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Excerpted from the 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 Judaean hills. Jerusalem was once regarded as the centre of the world and today that is more true than ever: the city is the focus of the struggle between the Abrahamic religions, the shrine for increasingly popular Christian, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism, the strategic battlefield of clashing civilizations, the front line between atheism and faith, the cynosure of secular fascination, the object of giddy conspiracism and internet mythmaking, and the illuminated stage for the cameras of the world in the age of twenty-four-hour news. religious, political and media interest feed on each other to make Jerusalem more intensely scrutinized today than ever before.
 
Jerusalem is the Holy City, yet it has always been a den of superstition, charlatanism and bigotry; the desire and prize of empires, yet of no strategic value; the cosmopolitan home of many sects, each of which believes the city belongs to them alone; a city of many names—yet each tradition is so sectarian it excludes any other. This is a place of such delicacy that it is described in Jewish sacred literature in the feminine— always a sensual, living woman, always a beauty, but sometimes a shameless harlot, sometimes a wounded princess whose lovers have forsaken her. Jerusalem is the house of the one God, the capital of two peoples, the temple of three religions and she is the only city to exist twice—in heaven and on earth: the peerless grace of the terrestrial is as nothing to the glories of the celestial. The very fact that Jerusalem is both terrestrial and celestial means that the city can exist anywhere: new Jerusalems have been founded all over the world and everyone has their own vision of Jerusalem. Prophets and patriarchs, Abraham, David, Jesus and Muhammad are said to have trodden these stones. The Abrahamic religions were born there and the world will also end there on the Day of Judgement. Jerusalem, sacred to the Peoples of the Book, is the city of the Book: the Bible is, in many ways, Jerusalem’s own chronicle and its readers, from the Jews and early Christians via the Muslim conquerors and the Crusaders to today’s American evangelists, have repeatedly altered her history to fulfil biblical prophecy.

When the Bible was translated into Greek then Latin and English, it became the universal book and it made Jerusalem the universal city. Every great king became a David, every special people were the new Israelites and every noble civilization a new Jerusalem, the city that belongs to no one and exists for everyone in their imagination. And this is the city’s tragedy as well as her magic: every dreamer of Jerusalem, every visitor in all ages from Jesus’ Apostles to Saladin’s soldiers, from Victorian pilgrims to today’s tourists and journalists, arrives with a vision of the authentic Jerusalem and then is bitterly disappointed by what they find, an ever-changing city that has thrived and shrunk, been rebuilt and destroyed many times. But since this is Jerusalem, property of all, only their image is the right one; the tainted, synthetic reality must be changed; everyone has the right to impose their “Jerusalem” on Jerusalem—and, with sword and fire, they often have.

Ibn Khaldun, the fourteenth-century historian who is both participant and source for some of the events related in this book, noted that history is so “eagerly sought after. The men in the street aspire to know it. Kings and leaders vie for it.” This is especially true for Jerusalem. It is impossible to write a history of this city without acknowledging that Jerusalem is also a theme, a fulcrum, a spine even, of world history. At a time when the power of Internet mythology means that the hi-tech mouse and the curved sword can both be weapons in the same fundamentalist arsenal, the quest for historical facts is even more important now than it was for Ibn Khaldun.

A history of Jerusalem must be a study of the nature of holiness. The phrase “Holy City” is constantly used to describe the reverence for her shrines, but what it really means is that Jerusalem has become the essential place on earth for communication between God and man.

We must also answer the question: Of all the places in the world, why Jerusalem? The site was remote from the trade routes of the Mediterranean coast; it was short of water, baked in the summer sun, chilled by winter winds, its jagged rocks blistered and inhospitable. But the selection of Jerusalem as the Temple city was partly decisive and personal, partly organic and evolutionary: the sanctity became ever more intense because she had been holy for so long. Holiness requires not just spirituality and faith but also legitimacy and tradition. A radical prophet presenting a new vision must explain the centuries that have gone before and justify his own revelation in the accepted language and geography of holiness—the prophecies of earlier revelations and the sites already long revered. Nothing makes a place holier than the competition of another religion.
 
Many atheistic visitors are repelled by this holiness, seeing it as infectious superstition in a city suffering a pandemic of righteous bigotry. But that is to deny the profound human need for religion without which it is impossible to understand Jerusalem. Religions must explain the fragile joys and perpetual anxieties that mystify and frighten humanity: we need to sense a greater force than ourselves. We respect death and long to find meaning in it. As the meeting-place of God and man, Jerusalem is where these questions are settled at the Apocalypse—the End of Days, when there will be war, a battle between Christ and anti-Christ, when the Kaaba will come from Mecca to Jerusalem, when there will be judgment, resurrection of the dead and the reign of the Messiah and the Kingdom of Heaven, the New Jerusalem. All three Abrahamic religions believe in the Apocalypse, but the details vary by faith and sect. Secularists may regard all this as antique gobbledegook, but, on the contrary, such ideas are all too current. In this age of Jewish, Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, the Apocalypse is a dynamic force in the world’s febrile politics.
 
