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Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths Paperback – April 29, 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The city of Jerusalem stands as a religious crossroads unlike any place in history. As such, it possesses a volatile chemistry that--as we are made painfully through news reports and television--explodes on a regular basis. Karen Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun who teaches Judaism and is an honorary member of the Association of Muslim Social Services, has compiled a thorough narrative of the city's fascinating 3,000-year history. Though she emphasizes the city's religious turning points, she recounts battles, earthquakes and various other events, such as invasions by the Romans and the Crusaders, just a millennium apart, that nearly wiped out the city. Her comprehensive explanations provide a context to the current strife in Israel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

British religious scholar Armstrong (A History of God) has written a provocative, splendid historical portrait of Jerusalem that will reward those seeking to fathom a strife-torn city. Her overarching theme, that Jerusalem has been central to the experience and "sacred geography" of Jews, Muslims and Christians and thus has led to deadly struggles for dominance, is a familiar one, yet she brings to her sweeping, profusely illustrated narrative a grasp of sociopolitical conditions seldom found in other books. Armstrong spares none of the three monotheisms in her critique of intolerant policies as she ponders the supreme irony that the Holy City, revered by the faithful as symbol and site of harmony and integration, has been a contentious place where the faiths have fought constantly, not only with one another but within themselves, in bitter factions. Her condemnation of Israel's 1967 annexation of the Old City and East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War ("It was impossible for Israelis to see the matter objectively, since at the [Western Wall] they had encountered the Jewish soul"), however, pushes too far her theme of sacred geography as the physical embodiment of motivating myths and legends.-- they had encountered the Jewish soul"), however, pushes too far her theme of sacred geography as the physical embodiment of motivating myths and legends.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (April 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345391683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345391681
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In books concerning hot conflicts like the Middle East, it is commonplace to cover only part of the story or to concentrate on one set of events more so than others. This is understandable of course since most people with adequate interest in a topic typically have made up their minds and favor one of the conflicting sides. Not so with this book. I read this book with a critical eye, begging to find any evidence that the author is partial to anyone anyone, but in all of the 430 pages I could not find a single biased reference nor any significant omissions. By writing this wonderful comprehensive and well-researched history of Jerusalem, Karen Armstrong has done all of us concerned about the city a great favor. Throughout the 5000-year history of the city, this book describes in an unbiased tone the enormously interesting history of this hotly contested city. Many remarkable and little-known facts are can be found here. For example, I was surprised to learn that the history of Jerusalem extended for 2000 years before King David, its purported "founder". The book covers all the different eras of the city: the Canaanite, Egyptian, Israelite, Babylonian, Greek, Roman, Muslim, and Crusader eras. The last two chapters focus on the 20th century history of the city.
Though the author was a former catholic nun, she displays no bias whatsoever towards Christianity. The book displays the history of the city equally from the points of view of all three religious groups that care about it: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Thus the book dwells in detail about the extreme agony of the Jews for their loss of the city and their being forbidden to enter it during Byzantine Roman rule.
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I walked into this book having read several of Karen Armstrong's books, so I knew of her leanings that other reviewers have pointed out. Of course, if you are going to write about three major faiths, it is natural to expect some bias towards one of them. That aside, I found her history to be very interesting and helped put this city into a perspective I had not had before. She shows how an off the beaten path city became one of the most important places for three of the world's religions, and a contentious site of conflict. What Armstrong does well is to show the shifting lines that have occurred between areas of the city as various religious powers came to control. But more importantly she brings the various pieces of Jerusalem and puts them in a coherent organized narrative. Many of the places mentioned in the bible are put into perspective with each other, and their historical changes are traced over time. Even more useful is that the author generously includes maps throughout the book to show the changes and shifting lines of groups throughout time. As someone who knew little about the geography of Jerusalem, I found this to help keep all the players and movements straight. The book lags at points but overall moves very well through the centuries. This is an excellent overview history of this holy city and would be a very good introduction to the reader wishing to know more. It should not be the only book you read on the region, but rather use it as one view of the history which has brought us to the modern religious conflicts of the area.
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Format: Hardcover
As one who has studied and read much on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I greatly appreciated Armstrong's even-handedness in this book. It made it a pleasure to read. She has a way of making history so much fun.
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Format: Hardcover
If you're like me, you'll buy Karen Armstrong's Jerusalem just
after purchasing your plane ticket to the historic city. And
you'll try to read it before you leave. My advice: wait
until you're on the plane to begin reading--no guilt for not
getting to it before departing. The early chapters are better
read while en route, and the later chapters "live" while sur
rounded with the three faiths that have made Jerusalem the
most interesting city in the world. The old city still has
the same flavor, I'm sure, as it did centuries ago. The
Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and the Church of the Holy
Sepulchur are all infinitely more meaningful after reading Armstrong's history. So save the money that local guides want to charge you and read Armstrong's book, muster your self-control (if you have any) and wait until you're on your way to the holy city to read her
rich account of Jerusalem, a city that still needs our prayers
to live up to its name--"city of peace."
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Format: Paperback
Karen Armstrong writes very well. Her Jerusalem One City , Three Faiths traces the history of Jerusalem through its early Jewish rulers and then its Christian inhabitants under Roman rule , then under Muslim rulers and finally as a city in the state of Israel. The book was written in 1996 and ends with the assessment that the prospect of peace looks bleak. This has not changed in 2011. The Ballantine 2005 edition carries a wonderful interview with Armstrong.

There are two other outstanding books on Jerusalem. They are Jerusalem by F. E. Peters 712 pages Princeton Univ Pr (October 30, 1995) and Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore 688 pages Knopf (October 25, 2011).

FE Peters' book contains useful commentary as well as selections of eyewitness accounts from pilgrims and travellers to Jerusalem, and quotations from the Bible. Montefiore's book is the latest and it has a gripping historical narrative of the rulers who ruled Jerusalem as well as the politicians, saints and travellers associated with Jerusalem .
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