Jerusalem, Jerusalem : How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World

Edition: Reprint
Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2012-04-24
Publisher(s): Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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James Carroll's urgent, masterly Jerusalem, Jerusalemuncovers the ways in which the ancient city became, unlike any other in the worldreaching deep into our contemporary livesan incendiary fantasy of a city. In Carroll's provocative reading of the deep past, the Bible's brutality responded to the violence that threatened Jerusalem from the start. Centuries later, the mounting European fixation on a heavenly Jerusalem sparked both anti-Semitism and racist colonial contempt. The holy wars of the Knights Templar burned apocalyptic mayhem into the Western mind. Carroll's brilliant and original leap is to show how, as Christopher Columbus carried his own Jerusalemcentric worldview to the West, America too was powerfully shaped by the dream of the City on a Hillfrom Governor Winthrop to Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson to Ronald Reagan. The nuclear brinksmanship of the 1973 Yom Kippur War helps prove his point: religion and violence fuel each other, with Jerusalem the ground zero of the heat. To the standard set by Constantine's Sword, Jerusalem, Jerusalemis again a "rare book that combines searing passion . . . with a subject that has affected all our lives" ( Chicago Tribune).

Author Biography

James Carroll's critically admired books include Practicing Catholic, the National Book Award winning An American Requiem, House of War, which won the first PEN/GAL-braith Award, and the New York Times bestseller Constantine's Sword, now an acclaimed documentary.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Two Jerusalemsp. 1
Heatp. 1
Jerusalem Todayp. 5
Hicp. 13
A Personal Notep. 17
Deep Violencep. 24
The Clock of the Pastp. 24
Mark Makersp. 28
Enter Jerusalemp. 32
Sacrificep. 36
The Bible Resistsp. 44
Wartime Literaturep. 44
Wars That Did Not Happenp. 46
GodÆs Ambivalencep. 50
Conceived in Jerusalem, Born in Exile from Jerusalemp. 56
The Empty Templep. 64
AbrahamÆs Killp. 70
Apocalypse Thenp. 72
The Cross Against Itsesfp. 77
Jesus to Jerusalemp. 77
RomeÆs War and Its Consequencesp. 81
The New Templep. 89
Scapegoat Mechanismp. 95
The Violence of Christiansp. 99
Apocalypse Nowp. 106
The Rock of Islamp. 113
No god but Godp. 113
A1 Qudsp. 121
The Masterpiece Relicp. 126
Jerusalem Agonistesp. 132
1099p. 136
Knights Templarp. 139
Christopher the Christ Bearerp. 151
City on a Hillp. 155
Reformation Warsp. 155
Separatistsp. 166
The God of Peacep. 173
Return to Jerusalemp. 181
Temple Rootsp. 185
Jerusalem Marchersp. 189
Messian Nationp. 194
Jerusalem and Exilep. 194
The Printing Press and Ottoman Jerusalemp. 199
The Peaceful Crusadep. 205
Restorationismp. 209
Abrahams Altarp. 211
GodÆs Right Armp. 221
Apostolic Successionp. 225
Jerusalem Builded Herep. 231
The Last Crusaderp. 231
DiasporaÆs Endp. 240
Waiting to Baptize Youp. 243
Grand Muftip. 248
Eichmann in Jerusalemp. 255
Nakbap. 262
Soapp. 267
Twins in Traumap. 275
Millenniump. 278
The Temple Weaponsp. 278
Sacrifice Operativesp. 286
Crusadep. 292
Conclusion: Good Religionp. 296
Neither Secular Nor Sacredp. 296
Not GodÆs Way, But ManÆsp. 301
Learning from Historyp. 307
Notesp. 319
Bibliographyp. 382
Acknowledgmentsp. 394
Indexp. 397
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter one