Death is our constant companion: pilgrims have long come to Jerusalem to die and be buried around the Temple Mount to be ready to rise again in the Apocalypse, and they continue to come. The city is surrounded by and founded upon cemeteries; the wizened body-parts of ancient saints are revered—the desiccated blackened right hand of Mary Magdalene is still displayed in the Greek Orthodox Superior’s Room in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Many shrines, even many private houses, are built around tombs. The darkness of this city of the dead stems not just from a sort of necrophilia, but also from necromancy: the dead here are almost alive, even as they await resurrection. The unending struggle for Jerusalem—massacres, mayhem, wars, terrorism, sieges and catastrophes—have made this place into a battlefield, in Aldous Huxley’s words the “slaughterhouse of the religions,” in Flaubert’s a “charnel-house.” Melville called the city a “skull” besieged by “armies of the dead”; while Edward Said remembered that his father had hated Jerusalem because it “reminded him of death.” --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

The narrative, which starts with the wortld of David abd concludes with today's tragic conflicts, deserves to be heard. (THE OBSERVER)

vivid, violent, anecdotal and full of crazy, gung-ho, OTT characters, such as King Soloman ordering a pre-assembled, ready-to-go Holy of Holies because there was to be no hammering or noise in the House of God; and Captain Monty Parker, the panniless young aristocratic chancer who led an archaeological dig in 1909 which a Finnish spiritualist, a Swedish minder and an Armenian fixer to find the missing Ark of the Covenant ... Guess what, it wasn't there. (THE GUARDIAN)

a fascinating tour through the bloody history of the city, read by the wonderful Andrew Sachs. (THE LADY)

Documenting each conquest and conflict this book is a fascinating read and a significant accomplishment. (Charlotte Vowden Daily Express)

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Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
De siècle en siècle, Jérusalem a passé de conquérants en occupants, et peu de ses habitants originaux y ont survécu, en payant le prix terrible des massacres. Créée par le roi David, cette ville est devenue le centre spirituel de trois grandes familles de religions, dont chacune désire en faire la capitale spirituelle. Les conflits confessionnels y abondent, et très rares sont les historiens qui peuvent prendre du recul et ne pas avoir d'idées préconçues. L'auteur a brillamment réussi ce chef d'oeuvre. On ne peut arracher de force et par la haine et l'intolérance le droit de ses habitants de la considérer comme "leur" capitale. L'histoire non trafiquée de cette ville devrait rester dans les mémoires de ceux qui veulent la monopoliser. Ce livre y contribue brillamment.
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I'm headed to Jerusalem for my best friend's birthday, and I'm happy to know the history of the city. It's a true biography: Jerusalem as a ... person! Still at the very beginning,and while it's not your usual beach blanket book, I am HOOKED. I've already visited the author's website and planned a reading course for myself on Ancient History and Old Religions.

FYI: I bought the paperback so I could carry it easily on vacation... However, the exhaustive notes are not reprinted in the paperback for convenience, weight and ease of binding. So... I guess I will be buying the hardcover as well.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 étoiles sur 5 353 commentaires
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Blood and guts, yet written with an entertaining flair 6 janvier 2016
Par Carolyn Hodges - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I am not half way finished. This biography describes and reveals the long history, not just about Jerusalem, the main subject, and its beginning, but the histories of the Middle East in general, mostly about invasions, invaders, war and brutal vengeance (s), some brief facts about their resources and trade, names and chronologies of rulers of various levels and importance-kings and kingdoms, tyrants, despots, shahs, imans, etc. As the centuries turn from older to modern times, Montefiore includes the spreading global participation of war-mongering of Eastern Asia, Russia, China, and other parts, into this/these areas.

If the facts and descriptions about Jerusalem's history be even partially true, it is nevertheless amazing that the Jewish people continued to grow, in spite of pomgrom after pomgrom. It had short periods of peace, yet according to Montefiore's facts, these people were afflicted by everyone outside of there city, eventually to nearly every area of the globe, all wanting to expunge a people and own the power these believed in. Yet, they would survive, incredibly, eventually become a strong, independent people who were meant to exist. And that they went on to gather their own, create a state and a place in permanent history, almost beyond believe-ability, on a promise of a God for His people. But what Montefiore describes in explicit detail about there struggle and deaths, and I wasn't expecting, is the nature of war and its brutality, human to human and often, gruesomeness, and in some cases downright insanity, revealing the deep depravity of man.

