Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World

by James Carroll

From the author of the New York Times best-selling Constantine's Sword comes a richly layered history, fueled by powerful insight, of the ancient city at the epicenter of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim experience.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547747620
  • ISBN-10: 0547747624
  • Pages: 432
  • Publication Date: 04/24/2012
  • Carton Quantity: 24

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About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book

    “Provocative . . . the book brims with splendid insights.” — Los Angeles Times

    Jerusalem: the ancient City on a Hill, a place central to three major religions, a transcendent fantasy that ignites religious fervor unlike anywhere else on earth. James Carroll’s urgent, masterly Jerusalem, Jerusalem uncovers the history of the city and explores how it came to define culture in both the Middle East and America.

    Carroll shows how the New World was shaped by obsessions with Jerusalem, from Christopher Columbus’s search for a westward route to the city, to the fascination felt by American presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan. Heavenly Jerusalem defines the American imagination — and always the earthly city smolders. Jerusalem fever, inextricably tied to Christian fervor, is the deadly — unnamed — third party to the Israeli-Palestinian wars. Understanding this fever is the key that unlocks world history, and the diagnosis that gives us our best chance to reimagine peace.

    “I dare you to read this book and see Jerusalem, or yourself, the same way.” — Bernard Avishai, author of The Hebrew Republic

    "So provocative and illuminating that it should not be overlooked by anyone who cares about the future of Jerusalem." — Jewish Journal

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    Chapter one

    Introduction: Two Jerusalems

    1. Heat
    This book is about the lethal feedback loop between the actual
    city of Jerusalem and the apocalyptic fantasy it inspires. It is a book,
    therefore, about two Jerusalems: the earthly and the heavenly, the mundane
    and the imagined. That doubleness shows up in the tension between
    Christian Jerusalem and Jewish Jerusalem, between European
    Jerusalem and Islamic Jerusalem, between Israeli Jerusalem and Palestinian
    Jerusalem, and between the City on a Hill and the Messiah
    nation that, beginning with John Winthrop, understands itself in its
    terms. But all recognizably contemporary conflicts have their buried
    foundations in the deep past, and this book will excavate them. Always,
    the story will curve back to the real place: the story of how humans living
    on the ridge about a third of the way between the Dead Sea and the
    Mediterranean have constantly been undermined by the overheated
    dreams of pilgrims who, age in and age out, arrive at the legendary
    gates with love in their hearts, the end of the world in their minds, and
    weapons in their hands.
     It is as if the two Jerusalems rub against each other like stone against
    flint, generating the spark that ignites fire. There is the literal fire of
    wars among peoples and nations, taken to be holy because ignited in
    the holy city, and that will be our subject. There is the fire of the God
    who first appeared as a burning bush,1 and then as flames hovering
    over the heads of chosen ones.2 That God will be our subject. But Jerusalem
    also ignites heat in the human breast, a viral fever of zealotry
    and true belief that lodged in the DNA of Western civilization. That
    fever lives — an infection but also, as happens with the mind on fire, an
    inspiration. And like all good metaphors, fever carries implications of
    its own opposite, for preoccupation with Jerusalem has been a religious
    and cultural boon, too. “Salvation is from Jerusalem,”3 the Psalms say,
    but the first meaning of the word “salvation” is health. That the image
    of fever suggests ecstasy, transcendence, and intoxication is also true
    to our meditation. “Look,” the Lord tells the prophet Zechariah, “I am
    going to make Jerusalem an intoxicating cup to all the surrounding
    peoples.”4
     Jerusalem fever consists in the conviction that the fulfillment of
    history depends on the fateful transformation of the earthly Jerusalem
    into a screen onto which overpowering millennial fantasies can be
    projected. This end of history is conceived variously as the arrival of
    the Messiah, or his return; as the climactic final battle at Armageddon,
    with the forces of angels vanquishing those of Satan (usually represented
    by Christians as Jews, Muslims, or other “infidels”). Later, the end of
    history sheds its religiosity, but Jerusalem remains at least implicitly the
    backdrop onto which millennial images are thrown by social utopias,
    whether founded by pilgrims in the New World, by communards in
    Europe, or by Communists. Ultimately, a continuous twentieth- and
    twenty-first-century war against evil turns out, surprisingly, to be centered
    on Jerusalem, a pivot point of both the Cold War and the War
    on Terror. Having begun as the ancient city of Apocalypse, it became
    the magnetic pole of Western history, doing more to create the modern
    world than any other city. Only Jerusalem — not Athens, Rome, or
    Paris; not Moscow or London; not Istanbul, Damascus, or Cairo; not
    El Dorado or the New York of immigrants’ dreams — only Jerusalem
    occupies such a transcendent place in the imagination. It is the earthly
    reflection of heaven — but heaven, it turns out, casts a shadow.
     Thus, across the centuries, the fancied city creates the actual city, and
    vice versa. “The more exalted the metaphoric status of Jerusalem,” as
    the Jerusalem scholar Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi writes, “the more dwarfed
    its geopolitical dimensions; the more expansive the boundaries of the
    Holy City, the less negotiable its municipal borders.”5 Therefore, war.
    Over the past two millennia, the ruling establishment of Jerusalem has
    been overturned eleven times, almost always with brute violence, and
    always in the name of religion.6 This book will tell the story of those
    wars — how sacred geography creates battlefields. Even when wars had
    nothing literally to do with Jerusalem, the city inspired them with the
    promise of “the glory of the coming of the Lord . . . with his terrible
    swiftsword,” as put by one battle hymn from far away. Metaphoric
    boundaries obliterate municipal borders, with disputes about the latter
    spawning expansions of the former, even to distant reaches of the
    earth.
     Jerusalem fever infects religious groups, certainly the three monotheisms
    that claim the city. Although mainly a Christian epic, its
    verses rhyme with what Judeans once did, what Muslims took to, what
    a secular culture unknowingly pursues, and what parties to the city’s
    contemporary conflict embody. Yet if Jerusalem is the fever’s chosen
    niche, Jerusalem is also its antidote. Religion, likewise, is both a source
    of trouble and a way of vanquishing it. Religion, one sees in Jerusalem
    as nowhere else, is both the knife that cuts the vein and the force
    that keeps the knife from cutting. Each tradition enlivens the paradox
    uniquely, and that, too, is the story.
     For Jews, Jerusalem, after the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians
    and then the Romans, means that absence is the mode of
    God’s presence. First, the Holy of Holies in the rebuilt Temple of biblical
    times was deliberately kept vacant — vacancy itself mythologized.
    Then, after the destruction by Rome, when the Temple was not rebuilt,
    the holy place was imagined in acts of Torah study and observance
    of the Law, with a return to Jerusalem constantly felt as coming “next
    year.” Throughout centuries of diaspora, the Jewish fantasy of Jerusalem
    kept communal cohesion intact, enabled survival of exile and oppression,
    and ultimately spawned Zionism.
     For Christians, the most compelling fact of the faith is that Jesus
    is gone, present only through the projections of sacramentalism. But
    in the ecstasies of evangelical fervor, Jesus can still be felt as kneeling
    in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood for “you.” So Jerusalem
    lives as the locus of piety, for “you” can kneel there, too. The ultimate
    Christian vision of the future — the Book of Revelation — is centered in
    the city of the Lord’s suffering, but now that anguish redeems the very
    cosmos. Even in the act of salvation, the return of Jesus to Jerusalem is
    catastrophic.
     Muslims came to Jerusalem as occupiers in 637, only five years after
    the death of Muhammad. That rapidity makes the point. The Prophet’s
    armies, sweeping up out of Arabia in an early manifestation of the
    cohesion generated by an Islamic feel for the Oneness of God, were
    also in hot pursuit of Jerusalem. Desert heat this time. The Muslims’
    visceral grasp of the city’s transcendent significance defined their first
    longing — and their first true military campaign. Islam recognizes
    God’s nearness only in recitation, with chanted sounds of the Qur’an
    exquisite in their elusiveness and allusiveness both. Yet the Prophet left
    a footprint in Jerusalem’s stone that can be touched to this day — an approximate

