Jerusalem is more than a holy city built of stone. Domain of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, Jerusalem is a perpetual contest, and its shrines, housing projects, and bulldozers compete in a scramble for possession. Now one of Jerusalem's most respected authorities presents a history of the city that does not fall prey to any one version of its past. Meron Benvenisti begins with a reflection on the 1996 celebration of Jerusalem's 3000-year anniversary as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel. He then juxtaposes eras, dynasties, and rulers in ways that provide grand comparative insights. But unlike recent politically motivated histories written to justify the claims of Jews and Arabs now living in Jerusalem, Benvenisti has no such agenda. His history is a polyphonic story that lacks victors as well as vanquished. He describes the triumphs and defeats of all the city's residents, from those who walk its streets today to the meddlesome ghosts who linger in its shadows. Benvenisti focuses primarily on the twentieth century, but ancient hatreds are constantly discovered just below the surface.
These hostilities have created intense social, cultural, and political interactions that Benvenisti weaves into a compelling human story. For him, any claim to the city means recognizing its historical diversity and multiple populations. A native son of Jerusalem, Benvenisti knows the city well, and his integrated history makes clear that all of Jerusalem's citizens have enriched the Holy City in the past. It is his belief that they can also do so in the future.
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(229mm x 152mm x 19mm)
University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
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US Kirkus Review »
A wonderfully lucid historical, sociological, cultural, and religious guide to the world's most revered and conflict-ridden city, where "the myths of the ancient fathers are the essence of local politics." A former deputy mayor of Jerusalem and author of, most recently, Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land (1995), Benvenisti notes how both Jews and Arabs have greatly expanded Jerusalem's borders since Israel and Jordan agreed to divide the city in 1948, and particularly since Israel's conquest of East Jerusalem and the city's reunification in 1967. He is especially interesting on the anthropology of urban development, noting how "every house built and every tree planted came to be seen as a quasi-military stronghold in the national struggle for spatial and demographic dominance." Benvenisti parcels out blame to all sides for the interreligious suspicions and neighborhood balkanization that characterize the city's political and socioeconomic life. For example, although longtime Mayor Teddy Kollek preached the glories of an "urban [ethnic] mosaic," his administration practiced otherwise: Only six percent of his proposed 1992 budget was earmarked for Arab neighborhoods. Yet Israeli rule has benefited the Arab population economically and must be seen in the context of the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem (1948 - 67), when 80 percent of the 50,000 Jewish gravestones on the Mount of Olives were desecrated. Benvenisti writes especially well on the intricate spiritual politics of the Temple Mount (site of the city's two great mosques, as well as the Western Wall, its sacred revered Jewish site), and clearly summarizes the major approaches to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute over Jerusalem, while wisely steering clear of endorsing any single approach. This well-written, clear-headed work is a significant contribution to the pursuit of a diplomatic agreement on Jerusalem. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Meron Benvenisti
Meron Benvenisti is a former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and the author of numerous books, including Conflicts and Contradictions (1986) and Intimate Enemies: Jews and Arabs in a Shared Land (California, 1995).