Introduction: Two Jerusalems

1. Heat
This book is about the lethal feedback loop between the actual
city of Jerusalem and the apocalyptic fantasy it inspires. It is a book,
therefore, about two Jerusalems: the earthly and the heavenly, the mundane
and the imagined. That doubleness shows up in the tension between
Christian Jerusalem and Jewish Jerusalem, between European
Jerusalem and Islamic Jerusalem, between Israeli Jerusalem and Palestinian
Jerusalem, and between the City on a Hill and the Messiah
nation that, beginning with John Winthrop, understands itself in its
terms. But all recognizably contemporary conflicts have their buried
foundations in the deep past, and this book will excavate them. Always,
the story will curve back to the real place: the story of how humans living
on the ridge about a third of the way between the Dead Sea and the
Mediterranean have constantly been undermined by the overheated
dreams of pilgrims who, age in and age out, arrive at the legendary
gates with love in their hearts, the end of the world in their minds, and
weapons in their hands.
 It is as if the two Jerusalems rub against each other like stone against
flint, generating the spark that ignites fire. There is the literal fire of
wars among peoples and nations, taken to be holy because ignited in
the holy city, and that will be our subject. There is the fire of the God
who first appeared as a burning bush,1 and then as flames hovering
over the heads of chosen ones.2 That God will be our subject. But Jerusalem
also ignites heat in the human breast, a viral fever of zealotry
and true belief that lodged in the DNA of Western civilization. That
fever lives — an infection but also, as happens with the mind on fire, an
inspiration. And like all good metaphors, fever carries implications of
its own opposite, for preoccupation with Jerusalem has been a religious
and cultural boon, too. “Salvation is from Jerusalem,”3 the Psalms say,
but the first meaning of the word “salvation” is health. That the image
of fever suggests ecstasy, transcendence, and intoxication is also true
to our meditation. “Look,” the Lord tells the prophet Zechariah, “I am
going to make Jerusalem an intoxicating cup to all the surrounding
 Jerusalem fever consists in the conviction that the fulfillment of
history depends on the fateful transformation of the earthly Jerusalem
into a screen onto which overpowering millennial fantasies can be
projected. This end of history is conceived variously as the arrival of
the Messiah, or his return; as the climactic final battle at Armageddon,
with the forces of angels vanquishing those of Satan (usually represented
by Christians as Jews, Muslims, or other “infidels”). Later, the end of
history sheds its religiosity, but Jerusalem remains at least implicitly the
backdrop onto which millennial images are thrown by social utopias,
whether founded by pilgrims in the New World, by communards in
Europe, or by Communists. Ultimately, a continuous twentieth- and
twenty-first-century war against evil turns out, surprisingly, to be centered
on Jerusalem, a pivot point of both the Cold War and the War
on Terror. Having begun as the ancient city of Apocalypse, it became
the magnetic pole of Western history, doing more to create the modern
world than any other city. Only Jerusalem — not Athens, Rome, or
Paris; not Moscow or London; not Istanbul, Damascus, or Cairo; not
El Dorado or the New York of immigrants’ dreams — only Jerusalem
occupies such a transcendent place in the imagination. It is the earthly
reflection of heaven — but heaven, it turns out, casts a shadow.
 Thus, across the centuries, the fancied city creates the actual city, and
vice versa. “The more exalted the metaphoric status of Jerusalem,” as
the Jerusalem scholar Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi writes, “the more dwarfed
its geopolitical dimensions; the more expansive the boundaries of the
Holy City, the less negotiable its municipal borders.”5 Therefore, war.
Over the past two millennia, the ruling establishment of Jerusalem has
been overturned eleven times, almost always with brute violence, and
always in the name of religion.6 This book will tell the story of those
wars — how sacred geography creates battlefields. Even when wars had
nothing literally to do with Jerusalem, the city inspired them with the
promise of “the glory of the coming of the Lord . . . with his terrible
swiftsword,” as put by one battle hymn from far away. Metaphoric
boundaries obliterate municipal borders, with disputes about the latter
spawning expansions of the former, even to distant reaches of the
 Jerusalem fever infects religious groups, certainly the three monotheisms
that claim the city. Although mainly a Christian epic, its
verses rhyme with what Judeans once did, what Muslims took to, what
a secular culture unknowingly pursues, and what parties to the city’s
contemporary conflict embody. Yet if Jerusalem is the fever’s chosen
niche, Jerusalem is also its antidote. Religion, likewise, is both a source
of trouble and a way of vanquishing it. Religion, one sees in Jerusalem
as nowhere else, is both the knife that cuts the vein and the force
that keeps the knife from cutting. Each tradition enlivens the paradox
