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Jerusalem, The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore

February 2, 2012 by  

After reading the amazing history contained in Jerusalem, The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore, I couldn’t help but be thankful that our Founding Fathers established a country that allows all citizens the rights to their own religious beliefs and keeps government out of it. (At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.) As a lesson about what happens when governments and religion become intertwined, Jerusalem, though, is a cautionary tale. Because the saga of conflict told in Jerusalem not only sheds light on an astounding history of warfare among countries, empires, ethnic groups and civilizations, it demonstrates what happens when militaristic religious leaders decide to rid the Earth of their rivals. The result is a kind of never-ending ethnic cleansing.

The fact that Jerusalem is the center of the spiritual world for so many people seems to make politics there frighteningly complex and deadly. Consequently, if you have any interest in understanding why the area in and around Jerusalem is such a contentious piece of real estate, Jerusalem explicates, in exquisite historical detail, the thousands of years of fighting over a piece of ground that so many people want to possess. Sometimes, the details supplied by Montefiore are a bit overwhelming. But the historical tidbits, footnotes, archeological gossip and descriptions of what we know or think we know about what historical figures did to each other in this part of the planet are never less than fascinating and illuminating.

Near the beginning of the book, Montefiore describes a time when Jerusalem was ruled by a confederation of tribes who were challenged by the Philistines, “part of the Sea Peoples, who originated in the Aegean (Sea).” The Israelites led first by Saul and then by David beat them back. As king, David established his stronghold at Jerusalem because it was a demilitarized zone between the northern and southern tribes.

Power Struggles

Later on, though, rulers of the various kingdoms in and around Jerusalem would periodically invade and kill many of the local inhabitants, making off with gold from the city’s temple. And then, in between invasions and sieges, members of the ruling class would battle with each other for power, brothers killing each other in order to take control, children killing parents, in-laws plotting each other’s doom and generals using assassinations and bloodbaths to establish their own dynasties.

At the same time, the ruling Jewish kings twice built magnificent temples in Jerusalem (each eventually destroyed), filling them with golden treasures (all eventually looted) and established the city as a living, holy shrine.

But the battles never stopped.

Invasions

In one typical period, as the Assyrians invaded, Israel’s King Ahab joined with Judah and Syria to repel the would-be conquerors. But soon, the three anti-Assyrian partners began to war with each other, civil wars broke out and King Ahab was killed by his own troops. In the power vacuum, a general named Jehu decided it was time to do away with the rest of the royal family.  He stacked the heads of Ahab’s 70 sons in a gruesome pile at the one of the city’s gates, killed the new king who was trying to succeed Ahab and, for good measure, murdered the visiting king of Judah. Ahab’s wife, Queen Jezebel, was unceremoniously thrown out of a palace window, “pulverized” by chariots and fed to the dogs. But Ahab’s family was soon in control again. One of Jezebel’s daughters, Athalia, took power, killing every prince she could get her hands on (all of whom were her own grandchildren). She made Baal the state religion and set up idols in the Temple. Athalia, though, was eventually murdered, as were her priests.

This kind of back-and-forth killing was typical. Eventually, the Assyrians came back for more booty, and the Egyptians took a turn invading the area. When those empires backed off, the Babylonians arrived for their share. A couple of hundred years later, the Persians took out the Babylonians, followed by the Greeks and later the Romans.

Destruction And Conflict

Soon after Jesus was crucified, relations between Rome and the Jewish rulers of Jerusalem reached a tipping point. Roman legions marched into the city, looted it, burned it to the ground and slaughtered most its residents, hauling many of the survivors back to Rome as slaves and unwilling participants in bloody shows at the Coliseum. For a time, the city was a camp for Roman soldiers.

Later, when the Romans eventually left, the city settled down into relative obscurity, lapsing into low level anarchy before being invaded by European Crusaders.

