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4 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0006383475
Manufacturer : HarperCollins|
Release data : 03 January, 2005
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A meditative history
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.
This book seems to give the idea that it is a concise and accurate account of the History of Jerusalem but indeed it fails on many accounts. Armstrong has not sourced many of her accounts which leave the academic reader confused, questioning the authority of such a text. All in all a good read but questionable in an academic environment.
Informative and Enjoyable
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.