From Publishers Weekly
Goldhill, professor of Greek at Cambridge (The Temple of Jerusalem
), provides an illuminating archeological, architectural and historical guide to Jerusalem's most important holy and secular sites from biblical times to the present. He loves the city, but doesn't romanticize either its past or its present, and a theme throughout is that the city of peace has always been a place of contention. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all vie for supremacy in the city, but many claims to authenticity are false, says Goldhill. He debunks, for example, Israeli archeologist Eilat Mazar's claim to have discovered King David's palace. Ironies abound in a city where the Abrahamic faiths are not only embattled but also intermingled; the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has long been held by a Muslim family. As Goldhill explores Jerusalem during the Victorian period, which he claims laid the groundwork for much of the modern city, the impact of British mandatory rule, and the city today, he faces head-on the difficulty of telling the history of a place where every fact is contested by conflicting nationalist narratives. This is a highly knowledgeable and beautifully written look at both the heavenly and the earthly Jerusalem. (May)
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The historical range of responses to Jerusalem, from lofty piety to base aggression toward the holy city’s religious sites, can be found in this fond yet palpably ambivalent archaeological and architectural guide. Goldhill offers it not for the see-and-flee tourist but also for visitors ruminating over the city’s contested history. Recommending an orienting walk atop the wall of the Old City, Goldhill sequentially leads the reader into the three focal destinations for religious pilgrims: the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians; the Western Wall/Temple Mount for Jews; and the Haram al-Sharif/Dome of the Rock complex for Muslims. Respectfully explaining the spiritual significance of these and other shrines around Jerusalem, significance acquired through either scripture or the veneration of centuries, is a forte of Goldhill. Yet coursing through his discussions of the relevant archaeology is the irony that stones seen by the saintly should have witnessed conquest and desecration. Such is Jerusalem’s dilemma, one posed with tact in Goldhill’s informative book, replete with insights to move or irritate any religious or political persuasion. --Gilbert Taylor
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