Non­fic­tion

Jerusalem: The Biography

  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

The author’s great-great uncle, Sir Moses Mon­te­fiore (17841885) had a tremen­dous influ­ence on the city of Jerusalem and mod­ern-day Israel. Per­haps that is what moti­vat­ed Simon to tack­le this mon­u­men­tal task: a his­to­ry of the only city that exists twice — in heav­en and on earth” — from the Bronze Age through the cur­rent nego­ti­a­tions on the city’s final status.” 

With a keen eye for detail, the author parades for the read­er the inva­sions of Jerusalem, after the Jew­ish Kings, by the Per­sians, Mace­do­nians, Romans, Arabs, Cru­saders, and Ottomans. The lead­ers of these groups— known to many only as stat­ues or paint­ings in muse­ums — come alive with their intel­li­gence (most­ly wicked), sav­agery, foibles, and even bed­room peccadilloes. 

How­ev­er, it is per­haps Jerusalem’s his­to­ry from the eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry on through which the read­er gains the most new insight into the deci­sions of past lead­ers quot­ed today to build cre­dence for one argu­ment or another. 

The Epi­logue, in which the author attempts to sketch Jerusalem’s like­ly future, left this review­er want­i­ng but that is not Sebag Montefiore’s fault. He is a his­to­ri­an, after all, and nev­er intend­ed to join the ranks of Jon­ah, Mic­ah, and Nahum, the prophets who walked Jerusalem in Bib­li­cal times. 

This book should inter­est all who feel close to Jerusalem and want to con­nect with the his­to­ry of those stones we and oth­ers trea­sure so much. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, geneal­o­gy, index, maps, notes, photographs.

Harold Jacob­sohn was born in Colom­bia and lives with his fam­i­ly in Del­ray Beach, FL, where he is in the real estate busi­ness. He is a trustee of The Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in New York and Don­na Klein Jew­ish Acad­e­my in Boca Raton, Florida.

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