Friday, March 15, 2013


Jerusalem: The BiographyJerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating journey through the long history of Jerusalem - the city revered by so many religions and sects. Montefiore highlights the major events and individuals through the different historical eras. He also presents the broader historical, political, and social contexts that have influenced the fate of the city. Given the ambitious nature of this project, it is only natural that he is forced to cover issues, events, and descriptions of individuals in a cursory way. At times this leaves the reader thirsting for more detail. However, it also allows the author to keep the narrative moving forwards without getting bogged down in details or going off on tangents, which would be all to easy to do. As the book progresses, Montefiore reveals the brutal and bloody history that is so gruesome that at times it borders on the farcical. For example, there were several occasions the Jews lost control of the city and ended up being slaughtered because the enemy attacked on the Sabbath when the Jews would refuse to fight. In a different instance, an incompetent invader tried to behead a resident, ineptly hacking at a prisoners neck who complained, "Ow, you are hurting me!"

The few illustrations provide vivid visuals of the places and characters involved in the city's history. Montefiore also provides key genealogies of the major families that controlled the city that I often referred to.

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