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  • 8/27/2006

Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths

by Karen Armstrong

Product Details

Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (April 29, 1997)
Language: English
ISBN: 0345391683
Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches

Editorial Reviews

On the 3000th anniversary of David's capture of Jerusalem, Armstrong (A History of God, LJ 9/15/93) wrote this book "to find out what a holy city was" and to see how it is holy to the Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Her work is a historical commentary based on contemporary accounts from the earliest mention of Jerusalem to 1995, thus differing from Hershel Shanks's Jerusalem (LJ 11/15/95), which focuses on archaeology, and from City of the Great King (LJ 2/15/96), which highlights specific aspects of religious attitude as reflected in art and intellectual history. The concepts of replacing God with the sacred, mythology as an ancient form of psychology, and the symbolism of sacred geography, architecture, and rituals as expressing truths about the inner life are all interwoven throughout the text. Though Armstrong overvalues speculation in promoting her own ideas, e.g., she confidently bases her argument that David and Solomon's court and society in Jerusalem was Jebusite on an elaborate sequence of "perhaps," "could also," and "may have been" statements, her narrative is sprightly and interesting.
From Library Journal

Splendid . . . Eminently sane and patient . . . Essential reading for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.
The Washington Post

Her book is very good, admirable for being concise and evenhanded in discussing the disputed terrain. Throughout, Ms. Armstrong maintains her focus, never losing sight of the city as her subject. The historical details she cites can be fascinating.
The New York Times, Gustav Niebuhr

In her award-winning History of God (1993), Armstrong traced humanity's circuitous route toward monotheism. Now, in this compelling companion volume, she examines how the belief in a single God manifests itself in a sense of sacred geography, the idea that a particular setting can make possible the transcendence necessary to connect the individual with the divine. That Jerusalem has served, in different ways, as sacred space for the world's three dominant monotheistic religions has been both the city's blessing and its curse. With clarity, compassion, and remarkable eloquence, Armstrong leads us along a more than 4,000-year path--from the reign of David through the Babylonian captivity, the destruction of two Jewish temples, the Roman occupation, the early Muslem period, the Crusades, the Ottoman era, and on to the establishment of the state of Israel and the current Palestinian conflict. Throughout her chronicle of this always contentious and often bloody history, Armstrong stresses the relative failure of all three religions to practice the principles of "practical charity and social justice" that were crucial to the cult of Jerusalem from the very beginning: "All its monotheistic conquerors have had to face the fact that Jerusalem was a holy city to other people before them. Since all three faiths insist on the absolute and sacred rights of the individual, the way that the victors treat their predecessors in the Holy City must test the sincerity of their ideals." The tragic conclusion is that none of those ideals have fared very well, yet Armstrong is not without hope: "the history of Jerusalem teaches us that nothing is irreversible." Just as Jerusalem has mythic meaning for three religions, so its story has mythic meaning for all humanity. Armstrong's words reverberate wherever conquerors mistreat the conquered, and wherever barbed wire scars the landscape, sacred or secular. This is history at its most powerful.Bill Ott -From Booklist

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