In this book James Carroll, an award winning author, columnist and scholar, discusses exhaustively what lies within the two histories of what the three major faiths consider as their holy city, Jerusalem... the ethological history of Jerusalem and the actual history of the physical city. Throughout the book he distinguishes among the three faiths that occupied the holy city throughout its tumultuous past and how each sanctified the City as their own both literally and spiritually. Unlike any other city... only Jerusalem can claim such inspiration.
"Only Jerusalem, not Athens, Rome, or El Dorado, or the New York of immigrants' dreams - only Jerusalem occupies such a transcendent place in the imagination."
Indeed, the city is standing on holy ground... Carroll will take you on a journey from the "rock" that the primitive sacrificed other humans, "the rock" where Abraham was stopped from sacrificing his own son Isaac on Mount Moriah, where King David built his house on Mount Zion, or where Christ was crucified at Golgotha, and the Rock that Islam's Dome of the Rock enshrines.
What makes this read more engaging is that Carroll goes beyond the history of the city and its religions and characterizes how this city has become the symbol for a universal human condition: violence, which he refers to as "Jerusalem fever". And through human machinations and constructs, this primal and universal propensity for violence infects religious groups, political parties, and economic policy for the whole middle east and beyond. Carroll goes on to explains that while it seems intuitive that violence and religion are separate in their nature, the reality is that they are, in fact, inseparable, and shows the direct correlation of violence and the sacred. He goes on to write that this reality is evident in the historical developments of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which we all can agree have their own bloody story.
Carroll also eloquates how this city stands as "the fulfillment of history". Each of the major monotheistic faiths believe that Jerusalem holds the key to their apocalyptic hope where God finally answers his own mysteries. What began, Carroll explains, as a immeasurable and internal revelation evolved into a revelation centered around a space (the actual city of Jerusalem), and finally into a revelation of time - the End Time. Carroll really does make plain how Jerusalem inspires revelation in all dimensions for all people.
"For Jews, Muslims, and Christians, this real estate - "holy land" - is a magnet that draws to itself, and thereby organizes, the shaving of a million impressions of the transcendence".
This book is beautifully and exhaustively written that exposes the good and bad in religion and personal faith (of any religion), and I don't think that I poured over, or pondered over as much as any book as this one. As one who has read hundreds of history books over the years I will have to read this particular book over and over to peal back each layer of information and understanding. Excellent book! I recommend this read to anyone interested in learning more on the city itself, the Middle East conflict, world history, and yes, maybe even learning a little more about yourself!