“This is an essential book for those who wish to understand a city that remains a nexus of world affairs.” —Booklist (starred)
Jerusalem is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, fanaticism, bloodshed, and coexistence, from King David to the 21st century, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
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 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.
In this masterful narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore brings the holy city to life and draws on the latest scholarship, his own family history, and a lifetime of study to show that the story of Jerusalem is truly the story of the world.
A New York Times Notable Book
Jewish Book Council Book of the Year
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.16(w) x 9.08(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
SIMON SEBAG MONTEFIORE is a historian of Russia and the Middle East. Catherine the Great and Potemkin was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar won the History Book of the Year Prize at the British Book Awards. Young Stalin won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Award, and le Grande Prix de la biographie politique. Jerusalem: The Biography was a worldwide best seller. Montefiore’s books are published in more than forty languages. He is the author of the novels Sashenka and One Night in Winter, which won the Paddy Power Political Fiction Book of the Year Award in 2014. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Montefiore graduated from Cambridge University, where he received his PhD. He lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
By Simon Sebag Montefiore
VintageCopyright © 2012 Simon Sebag Montefiore
All right reserved.
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.”
Excerpted from Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore Copyright © 2012 by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xiii
Lists of Family Trees and Maps xix
Notes on Names, Transliterations and Titles xxxi
Part 1 Judaism
1 The World of David 17
2 The Rise of David 23
3 The Kingdom and the Temple 26
4 The Kings of Judah 35
5 The Whore of Babylon 45
6 The Persians 52
7 The Macedonians 58
8 The Maccabees 70
9 The Romans Arrive 76
10 The Herods 83
11 Jesus Christ 100
12 The Last of the Herods 116
13 Jewish Wars: The Death of Jerusalem 128
Part 2 Paganism
14 Aelia Capitolina 135
Part 3 Christianity
15 The Apogee of Byzantium 151
16 Sunset of the Byzantines: Persian Invasion 166
Part 4 Islam
17 The Arab Conquest 177
18 The Umayyads: The Temple Restored 187
19 The Abbasids: Distant Masters 197
20 The Fatimids: Tolerance and Lunacy 202
Part 5 Crusade
21 The Slaughter 217
22 The Rise of Outremer 226
23 The Golden Age of Outremer 231
24 Stalemate 243
25 The Leper-King 252
26 Saladin 258
27 The Third Crusade: Saladin and Richard 268
28 The Saladin Dynasty 274
Part 6 Mamluk
29 Slave to Sultan 287
30 Decline of the Mamluks 295
Part 7 Ottoman
31 The Magnificence of Suleiman 303
32 Mystics and Messiahs 306
33 The Families 320
Part 8 Empire
34 Napoleon in the Holy Land 329
35 The New Romantics: Chateaubriand and Disraeli 334
36 The Albanian Conquest 342
37 The Evangelists 347
38 The New City 366
39 The New Religion 370
40 Arab City, Imperial City 376
41 Russians 384
Part 9 Zionism
42 The Kaiser 391
43 The Oud-Player of Jerusalem 400
44 World War 412
45 Arab Revolt, Balfour Declaration 420
46 The Christmas Present 435
47 The Victors and the Spoils 447
48 The British Mandate 455
49 The Arab Revolt 468
50 The Dirty War 481
51 Jewish Independence, Arab Catastrophe 496
52 Divided 504
53 Six Days 511
Family Trees 545