Medieval Jerusalem: Forging an Islamic City in Spaces Sacred to Christians and Jews

University of Michigan Press
Free sample

Medieval Jerusalem examines an old question that has recently surfaced and given rise to spirited discussion among Islamic historians and archeologists: what role did a city revered for its holiness play in the unfolding politics of the early Islamic period? Was there an historic moment when the city, holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, may have been considered as the administrative center of a vast Islamic world, as some scholars on early Islam have recently claimed? Medieval Jerusalem also emphasizes the city’s evolution as a revered Islamic religious site comparable to the holy cities Mecca and Medina.

Examining Muslim historiography and religious lore in light of Jewish traditions about the city, Jacob Lassner points out how these reworked Jewish traditions and the imposing monumental Islamic architecture of the city were meant to demonstrate that Islam had superseded Judaism and Christianity as the religion for all monotheists. He interrogates the literary sources of medieval Islamic historiography and their modern interpreters as if they were witnesses in a court of law, and applies the same method for the arguments about the monuments of the city’s material culture, including the great archaeological discoveries along the south wall of the ancient Temple Mount.

This book will be of interest to a broad range of readers given the significance of the city in the current politics of the Near East. It will in part serve as a corrective to narratives of Jerusalem’s past that are currently popular for scholarly and political reasons.

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About the author

Jacob Lassner is the Phillip M. and Ethel Klutznick Professor Emeritus of Jewish Civilization in the departments of History and Religion at Northwestern University. A past member of the Institute for Advanced Study among many other honors, he is the author or co-author of eleven books.


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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Michigan Press
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Published on
Apr 27, 2017
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Pages
268
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ISBN
9780472122868
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Medieval
History / General
History / Middle East / General
Religion / Islam / History
Religion / Judaism / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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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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