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

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

James Carroll’s urgent, masterly Jerusalem, Jerusalem uncovers the ways in which the ancient city became a transcendent fantasy that ignites religious fervor unlike anywhere else on earth. That fervor animates American history as much as it does the Middle East, in the present as deeply as in the past.

In Carroll’s provocative reading of the deep past, the Bible came into being as an act of resistance to the violence that threatened Jerusalem from the start. Centuries later, holy wars burned apocalyptic Jerusalem into the Western mind, sparking expressly religious conflict among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The heat stretched from Richard the Lionheart to Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, whose World War I conquest of the city relit the fuse for a war that still rages.

Carroll’s brilliant leap is to show how, as Christopher Columbus was dispatched from the Crusades-obsessed Knights Templar’s last outpost in Iberia, the New World too was powerfully shaped by the millennial obsessions of the City on a Hill — from Governor Winthrop to Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson 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 Jerusalem fever is the key that unlocks world history, and the diagnosis that gives us our best chance to reimagine peace.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547549057

  • ISBN-10: 0547549059

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 03/09/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

  • Age(s): 14,15,16

  • Grade(s): 9-12

James Carroll

James Carroll

James Carroll was raised in Washington, D.C., and ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1969. He served as a chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974, then left the priesthood to become a writer. A distinguished scholar- in-residence at Suffolk University, he is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a regular contributor to the Daily Beast. His critically admired books include Practicing Catholic, the National Book Award–winning An American Requiem, House of War, which won the first PEN/Galbraith Award, and the New York Times bestseller Constantine’s Sword, now an acclaimed documentary.
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  • 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 of my nonfiction favorites." - Library Journal

  • 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 


     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 


     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 


     Muslims came to Jerusalem as occupiers in 637, only five years after 

    the death of...

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547549057

  • ISBN-10: 0547549059

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 03/09/2011

  • Carton Quantity: 1

  • Age(s): 14,15,16

  • Grade(s): 9-12

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