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With majestic sweep and sparkling detail, this magnificent volume brings to life the great and ancient drama of the world's holiest city on the eve of a new millennium. Some three thousand years ago King David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made the city his capital. There Solomon built the Temple and the Jewish people found their spiritual center. From its glory under the House of David to its emergence a thousand years later as the birthplace of Christianity, from its destruction by the Romans to its conquest by the forces of Islam and its Crusader and Ottoman periods, Jerusalem has been endlessly revered and warred over, passionately celebrated and desecrated. Mining the rich evidence of this remarkable history, the world-renowned authors gathered here conjure the Holy City as it has appeared in antique Hebrew texts; in the testimony of Jewish and Christian pilgrims and in art; in medieval Islamic literature and in western nineteenth-century accounts; in maps and mosaics and architecture through the ages.
Here is Jerusalem in its physical splendor, the sun rising over the Mount of Olives to touch the golden crown of the Dome of the Rock and warm the crenelated walls of the Old City, with its foundations from the days of the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great, its seven gates and Jewish, Christian, Armenian, and Muslim quarters marked out by the Roman decumanus and the Byzantine cardo. Above the Ramban Synagogue, established by Nachmanides in 1267, looms the minaret of the fifteenth-century Sidi Umar Mosque. Nearby are the foundations and apses of the Crusader Church of St. Mary of the German Knights, which in turn abuts the underground Herodian Quarter, with its fresco-covered walls, mosaic floors, and opulent baths. Remnants of the Nea Church erected by Justinian in 543 and of the Ayyubid tower from the thirteenth century stand within the Garden of Redemption, a memorial to the six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis.
Amid these marvels of geography and architecture, the authors evoke Jerusalem's spiritual history, the events and legends that have made the city the touching point between the divine and the earthly for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. They trace Jerusalem's fortunes as the City of David, as the site of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, as the "Furthest Shrine" from which the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. Writing from an enlightening variety of backgrounds and perspectives, the authors share a depth of feeling for their subject that imparts a warmth and immediacy to their depiction of the city in all its historic grandeur and religious complexity. An Armenian Jerusalemite once wrote that in the Holy City each person carries a mirror, but each holds it in only one direction. This book brings all these reflections together to create a living picture of Jerusalem not only in history but also in the hearts of those who call it home and those who revere it as a Holy City.
Rosovsky knows her Jerusalem: as a native, as the author of Jerusalemwalks and The Museums of Israel (not reviewed), and as a former curator at Harvard's Semitic Museum. If only she had expanded the city's chronology to a full-blown chapter, she could have prevented each contributor from reinventing the wheel of Jerusalem's long, checkered history. Three millennia of historical context is necessary for these articles on Jerusalem's demography, cartography, holy places, political profile, literature, and architecture. But the anthology's historical redundancy doesn't prevent F.E. Peters from speculating that King David built over Jebusite holy sites in Jerusalem, even though Judaism stands alone here as the only faith whose adherents did not (and cannot) build atop the ruins of churches or mosques. Muhammad Muslih does not attempt historical objectivity when he refers to the southern Syrians of centuries ago as Palestinians. Moreover, he refers to British and Jordanians in charge as "rulers," while the Israelis are "occupiers." In Jerusalem, politics and religion are intertwined, and the anthology's juxtaposed articles on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim views of the "Heavenly City" powerfully underline the different realities that each faith brings to these storied hills. The cited travel literature reveals that Jerusalem was visited throughout the centuries by Jews, despite the perils of religious animosities; by Christians, despite their religion's deemphasis of the Earthly Jerusalem; and by Muslims, despite the fact that Jerusalem is only their third holiest place.
The writing here is tolerable, considering the academic credentials of the contributors. This collection might have been less cumbersome, but it's still a fitting trimillennial offering for the world's coffee table.
1. The Inhabitants of Jerusalem
PART 1: THE HEAVENLY CITY
2. The Holy Places
F. E. Peters
3. Jerusalem in Jewish Spirituality
4. The Holy City in Christian Thought
5. The Spiritual Meaning of Jerusalem in Islam
6. Christian Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Robert L. Wilken
7. Jewish Pilgrimage after the Destruction of the Second Temple
PART 2: THE EARTHLY CITY
8. Jerusalem and Zionism
9. Palestinian Images of Jerusalem
PART 3: THE CITY IN LITERATURE, ART, AND ARCHITECTURE
10. Jerusalem in Medieval Islamic Literature
Jonathan M. Bloom
11. Nineteenth-Century Portraits through Western Eyes
12. Depictions in Modern Hebrew Literature
13. Geography and Geometry of Jerusalem
14. Jerusalem Elsewhere
15. The City in Jewish Folk Art
16. The Image of the Holy City in Maps and Mapping
Milka Levy-Rubin and Rehav Rubin
17. Two Islamic Construction Plans for al-Haram al-Sharif
18. Architecture of the City outside the Walls