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An Enthralling And Rather Complicated Journey
on 26 February 2017
Simon Sebag Montefiore takes us on an enthralling and rather complicated journey through the troubled and ever-changing history of one the world's most respected and complex cities. So entangled is the history, that a viewer may need a pen and paper to take notes as the history is unfolding. Divided into three episodes, historian Montefiore uses his considerable knowledge and pedigree in Middle Eastern affairs to provide an overview of key moments in Jerusalem's history.
Montefiore visits and examines key religious sites, including the Western Wall, the last remnant of the second Jewish temple. Also the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre - the site of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And, the Al-Aqsa mosque as the third holiest sanctuary of Islam. He conducts interesting interviews with a wide range of different people connected with the city, both locals and foreigners.
Episode one "Wellspring of Holiness" explores how this incredible city came into being, explaining how it became so important to the three Abrahamic faiths. Montefiore chronologically documents the emergence of Jerusalem as a Jewish city under King David. He looks for remaining evidence of the construction of the first temple by Solomon through to the life, death and impact of Jesus and the eventual expulsion of the Jews by the ruling Romans.
Episode Two "Invasion, Invasion, Invasion" demonstrates how Islamic control affected Jerusalem. The construction of one of Islam's holiest shrines - the Dome of the Rock - and the crusaders' attempts to win it back for Christianity is detailed. And, the titanic match-up between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart is described. Throughout, Montefiore reveals that each conquering religious regime in Jerusalem adopted religious elements from previous regimes, and usually adapted the existing buildings and places of worship for their new role.
The final episode "Judgement Day" explores how Jerusalem rose from a desolate ruin after the crusades to be rebuilt as a focus for Islamic worship mainly under Turkish Ottoman rule. The rivalry and conflict between European nations battling for influence and control of the city is described, and the somewhat hollow promises of the British in the early part of the twentieth century creating many of the current day problems in the Middle East. And, the emergence of Jerusalem as the centre of Zionism and the nation of Israel is clearly documented.
Overall, Montefiore has produced an effective history of many of the key moments in the history of this iconic city. In truth, he could have used one or two more episodes to go into more detail, especially relating to the times of Jesus and later the period of Turkish Ottoman rule.