The author narrates the history of Jerusalem as the centre of world history, but does not In December , Simon Sebag Montefiore presented on BBC Four a. “Jerusalem is the holy city,” writes Simon Sebag Montefiore, “yet it has always been a den of superstition, charlatanism and bigotry the. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s history of Jerusalem is a labour of love and scholarship. It is a considerable achievement to have created a sense of.

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Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore: review

Some time in the late eighth century BC, a prophet named Isaiah foretold great things for his native city. The city forecast by Isaiah to become the cynosure of the nations was by the standards of Egypt or Assyria, the great empires of the day, an insignificant backwater.

Perched as it was among the barren Judaean hills, far removed from the centres of imperial power, its pretensions to global destiny could hardly have seemed more ludicrous.

Yet Isaiah was to be proved spectacularly right.

His city would indeed become the holiest — and the most contested — place in the world. His achievement, in fashioning a fluent narrative out of such daunting montefioore, can hardly be praised enough. There are few themes as demanding as the history of Jerusalem. Nowhere in the world are the threads of the present and a fabulously ancient past more densely woven.

Destroyed by the Babylonians, it then suffered an even more calamitous sack at the hands of the Romans: During the Middle Ages, Kurdish and Frankish warlords snarled over the city like dogs over a juicy bone. Today, of course, it is Israelis and Palestinians who compete to proclaim it their capital. No other dispute over a plot of land, in a world hardly lacking in such disputes, has proven quite so intractable, nor reverberated to quite such devastating effect. The revolt of the Jews against the Romans, or the building under the Umayyad caliphate of the Dome of the Rock, or the descent upon the city of the First Crusade, cannot hope to be explained in terms of material interests alone.


Shimmering impalpably over the rock and dust of the physical Jerusalem, there blazes a second, celestial city.

Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore – review | Books | The Guardian

This is the Zion for which the biblical prophets yearned; the new Jerusalem seen by St John descending from heaven; the city to which all Muslims will come on pilgrimage at the end of time. Defining the dimension of the supernatural is beyond the power of even the most gifted historian, and yet Jerusalem is hardly to be understood without it. Studied empathy with the yearnings of his various subjects is combined with a no less studied show of neutrality.

The beliefs of Jews, Christians and Muslims are treated throughout the book as being equally true — or perhaps, depending on the perspective of the reader, as equally bogus. That Sebag Montefiore himself is Jewish is hardly something montefiorr would have wished to veil: Sir Moses Montefiore, a key 19th-century sponsor of Jerusalem, is a major presence in the narrative, and there montefiire even room in a proud footnote for a Sebag Montefiore.

Nevertheless, Christian and Muslim readers will have no cause to complain of bias.


Jerusalem: The Biography – Wikipedia

Nor, it should be emphasised, will readers of no faith at all: Even as Sebag Montefiore treats the Gospels or the early lives ierusalem Muhammad with an almost gingerly show of respect, so does he counterpoint this with an often Rabelaisian show of earthiness. A Roman emperor who devotes himself to the sponsoring of urinals; an English princess so fat she mpntefiore to be propped up on her donkey; a Turkish adventurer who wrestles in his own excrement: A heavenly city Jerusalem may be; but it is also a relentlessly terrestrial one.

The achievement of this marvellous book is to fuse them into one biography.

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Jerusalem: The Biography

A complete edition of John James Audubon’s world famous The Birds of America, bound in linen and beautifully presented in a special slipcase. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Monday 31 December The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore: Like Telegraph Books on Facebook.

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