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Jerusalem: City of longing

1 rating: 5.0
An archeological history by SImon Gladhill
1 review about Jerusalem: City of longing

Stones crying out

  • Aug 15, 2014
I went to the library with a newer book on the history of Jerusalem on my wish list, but when I got to the shelf and saw how many pages it was I realized I didn't want to tackle it.   Then I saw Gladhill's more compact combination of history, travel guide, archaeology and architecture, and I am glad I did.

I have never been to Jerusalem and am reaching the stage and age of life where (never say never but . . . ) all things still being possible, many things probably won't happen.  So if I never get there, this book lets me feel and see the city from the perspectives as if I had been an experienced traveler there.  I almost feel as if I had been there, or even f I had been without reading Gladhill I would be missing essential details about what I had seen.

He starts with chapters (each with simple maps and pictures of the highlighted places) on the central location for each of the three world religions that contest for the hearts and minds of Christians (the Church of the Holy Sepulchure), Jews (The Western Wall) and Muslims (the Dome of the Rock).  The immediacy of Jerusalem (and this book) is that here, they also contend for streets, ruins, and rocks in very virulent and sometimes physically violent conflicts.  He walks you around and through the monuments, the people who control them, and the history (often disputed) and archeology (sometimes dubious) that gives them spiritual meaning.

He then expands out to look at the city around the monumental centers, the "oldest" city underground still being discovered and mapped by archaeologists, and the Victorian and then the modern city that surrounds the City of David.  I was surprised to learn of the 19th and 20th century interest in the city by Germany, Russia, France and of course England in building in and around Jerusalem.  Gladhill calls it a surprisingly Victorian city.

I must confess to being serendipitously surprised at how much I enjoyed and how quickly I devoured this book.  Finding it was a small testament to the power of browsing books on paper in even a moderately well stocked library or bookstore.  Gladhill writes with quick simple pace and brings all the elements in to play in a way that always caught my attention, my eye, and my humor.  If this is your only trip to Jerusalem, as it is likely to be mine, it will be a rewarding trip.

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