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Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag…

Jerusalem: The Biography

by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Another reviewer wrote that "this book contains pretty much everything anyone could possibly want to know about Jerusalem". One might well add, and a great deal of things one would prefer not to have known. What a terrible story. With the odd (very odd) and relatively (very relatively) peaceful interlude, SSM's deeply researched story reveals three thousand years of almost continuous violence, with great building upon great building erected then destroyed and one population routinely displaced by another, culminating in today's Jewish state versus Palestinian state (or not yet state?) while the most extremist / fundamentalist elements of the three Abramic religions squabble and fight, squabble and fight, each in direct contravention of their own sacred texts. For today's world both the deep history and the most recent decades explain why the USA (the West's leading home and breeding ground of fundamentalist Christians) is so clearly the worst possible country to lead efforts at bringing (or knocking) heads together and establishing a secure and lasting settlement. I write as a believing but non-fundamentalist Christian, with horror and regret for the roles Christians have often played and now play. And with such deep sadness for this extraordinary place and those of its population who struggle to live a peaceful life.
While this book is not in any sense pleasant reading, it should be compulsory reading for anyone even remotely engaged in the so-called peace process and / or the middle east more generally.
As for those who cavil at SSM's supposed credulity regarding some of his sources (Suetonius, Josephus, TE Lawrence are cited), he appears to me to have consulted as widely as possible among the available sources and to present - to the extent there's more than one source - a balanced perspective. ( )
  NaggedMan | Jul 19, 2015 |
Joy's review: This book contains pretty much everything anyone could possibly want to know about Jerusalem. Montefiore has included every fact he found, but he sacrificed readability in the process. I needed a thread or two to weave the book into a real story. As it is, the story goes: new guy comes in massacres lots of people, is oppressive, get replaced by another new guy of a different religion... with the occasional very brief period of peace. I'm glad I read it, but think Montefiore needed a better editor. ( )
  konastories | Apr 6, 2015 |
Good so far; detailed
  TonySB | Sep 21, 2014 |
Calling temporary quits on this one. I managed to get through all of the Judaism and Paganism sections (the first two). What I have read is very interesting; it was especially fascinating to read about people I know of only through Biblical references (not even the Bible itself, the cultural references based on it) and discover their historical context. I will perhaps return to this book later, when I stop bogging myself down in several large books simultaneously. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 12, 2014 |
  cavlibrary | Jan 28, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This is not an account of daily life or humble devotions. It’s a little like learning about the American West by watching a John Wayne movie: everyone is a gunslinger or a sheriff, with nameless extras diving under the bar when trouble starts. Still, for a book that spans 3,000 years, it does a remarkably inclusive job.
added by LiteraryFiction | editNew York Times, Jonathan Rosen (pay site) (Oct 28, 2011)
Montefiore's narrative is remarkably objective when considering his own family's close links with Jewish Jerusalem. One might quibble with certain details, but overall it is a reliable and compelling account, with many interesting points.
Nonetheless, this is compendious and fleet-footed history of a city where the glorification of God has always been built on bloodied soil.

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon Sebag Montefioreprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bischoff, UlrikeÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Figueiredo, Maria JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Götting, WaltraudÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my darling daughter

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(Preface) The history of Jerusalem is the history of the world, but it is also the chronicle of an often penurious provincial town amid the Judean hills.
(Prologue) On the 8th of the Jewish month of Ab, in late July AD 70, Titus, the Roman Emperor Vespasian's son who was in command of the four-month siege of Jerusalem, ordered his entire army to prepare to storm the Temple at dawn.
When David captured the citadel of Zion, Jerusalem was already ancient.
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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 Judgment 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 three thousand years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the "center of the world" and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping 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 world of Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and Nero to the modern times of the Kaiser, Disraeli, Mark Twain, Lincoln, Rasputin, Lawrence of Arabia and Moshe Dayan. 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 many believe 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. - Publisher.… (more)

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