It is the way Montefiore writes that keeps it interesting, sometimes a sitting on the edge, expectation, for what will come next. I would not have known otherwise this shocking life of Jerusalem, that was filled with both religious orthodoxy and depravity, even within itself and its many emptied out, periods before another take over, destruction to the Temple, and other buildings that were destroyed over and over and yet, always rebuilt. Little of this has been revealed.
However, what I do appreciate is his short descriptions (as some histories are too long and detailed, or too broad, unbalanced) of bloodied, gorged out dismemberment, death and dying of people, of each occurrence, although there are many occurrences. Some of it takes a strong stomach not to be turned off to the rest of the story.

Though I was turned off, I returned. Montefiore's biography is written details by details as if fact (of exaggeration or fanciful imagination I do not know) yet sometimes is entertaining. He writes cleanly, simply stating or describing them. I have a better understanding of what empire meant and in some cases, still does, as empire is another word for power. And as modern times approach, slowly technology has replaced invaders (with US help) yet still, in the name of human power, in the name of one unseen; yet, not ironically, the same major players remain to attack with their weapons: those of the Middle East-Iraq, Pakistan, Palestinians, Iran, even Russia, as well as some others. I look forward to reading "the rest of the story", and yet, though not finished, I would recommend this book, as it gives a good general understanding of what was all to important then and even moreso, now, still being the center of the world.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Almost five stars, but... 21 mai 2015
Par Zilzal - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
This was a very entertaining and informative read explaining the history of Jerusalem from the earliest history until the present. There are detailed end notes at the conclusion of each chapter to explore more deeply the concepts learned in the chapter itself. However, I refrain from giving it five stars for two reasons. First of all, the author spends a lot of time writing about the global events surrounding the occupation of Jerusalem by each power that conquered it. For example, when writing about Roman Jerusalem, many pages would be spend describing the politics and intrigues of the Roman Empire in general. This took much focus away from the city itself. Instead, I would rather read more day to day life in the city during that specific time. Secondly, the last "official" unit ends with the Israeli unification of the city in 1967. Drips and drabs of events that took place afterwards are presented in an epilogue. Again, I would rather have more detail about how the city has changed, in a proper chapter (or two) that followed. Overall though, a very well written tome!
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Best 1-volume history 7 août 2012
Par Les Bn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This book condenses a library of material covering over 3,000 years into a bit over 500 pages. The acknowledgements pages show that the author had access to the finest academic scholars as sources and reviewers. His personal family history gave Montefiore unique access to members of centuries-long leading Arab families of the city as sources for many stories available nowhere else in English. That family background also gave him access to surviving early leaders of Israel, and royal families of England and Jordan with ancestors who are part of the story.

The span of history is equivalent to 10 histories of the United States, in a place where lots happened. It appears Montefiore resolved this difficulty by briefly explaining the general flow of the history and then writing more detailed stories of spectacularly interesting personalities and events for each period -- kings, queens, or religious leaders. It works beautifully. It appears some reviewers didn't understand that pattern.

Montefiore is English, and a member of a distinguished family of Italian and North African Jews who funded the 19th century settlement of impoverished Russian Jews settling Jerusalem. That was in the Ottoman period decades before the century-long fights between Arabs and Jews, which likely explains his access across those lines, and knowing who to interview.

The first 100 pages are based mostly on historical sections of the Bible and Josephus, so those familiar with those sources will not learn much. The parts Montefiore uses in this book are accepted as probably accurate by most Western scholars. After the Biblical period, every page is chock full of fascinating history unfamiliar to nearly all Americans.

He appears to understand all the historical factions who have controlled the city over the centuries. However, like most Europeans, he seems flummoxed by American Evangelical beliefs. Some other commentators mention errors in the book -- I believe those are rare and minor, and some of the Amazon.com comments are themselves simply wrong.

The only points I found wrong were brief, rare references to U.S. history -- for example, he believes that Ben Franklin's suggestion of the crossing of the Red Sea as the seal of the U.S. was accepted. Or that Harry Truman was a back-bench mediocre Senator -- not true during WWII. Those rare errors are not a surprise after reading the Acknowledgements pages -- great scholars, historical players, and Jerusalem leading family members, but all European or Middle Eastern.
346 internautes sur 359 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Most fascinating and enjoyable read of a history 16 mai 2011
Par Asmahan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
I came to this book as an Arab reader, growing up with songs, poems, and books written about beloved Jerusalem, but never have I come across a book offering such a luxurious detailed and honest view and at such a scale! Written with remarkable neutrality and taking us through the diverse and rich history of the most disputed and news making region in the world! This comprehensive, and unpatronising treatment of Jerusalem's past is neither overwhelmingly scholarly to gloss over the gory (and fascinating) details, nor too hurried as to miss out important facts. Simon Sebag Montefiore combines the rare talent of total political and cultural understanding with a great and most eloquent narrating skill!