  • Reviews

    "A masterful look at the paradoxical city on a hill...a meditation unlike any book published this season, indeed a meditation for all seasons." - Boston Globe

    "Provocative" - San Francisco Chronicle

    "Jerusalem, Jerusalem [is] James Carroll's timely contribution to richer understanding of the conflict over this city....If you want to follow the twists and turns between Israelis and Palestinians over who may end up controlling what in the holy city and why, reading Carroll's book is a helpful place to begin." -St. Louis Today

    "[Jerusalem, Jerusalem brings a fresh interpretation of the city as well as the spiritual impetus of three monotheisitic religions' toehold in its long, bloody past....By reading this landmark book, those who think they know all there is to know about Jerusalem or the three religions that have coalesced around it will discover how much they didn't know." -Oklahoman

    the compelling follow-up to [Carroll's] best-selling Constantine’s Sword...his use of Jerusalem as a prism to examine the development of monotheism, and his prescription for what he believes might be a more positive future path, provide a powerful and provocative intellectual journey." - BookPage

    "one of the broadest and most balanced accounts of the city of King David in recent years...Conceptually profound, richly detailed, and wonderfully realized, this book brings to life the dynamic story of the Divided City." - STARRED, Publishers Weekly

    "Carroll’s writing is so compelling, so beautifully constructed, that, ironically, the book can be a very slow read. There is something on almost every page that makes the reader want to stop and contemplate. For those meeting Jerusalem for the first time, this volume makes a stunning introduction. For others, who have struggled with the city’s conundrums, either its symbolic meaning in the history of civilization or its place in the modern world, Carroll’s reflections will add clarity if not closure." - STARRED, Booklist

    "A sound, deeply felt study of Jerusalem as the 'cockpit of violence' for the three Abrahamic religions....Another winner from a skillful writer and thinker of the first rank." - Kirkus

    "Carroll here explores not Jerusalem but the idea of Jerusalem—how, from the Crusades to Christopher Columbus’s Jerusalem-centric view to the founding of Israel, the city has inspired passionate idealism and hence conflict....one of my nonfiction favorites." - Library Journal

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