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Jerusalem

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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....
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....
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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 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.


    From the Hardcover edition.

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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...

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The author paints a portrait of Jerusalem through the people who most shaped its history--from King David to today. Because of the denseness of the material, listening can be a challenge at times, but narrator John Lee carries the listener along with a conversational tone. He doesn't add any false dramatics, but he varies his voice enough so that listeners won't tune out. The author's writing style also is accessible. The material is evenhanded, giving no edge to any of the three monotheistic religions that put Jerusalem at the heart of their beliefs. R.C.G. (c) AudioFile 2011, Portland, Maine
  • President Bill Clinton, #1 holiday book pick on the Today Show

    "It's a wonderful book . . . [Montefiore] really tries to tell you what the life of the city has been like . . . why it means so much to everyone and why it's so spectacular. You fall in love with the city and it breaks your heart that people can't make peace over it, because it's a treasure."

  • Norman Lebrecht, Wall Street Journal
    "Magnificent . . . The city's first 'biography'--a panoptic narrative of its rulers and citizens, heroes and villains, harlots and saints . . . Montefiore barely misses a trick or a character in taking us through the city's story with compelling, breathless tension."
  • Jonathan Rosen, New York Times Book Review "Impossible to put down . . . A vastly enjoyable chronicle [with] many fascinating asides . . . Montefiore has a fine eye for the telling detail, and also a powerful feel for a good story."
  • Christopher Hart, Sunday Times (UK)
    "This is a fittingly vast and dazzling portrait of Jerusalem, utterly compelling from start to finish."
  • Philip Kerr, Newsweek
    "Immensely readable . . . Montefiore is that rarest of things: a historian who writes great, weighty tomes that read like the best thrillers . . . He has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading."
  • Colin Thubron, New York Review of Books "Ambitious and arresting . . . A powerful achievement, erudite without pedantry, and intimate with the complex archaeology of the city on the ground. In the matter of competing faiths, it is all but pitch-perfect . . . Jerusalem: The Biography is a double-headed book: at once a scholarly record and an exuberantly written popular tour de force."
  • Jackson Diehl, Washington Post Book World "Sweeping and absorbing . . . Montefiore is a master of colorful and telling details and anecdotes . . . His account is admirably dispassionate and balanced."
  • The Economist "Magisterial . . . As a writer, Montefiore has an elegant turn of phrase and an unerring ear for the anecdote that will cut to the heart of a story . . . It is this kind of detail that makes Jerusalem a particular joy to read."
  • Henry Kissinger "
    "Simon Sebag Montefiore's magnificent biography of Jerusalem has all the grandeur and sweep of her 3,000-year history. His masterful research and his gift for bringing it all to life make this fascinating work a treasure-trove for scholars and laymen alike."
  • Imre Lake, Newark Star-Ledger "In his stunningly comprehensive history, Simon Sebag Montefiore covers 3,000-plus years of the Earth's most fiercely contested piece of geography . . . Not only has Montefiore delivered a piece of superb scholarship, he has done so in an extremely easy-to-read style. The author tells the history of the complex relationships that existed between long-dead peoples in a manner that makes them seem human and understandable."
  • Michael Gove, Times (UK) "A Meisterwerk . . . As one becomes gripped by the rich, pungent detail of the lives of Jerusalem's rulers and the ruled, it becomes clear why this work was conceived as a biography. It provides a perfect, almost providentially designed, opportunity for one of our greatest biographers to display every one of his skills. Montefiore has a novelist's eye, a great journalist's nose and a great historian's touch . . . He manages to construct a history that no fair-minded reader can conclude is anything other than judicious, nuanced, balanced, and sensitive . . . When history is written this way one can never have too much."
  • Financial Times "Already a classic--a gripping and thought-provoking study of the city whose modern religious, political and ethnic rivalries can be understood only in the context of its preceding 3,000 years of history. Montefiore writes with verve, sensitivity and a keen eye for the entertaining historical detail."
  • Victor Sebestyen, Evening Standard
    "A masterly, vastly entertaining, and timely book . . . Montefiore succeeds because of the power of his storytelling. [He] has an unerring eye for the vivid detail to illustrate his point and the telling quote to place it in context . . . Some fascinating sources are entirely new to English readers . . . This is a compelling narrative and an important book."
  • Tom Holland, The Sunday Telegraph "An astoundingly ambitious, triumphantly epic history of the city . . . Montefiore's achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting material, can hardly be
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The Biography
Simon Sebag Montefiore
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