conscience, to do what is right on the behalf of exploited peoples.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    I listened to an abridged version this as an audiobook when I was driving on my own over the last three weeks or so. Despite the difficulties imposed by this regime (sometimes five minute snatches) I have been interested most of the way and will retain a memory of thousands of years of violent warfare as armies marched through Israel/Palestine laying waste to everything as they went, as well as the vicious battles over Jerusalem itself since the first of the Crusades launched by Western European I listened to an abridged version this as an audiobook when I was driving on my own over the last three weeks or so. Despite the difficulties imposed by this regime (sometimes five minute snatches) I have been interested most of the way and will retain a memory of thousands of years of violent warfare as armies marched through Israel/Palestine laying waste to everything as they went, as well as the vicious battles over Jerusalem itself since the first of the Crusades launched by Western Europeans against the Arabs and Turks. I won't remember all or even most of the names, let alone the dates of particular battles, but the patterns of settlement and power shifts will remain. I was particularly interested in the history of the last coup,e of hundred years, with the rise of Zionism and the struggles that led to the creation of modern Israel and Jordan. Montefiore has given what seems to me a fair treatment of the disputes that are still not resolved, observing near the end that both Jews and Palestinians have long historical associations with the Holy Land and with Jerusalem and that best of all outcomes would be that the two sides could agree to share the land and the old city, as the site of the holy places shared by three religions, in particular. Perhaps if I had read an unabridged version I wouldn't have found the repeated medieval battles as tedious as I did, but then I don't think I would have read it at all. Essential reading (or listening) for anyone seriously wanting to understand the deep background to the disputed city.

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