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

Saturday 23/December/2017 - 09:38 AM
Sada El Balad

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.

Paperback: 432 pages
Author: James Carroll
Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (April 24، 2012)
Language: English
Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches


About the Author
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 PENGalbraith Award، and the New York Times bestseller Constantine’s Sword، now an acclaimed documentary.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review
A Q & A With Author James Carroll

Q: How did you become so personally invested in Jerusalem?

A: When I was young، I was a Catholic priest. After the turmoil of the Sixties، as I began to lose my grip on the priesthood، I needed to retreat to a place of spiritual and emotional sustenance. I spent a summer in a monastery on the edge of Jerusalem، overlooking the hills of the Judean desert. In my time there، and especially during endless forays in the city itself، I encountered a new depth of faith. Jerusalem’s ancient resonance steadied me - not so much its traditional shrines، but its character as a place in which humans had transcended themselves age in and age out. It may seem odd to say so، but I came of age in Jerusalem. The figure of Jesus was quite real to me. I was able both to make the momentous decision to leave the priesthood، and to claim my Catholic faith in a new way. Of course، I was shocked by the contentions of Jerusalem، but those too were to the point. Where better for a young man in turmoil to find himself than in a place that is and has always been defined by turmoil?

Q: How did your work on anti-Semitism in Constantine’s Sword influence your perceptions of Jerusalem?

A: The Israelis and the Palestinians are trapped in a corner - but it’s not a corner of their own making. One of its walls is the long history of anti-Semitism that took root in Western civilization. Christian theology almost from the start assumes that Jews are to be exiled from the Jewish homeland. Christians take that exile - the so-called wandering Jew - as a proof of the claims that Jews reject. The collective، if unconscious، psyche of European culture is stamped with this denigration of Jews، tied to Jewish absence from Jerusalem. This accounts for much of the ambivalence about the Jewish return to Israel in 1948 (The Vatican، for example، did not recognize the state until 1994). It also accounts for a broad readiness to hold the State of Israel to higher standards of human rights than other states. Criticism of Israeli policies toward Palestinians is not anti-Semitism، but Israel’s continuing vulnerability is at least in part explained by a widespread visceral uneasiness with Jews at home in Jerusalem.

Q: What is the second wall of the corner trapping Israelis and Palestinians?

A: Well، of course، it is colonialism. Just as Jews are still somehow at the mercy of deep history، so are Arabs. In their case، it is the history of racist، European contempt for colonized people. It is wrong to equate Zionism with colonialism، but Palestinians have every reason to regard their situation as an unjust consequence of 19th and 20th century imperial intrusions. The British method of colonial domination depended on stirring up local conflicts، whether in Ireland، India، or Palestine. That method still casts a shadow over Jerusalem، where seeds of Jewish-Arab conflict were so efficiently planted by the colonizers. In fact، the British decimated Palestinian civic and cultural institutions well before Israelis came to power. European anti-Semitism and colonialism have left a crippling legacy that amounts to a third party in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - but that third party is unacknowledged and unidentified. No one who shares in Western civilization has the right to condescend to the Jews and Arabs who are locked in this combat. I wrote this book to name that third party because only then can its power be undone.

Q:But how is the rest of the world tied to Jerusalem and its problems?

A: TQuite profoundly، although mostly unconsciously. It is not too much to say that the Western imagination - not just Europe now، but also America - took root and flowered in Jerusalem، more even than in Athens، Rome، or any other place. This begins، of course، with the Bible، and with the story of Jesus - Jerusalem is ground zero of Jewish and Christian religion. But across the centuries، the city remained pivotal. At the Crusades، Christendom "lost" Jerusalem to the Muslims، and the Biblical idea of a heavenly Jerusalem took on new force. Jerusalem as fantasy and as dream shaped Europe’s idea of itself - and also its adventures and، ultimately، explorations. Christopher Columbus was driven by the idea of reclaiming Jerusalem، but so were the Puritans who came to New England. America understood itself from the start as a new Jerusalem، the "city on a hill." That vision influenced everyone from John Winthrop and Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin. Today، a new American Christian nationalism takes its energy from apocalyptic fantasies fixed upon Jerusalem - which plays out even in the ways U.S. foreign policy treats Israel.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. "Oh، Jerusalem، how often have I wept for you!" laments the psalmist. And well we should weep. For millennia، Jerusalem has been the meeting point of religion and culture، traditionalism and modernity، and the apparently inevitable violence that erupts over a particular faith's exclusive claim to the city. Carroll، author of the critically acclaimed Constantine's Sword، has given us one of the broadest and most balanced accounts in recent years of the city of King David—one centered on the concept of "sacred violence" as a path to redemption، a vision long engendered by Jerusalem and all that it represents. But he has another agenda—to analyze and interpret the intersections of history، theology، philosophy، and popular culture in a way that offers hope of an emerging religion that "celebrate life، not death." Given the long history of violence and death surrounding both the physical Jerusalem and the "imagined" city (e.g.، America as a "city on a hill")، is this even possible? The former Catholic priest remains optimistic that humanity will find a way to resolve the conflicts that are so much a part of its story. Conceptually profound، richly detailed، and wonderfully realized، this book brings to life the dynamic story of the divided city. (Mar.)

"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 conflict....one of my nonfiction favorites." - Library Journal

“Provocative... the book brims with splendid insights.” — Los Angeles Times
“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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