Today, of course, Jerusalem is in the center of the controversy between Palestinians and Israelis, each group claiming that they should control the area. After reading Jerusalem, you won’t wonder that the city and the area around it is a continual source of conflict. You may wonder why it isn’t worse. Montefiore warns, “… there have always been two Jerusalems, the temporal and the celestial, both ruled more by faith and emotion than by reason and facts.”

Bob Livingston

is an ultra-conservative American who has been writing a newsletter since 1969. Bob has devoted much of his life to research and the quest for truth on a variety of subjects. Bob specializes in health issues such as nutritional supplements and alternatives to drugs, as well as issues of privacy (both personal and financial), asset protection and the preservation of freedom.

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  • Ivy Taylor

    Bob Livingston has great health articles, however his politics are radical and not factual. I am interested in reading the story here and hope it is more factual than his newsletters.

    • http://www.boblivingstonletter.com/ Bob Livingston

      Dear Ivy Taylor,

      In what way are my politics radical and not factual? I understand that for many, the idea of restraining the government within the bounds of the Constitution is radical. Is that what you mean? If not, please cite examples of radicalism and inaccuracies and I will try and address them.

      Best wishes,
      Bob

  • http://nowebsite Jim Mitchell

    I would like to buy your book “Jerusalem” but only if I can get it in a large type edition. Do you have one?

    Also – I did buy subscription to Newsmax and got free radio (finally ! After much hassle) but the radio (made in china) does not work and there is no way to contact manufacturer. Several phone calls to you were ignored by some officious lady there.

    • http://www.boblivingstonletter.com/ Bob Livingston

      Dear Jim Mitchell,

      I do not sell the book myself. You can click on the book icon above which will take you to Amazon.com, or you can go to your local bookseller. I do not know if it is available in large print.

      You write: “Also – I did buy subscription to Newsmax and got free radio (finally ! After much hassle) but the radio (made in china) does not work and there is no way to contact manufacturer. Several phone calls to you were ignored by some officious lady there.” I am not affiliated with Newsmax in any way. Any beefs you have with them must be addressed by them. If you spoke to an “officious” lady here, then I’m sure her prying questions were designed to steer you in the right direction, as she would have had no knowledge of your receipt of a cheap Chinese-made radio.

      Best wishes,
      Bob

  • Mike in MI

    Thanks for the review, Mr. Livingston. Sounds like an interesting read, possibly full of lots of well documented little tidbits a different handling probably wouldn’t pull out from behind the veil.
    Some years ago a Biblical researcher introduced me to a really neat perspective to remember when looking at this sort of information.
    A long time ago (Gen 12:1-9) God made a promise to Abram in the course of sequentially revealing what He intended to do with and for Abram (Abraham) and his family in time to come. Jerusalem, and the land it is on, has since been the object of the Devil’s desire to be in his (his worshippers) control. His thinking is that he knows God Word is his bond. If he can thwart in any way the promise God gave Abram the Devil can maintain his reign over people of the earth and keep the control of worship coming toward himself. Part of that promise was the control of Jerusalem and the dirt it’s on.
    Thwart one aspect of God’s promise in any respect and the Devil thwarts the whole thing. That’s why control of the eastern end of the Mediterranean has always been a focus of powerful people.
    That’s also why obliteration of the jewish (Hebrew bloodlines, technically) people has been so important to unscupulous and despotic rulers and competing religions ever since the promises were delivered.
    God bless, my friend, in the name of Jesus Christ.

  • mike1127

    Jerusalem is only important to those that can’t evolve past Bronze Age mysticism. Religions are the cause of the vast majority of death on this planet. Religion is for those who need a supernatural explanation for natural events. We would be better off as a species if Jerusalem, Mecca, and Medina were swallowed by sinkholes.

    • s c

      A first-rate bottle of [imported or domestic] wine says that as you get closer and closer to death, your views on religion will be much “modified,” m.

    • Nadzieja Batki

      Even before those places were out of the way, humans who think like you would be creating their own god to worship and setting up temples.

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