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A History of Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths [Paperback]

Karen Armstrong
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 July 1997
Jerusalem has probably cast more of a spell over the human imagination than any other city in the world. Held by believers to contain the site where Abraham offered up Isaac, the place of the crucifixion of Christ and the rock from which the prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven, Jerusalem has been celebrated and revered for centuries by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Such is the symbolic power of this ancient city that its future status poses a major obstacle to a comprehensive regional peace in the Middle East. This work traces the turbulent history of Jerusalem from the prehistoric era, the Biblical period, Jerusalem under the Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, British, Jordanians and since, 1967, the Israelis. It examines its political and cultural role through history, its personalities, art, architecture and the conflicts which have beset it for more than 2000 years.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (24 July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002558513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002558518
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 410,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘A wonderful book: wise and compassionate, lucid and intelligent, balanced and fair.’
William Dalrymple

‘A triumph’
Ian Gilmour, London Review of Books

‘Splendid … essential reading for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.’ John Ash, Washington Post

‘Deftly told … Armstrong is a knowledgable guide, and this is a sober and articulate tour of a complex subject and a city where, as she puts it, history is a dimension of the present.’ James Owen, Literary Review

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Jerusalem has probably cast more of a spell over the human imagination than any other city in the world. Held by the faithful to contain the mountain upon which Abraham offered up Isaac, the site of the Hebrew Temple, the hill of Christ's crucifixion, the tomb of the Virgin Mary and the rock from which the prophet Muhammed ascended to heaven, the city has been celebrated and revered for centuries by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Karen Armstrong uncovers each layer of the history of this great palimpsest of a city. Her book is a history of the city – and it is more than that: it is, in Karen Armstrong's words, "an attempt to find out what Jews, Christians and Muslims have meant when they say the city is 'holy' to them, and point out some of the implications of Jerusalem's sanctity in each tradition."

"A luminous history of Jerusalem… [Armstrong's] book, imbued with sympathy for all three religions, added to careful scholarship and deep knowledge of theology and history, is a triumph."
IAN GILMOUR, 'London Review of Books'

"It is a brave person who ventures into this historical minefield… But a book has been published which is the closest we are likely to get to historical balance on the subject. This is Karen Armstrong's excellent 'History of Jerusalem'… She gives space to the hopes and aspirations of all the people for whom Jerusalem is holy… There is a vital need for an even-handed chronicler like Karen Armstrong, who is not afraid to stand up and speak unwelcome truths. A thread of real compassion runs through her book."

"A book to be taken in large gulps… 'A History of Jerusalem' combines a flowing narrative with Karen Armstrong's accustomed sharp breaks for stimulation… This book should be read, not only by travellers and potential travellers in Jerusalem, but by all of us. Jerusalem remains the most remarkable place in the world and Karen Armstrong is as good a guide as we could want."
STEPHEN TUMMIN, 'Daily Telegraph'

"Balancing awesome erudition with admirable clarity and elegance, Karen Armstrong's book guides the general reader through … what, since Biblical times seems to have been a minefield of ethnic and religious sensibility… A sobering study in human intolerance."

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and Enjoyable 22 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Karen Armstrong has written a book which is both informative and enjoyable to read. She takes us from the first settlements in this area right up to the present day. She shows us how important the ownership of both land and buildings has been and is to the occupants of this city. Throughout its history there has been a struggle for ascendancy between Jews, Christians and Muslims.Various holy buildings have been demolished, added on to or built over as they have passed between the different religons. Not only disputes between the different faiths but also amongst the different Christian sects The author gives a very fair and balanced account and helps the reader, who may be looking at Jerusalam from a western Christian point of view, to have a better understanding of the Muslims position. She points out that when Saladin took Jerusalam from the crusaders the Christians were allowed to leave and were not slaughtered, even though this meant some of them left for the coast in order to carry on fighting I would say this book is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the dilemma that Jerusalam poses today and how peace in the Middle East will only come when Jerusalam is at peace.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A meditative history 16 Jan 2005
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
While this is a superb, fair-minded and empathetic history of the city which will be enlightening to all except very knowledgeable specialists, it is at the same time Karen Armstrong's meditation on the "sacred geography" conceived by the three faiths in its spiritual and its material form. She is very sympathetic to and receptive of the spiritual ideals of all three faiths, and is dismayed by how so often they have all been debased by bitter rivalries (between as well as within religions), by demands for exclusivity and domination, as well as by the "idolatry to see a shrine or a city as the ultimate goal of religion". This is something the wisest theologians - few, alas, in number - have taught. At the same time, however, a material shrine is one expression of one's spiritual identity, so that the perceived threat or the destruction of a shrine - let alone expulsions and exile - are experienced as violations of one's spiritual identity. She shows that the potency of religious symbolism is such that even secular nationalism (to which she perhaps does not pay quite enough attention) has recourse to it. She shows how the best periods in the history of the city have been those few when the rulers of one faith or ethnicity have respected the faith, ethnicity and buildings of another. She is not optimistic that such wisdom is available in Jerusalem in the near future.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was bought for a friend, who is delighted with the learning and general approach to this topic (History of Jerusalem)
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