Jerusalem, by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Montefiore presents more than 3,000 years of Jerusalem’s history. He begins his story with King David, but his account could have begun even earlier --the city was already ancient, he writes, when David captured the citadel. Although its name literally means “City of Peace”, it has been the site of more fanaticism, tragedy and political intrigue than any other city on earth. It was destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. It has been ruled by Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Mumluks, Arabs, Albanians, Germans and the British. Still today as a “Holy City” of three great world religions, Jerusalem claims the interest and loyalty of millions.
Montefiore weaves into his story an assortment of leaders, authorities, heroes, villains and oddities. In addition to biblical characters, Herod the Great, Cleopatra, Baldwin IV (The Leper-King), Saladin, Suleiman, Jazzar the Butcher, Wasif Jawhariyyeh (the Oud-Player), Rasputin and Lawrence of Arabia were my favorites. Of particular interest were the rituals, quarrels and indignities associated with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The status of Jerusalem remains to this day one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Montefiore provides an excellent summary of the events, personalities and circumstances that continue to shape and trouble Jerusalem, the Holy City on a hill.