uniquely, and that, too, is the story.
 For Jews, Jerusalem, after the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians
and then the Romans, means that absence is the mode of
God’s presence. First, the Holy of Holies in the rebuilt Temple of biblical
times was deliberately kept vacant — vacancy itself mythologized.
Then, after the destruction by Rome, when the Temple was not rebuilt,
the holy place was imagined in acts of Torah study and observance
of the Law, with a return to Jerusalem constantly felt as coming “next
year.” Throughout centuries of diaspora, the Jewish fantasy of Jerusalem
kept communal cohesion intact, enabled survival of exile and oppression,
and ultimately spawned Zionism.
 For Christians, the most compelling fact of the faith is that Jesus
is gone, present only through the projections of sacramentalism. But
in the ecstasies of evangelical fervor, Jesus can still be felt as kneeling
in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood for “you.” So Jerusalem
lives as the locus of piety, for “you” can kneel there, too. The ultimate
Christian vision of the future — the Book of Revelation — is centered in
the city of the Lord’s suffering, but now that anguish redeems the very
cosmos. Even in the act of salvation, the return of Jesus to Jerusalem is
 Muslims came to Jerusalem as occupiers in 637, only five years after
the death of Muhammad. That rapidity makes the point. The Prophet’s
armies, sweeping up out of Arabia in an early manifestation of the
cohesion generated by an Islamic feel for the Oneness of God, were
also in hot pursuit of Jerusalem. Desert heat this time. The Muslims’
visceral grasp of the city’s transcendent significance defined their first
longing — and their first true military campaign. Islam recognizes
God’s nearness only in recitation, with chanted sounds of the Qur’an
exquisite in their elusiveness and allusiveness both. Yet the Prophet left
a footprint in Jerusalem’s stone that can be touched to this day — an approximate
and singular sacrament. To Muslims, Jerusalem is simply Al
Quds, “the Holy.”
 The three monotheisms of Jerusalem are thus nested in a perennial
present, a temporal zone in which the past is never quite the past and
the future is always threatening to break in. The linear order of time
keeps getting lost in Jerusalem, just as the spatial realm, by being spiritualized,
keeps evaporating — except for those who actually live there.
For the broader culture, interrupted time means that both psychological
wounds and theological insights are transmitted here less by tradition
than by a kind of repetition compulsion. These transcendent
manifestations of hurt and suspicion and hostility — and ultimately fanaticism
— can be overcome only by understanding their very human
sources. But a procession of historical vignettes, beginning here and
falling into place like pieces of a puzzle, can also make clear that Jerusalem
is home to a spacious religious cosmopolitanism that no amount
of overheated warping can ruin. Jerusalem, in its worldly history and
its symbolic hovering, forces a large-spirited reckoning with religion
and politics both — how they work, how they go wrong, how they can
be cooled and calmed.
 The cults of Jerusalem make plain that each tradition of the Book
depends on a revelation of indirection, a knowing what is unknowable,
which is why each tradition can miss the truth as well as hit it,
sponsoring intolerance as much as neighborliness, discord as much as
peace. This book is a pilgrimage through the ways of sacred violence,
most of which lead, in the West, either from or to this same city. On
medieval maps it marks the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Armies have swarmed out of all three continents to meet here — and
now, in the twenty-first century, they arrive from a fourth continent,
too. But Jerusalem’s geopolitical implications, however much ignited by
religion, have been equally transformative of secular forces, for better
and worse. Wars can be holy without invoking the name of God. That
also gives us our theme. The point here is that for Europe, and for its
legacy culture in America, the fever’s virus found a succession of hosts
in ancient Roman assaults, medieval Crusades, Reformation wars, Eu-
ropean colonialism, New World adventures, and the total wars of modernity
— all fixed, if variously, upon Jerusalem. The place and the idea
of the place mix like combustible chemicals to become a much too holy
land, an explosive combination of madness and sanctity, violence and
peace, the will of God and the will to power, fueling conflict up to the
present day.
 Fuel indeed. The Holy Land has come to overlap the most contested
geology on the planet: the oil fields of the Middle East. Oil now trumps
every great power strategic concern. Its concentration there — the
liquid crescent stretching from Iran and Iraq to the Arabian Peninsula
— means the broad obsession with dead-centered Jerusalem is not
merely mystical. Nor is the threat merely mystical. For the first time in
human history, the apocalyptic fantasy of Armageddon could become
actual, sparked in the very place where Armageddon began…

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