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

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

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“Provocative . . . the book brims with splendid insights.” — Los Angeles Times Jerusalem: the ancient City on a Hill, a place central to three major religions, a transcendent fantasy that ignites religious fervor unlike anywhere else on earth. James Carroll’s urgent, masterly Jerusalem, Jerusalem uncovers the history of the city and explores how it came to define culture in both the Middle East and America. Carroll shows how the New World was shaped by obsessions with Jerusalem, from Christopher Columbus’s search for a westward route to the city, to the fascination felt by American presidents from Abraham Lincoln 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 this fever is the key that unlocks world history, and the diagnosis that gives us our best chance to reimagine peace. “I dare you to read this book and see Jerusalem, or yourself, the same way.” — Bernard Avishai, author of The Hebrew Republic "So provocative and illuminating that it should not be overlooked by anyone who cares about the future of Jerusalem." — Jewish Journal

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  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547747620

  • ISBN-10: 0547747624

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $16.95

  • Publication Date: 04/24/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 24

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 Muhammad. That rapidity makes the point. The Prophet’s

    armies, sweeping up out of Arabia in an early manifestation of the

    cohesion generated by an Islamic feel for the Oneness of God, were

    also in hot pursuit of Jerusalem. Desert heat this time. The Muslims’

    visceral grasp of the city’s transcendent significance defined their first

    longing — and their first true military campaign. Islam recognizes

    God’s nearness only in recitation, with chanted sounds of the Qur’an

    exquisite in their elusiveness and allusiveness both. Yet the Prophet left

    a footprint in Jerusalem’s stone that can be touched to this day — an approximate

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547747620

  • ISBN-10: 0547747624

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $16.95

  • Publication Date: 04/24/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 24

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