"Jerusalem, the Biography" is a new sort of History, written as a biography, through the people who made Jerusalem, starting with King David and ending with Barrack Obama, over a span of 3000 years. Each section is about a person who, made, destroyed, believed in, or fought for Jerusalem, some are ordinary people, some are monsters and dictators. There is massacre, siege, blood, violence, but also beautiful poetry.

The story of Jerusalem, is truly (as the author expressed) the story of the world, as well, of the Middle East, of religion, of holiness, of empire! I was thrilled to read about one of the greatest philosophers, the Arab historiographer "Ibn Khaldoon", about Suleiman the Magnificent, Caliph Muawiya, Saladin Dynasty, Druze princess and angelic voiced Singer "Asmahan", the Hashemite (Sherifian) Dynasty, and most exciting to read was some poignant poetry by Nizar Qabbani.

One can read it as an adventure story, or as an explanation of why the Middle East is what it is today, I felt infused with great knowledge, one that I could never acquire if I read a thousand books. The book offers correct answers and honest background of many of the issues of the region today such as, Israel vs. Palestine, America vs. Iran, written without an agenda, and with remarkable impartiality. And I must not forget the most fascinating details over the Apocalypse-the End of Days.

To fit such a swathe of history into a 650-page-turner is a bit of an art form in itself. The book also offers wonderfully informative illustrations and photographs, family trees, and even maps.

I thoroughly enjoyed three of Simon Sebag Montefiore's previous books (or rather masterpieces), but this has to be my most enjoyable read of a history, I have no words to do the author nor the book justice, well-paced and absolutely gripping, this book is a treasure -trove, and I highly recommend it for all readers of different faiths, political, cultural backgrounds, well versed in the Middle East or not.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Rich and Intriguing Book, Packed with Detail That Makes for Slow Progress; But Worth It 2 décembre 2014
Par Ronald W. Costen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Jerusalem the Biography
A rich and intriguing book, and packed with detail that makes for slow progress

I have read this book as part of a graduate course I am taking on the Biblical Lands. It is packed with information, almost too much so, in that it covers Jerusalem from its beginnings as a small Jebusite town of less than 15 acres and 1,200 inhabitants to the present as an urbane, divided, internally warring city of great economic and political contrasts. Jerusalem is presently controlled by the State of Israel and parts of it are nominally shared with the Palestinian Authority. It stands at the cross roads of vast political and economic conflict between Western powers and developing Islamic national, and pan-national resistance to that control. The one time cooperation of the Muslims to “go along to get along” has gone and now Jerusalem and neighboring Muslim nations are in a virtual state of war with the so called “Islamic State” which seeks to impose its political control across national boundaries and implement fundamentalist Islam, such as has not been seen in millennia. To implement this “Islamist” control the ISIS fighters have mounted a war of terrorism, imprisonment and decapitation which is made real to the world through media disseminated via the internet.
What is most striking to me is that Jerusalem is the holy site for three monotheistic religions and the essence of what Montefiore reports is the wholesale slaughter, plundering, and looting of the occupants of Jerusalem, and the political despotism that has controlled Jerusalem across the millennia. The political elite of Jerusalem have come from across the face of the earth and seemingly the prime motivation is not that of religious sanctity but economic and political gain. Montefiore reports that the sacred Jewish, Christian and Islamic holy sites in many instances are carried on in a carnival atmosphere focused on the core economic activity of Jerusalem, tourism.
Montefiore recites very carefully the history of those that have controlled and directed the destiny of Jerusalem. Always that control has been vested in one or another religious group of the three monotheistic religions. What I find ironic and of note is what Montefiore reports in Chapter 40, entitled “Arab City, Imperial City 1870-1880.” His opening sentence of the chapter, is telling: “The real Jerusalem was like a Tower of Babel in fancy dress….Ottoman officers wore embroidered jackets coupled with European uniforms; Ottoman Jews, Armenians and Arab Christians and Muslims sported frock-coats….” He continues on page 377 and comments that all of the religions, after the end of the Islamic Ramadan fast celebrated with a feast and fair mode outside of the city walls. “During the Jewish festival of Purim, Muslim and Christian Arabs dressed up in traditional Jewish costumes, and all three religions attended the Jewish Picnic held at the tomb of Simon the Just north of the Damascus Gate. Jews presented their Arab neighbors with matzah and invited them to the Passover Seder dinner, while the Arabs returned the favor by giving the Jews newly baked bread when the festival ended. Jewish mohels often circumcised Muslim children.” And on the chapter continues reciting the ways that Jews, Christians and Muslims cooperated in that 19th century period; all of which has now come crashing down.
Bottom line, this is a wonderful book that requires concentration and persistence. One is also helped by a love of history and a passing acquaintance with many of the issues and historical periods covered.
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