Culture > Books

Books: The peace of Jerusalem

Books | Three works to help grasp the significance of this historic city

Issue: "Disorder in the Court," June 8, 1996

According to the Talmud, "Of the 10 measures of beauty that came down to the world," this little rocky ridge "took nine." The glorious cradle of civilization, the prodigious wellspring of faith, and the passionate powder keg of ardor, there is no other place on earth where so much has occurred for so long and affected so many.

Once again this summer, as it celebrates the 3,000th anniversary of its founding-coinciding with the enactment a new peace accord and the election of a prime minister-the eyes of the world are once again turned toward Jerusalem. To understand its ethos, readers would do well to turn to these three books.

In Colin Thubron's Jerusalem wisdom and insight abound. Long one of my favorite writers, Mr. Thubron invariably combines a journalist's clear-eyed focus, a historian's depth of field, and a novelist's lyrical vision to create books of great beauty, empathy, and substance. Interweaving the stories of people from the past and from the present, of places and things, of legends and fact, of faith and folly, he affords us a rare objective glimpse of the city of David.

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After general guidebooks and biblical surveys, this is the volume I always recommend for people who intend to take a tour or make a pilgrimage there.

Piety and Power is a powerful inside look at the mysterious world of Jewish fundamentalism by David Landau. The lives, beliefs, and aspirations of the ultra-orthodox hasadim and haredim are explained with great precision and with measured sensitivity.

Fascinating insights into modern yeshiva studies, tish festivals, and cohanim rituals as well as Zionism, Lubavitcherism, and Kabalism are detailed with precision and care. We are thus afforded some understanding of the way this despised, rejected, and sorely persecuted culture has not only survived but thrived for centuries.

We are also given the opportunity to scrutinize the powerful forces of traditional Zionism arrayed against the current Israeli course of accommodation with the Palestinians-indeed, this volume may be more up-to-date than tomorrow's newspaper.

Understanding the Land of the Bible is a biblical and theological examination of Jerusalem and its environs. Written by O. Palmer Robertson, one of the most astute Old Testament scholars working in Reformed circles today, the book not only gives readers a clear perspective of the geographical, archeological, climatological, and historical significance of the region; it opens the floodgates of understanding on why differing interpretations of that significance have continually emerged throughout history-both within and without the church.

Insights abound on almost every page-and the final summary chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Complete with maps, chronologies, and explanatory notes, it is a fine introductory textbook that I trust will find a wide readership.

From the uttermost parts of the earth, our interests and concerns will inevitably return to Jerusalem and Judea. And as they do, these three books are certain to help inform those interests and concerns-and provoke us to ever "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem."


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