best-sellers and prize winners like jackrnMiles’ God: A Biography and Armstrong’srnA History of God. The Historyrnwas a distinctly mixed project, evincingrnas it did conspicuous learning about abstrusernbyways of Islamic philosophy andrnmysticism, above all from the Sufi traditionrnshe clearly loves. However, this sensitiverntreatment was constantly juxtaposedrnwith malicious digs at every aspectrnof Western intellectual tradition. ThernGreeks achieved t h i s . . . the Muslims discoveredrnthat . . . the I lindus began theirrngolden age of intellect . . . meanwhilernWestern European peasants like ThomasrnAquinas shambled out of their caves longrnenough to write simplistic trash gratuitouslyrnperverting the cultural treasuresrnthey had stolen from their neighbors….rnNot a direct cpotation, to be fair, but arnreasonably accurate rendering of a pervasivernsentiment in that odd and wrongheadedrnoeuvre.rnWe therefore approach Armstrong’srnsuccessor olume with some trepidation:rnsurely she has b^ now worked out of herrnsystem all the bile against Catholic andrnWestern traditions that she seems tornhave acquired during several years ofrnconvent life? The answer is mixed. Armstrongrndepicts the city as flovirishing accordingrnto its own terms and traditions,rnexcept at such times as its life is violatedrnby disgusting barbarian killers from thernWest. Now this characterization mayrnwell be justified on occasion; certainlyrnthe assault by Crusaders on the city inrn1099 would find few modern defenders.rnBut if the whole Crusading movementrnwas really “a travesty of religion,” whyrndoes Armstrong not condemn likewisernMuslim military atrocities? She displaysrna marked tonal difference in passages describingrnthe annexation or destruction ofrnChristian holy places (presumablv partrnof the onward march of history) andrnthose of other religions (brutal persecutionrnby Christian bigots). As in A / //storyrnof God, which is extensively rehashedrnthroughout this volume, she is open tornan- Muslim account implying tolerancernor reasonableness by partisans of thatrnfaith. Accepting the accounts most favorablernto the one side and those leastrnflattering to the other, she falls considerablyrnshort of the ideal of historicalrnbalance. Armstrong even contrives tornblame Franciscan Catholic clergy for thernfirst anti-Semitic pogroms in the Muslimrnworld, which is stretching fact to breakingrnpoint and beyond. Her distaste isrnpalpable wlicn she dismisses the UglyrnWesterners who come to Jerusalem tornpursue “Biblical archaeology . . . an expressionrnof the rationalized religion ofrnthe West based on facts and reasonrnrather than on imaginative mythology.”rnScientific method has wrought suchrnharm on the world! Paradoxically, it isrndenounced by authors like Armstrongrnwho work with word processors ratherrnthan with quills.rnFortunately, there is a positive side tornArmstrong’s book, making it well worthrnreading for anyone interested in the naturernof Jewish and Christian cultural traditions.rnShe is, for example, extremelyrnsympathetic to the Eastern Orthodoxrntradition; once again, her account of lifernunder Islam is very well informed. Numerousrnscholars are comfortable with eitherrnthe Jewish or the Christian side ofrnthe story, and some specialists are qualifiedrnto recount the Muslim one. Veryrnfew, however, have either the ability orrnthe nerve to attempt a synthesis of thisrnkind, which relates the story of Jerusalemrnand its environs from archaic Rushalimumrnto the modern city ruled by thernState of Israel. (Her story is sufficientlyrncurrent to embrace the assassination ofrnYitzhak Rabin in 1995.) Armstrong’srnbook is especially valuable for the accountsrnof what are, for most Westernrnreaders, the “dark centuries” in the city’srnlife: the early Middle Ages, for example,rnand the eady modern period.rnArmstrong highlights the city’s attractionrnfor successive waves of mysticsrnand fanatics—Sufis, Karaites, and Hasidimrn—who found Jerusalem to be thernonly environment in which they couldrnpractice a religion as rooted in the nextrnworld as in this. For all three faiths,rnmoreover, there was always the recurrentrnbelief that the Holy City would be therngeographical setting for the events of thernEnd Times, however these are conceived.rnAnother and curious element ofrnthe story is the city’s success in civilizingrnits successive waves of residents and visitors,rnincluding such apparently hopelessrneases as the Eranks and the Turks. Nornmatter how uncompronrising their initialrnrejection of culture or cosmopolitanism,rnthese people came, they saw—andrnJerusalem conquered.rnAlso perennial has been the city’s attractionrnfor religious reformers who, affectingrnat first to deny that oirc place wasrnmore holy than another—God beingrnomnipresent—ended by takmg rootrnthemselves and venerating Jerusalem’srnholiness as sincerely as their pagan ancestorsrnhad done. Truly, as Armstrong remarks,rnthe concept of sacred geographyrnstrikes deep into the human psyche. Intentionallyrnor not, she leaves the readerrnwith a strong feeling that a depolitieizedrnand unified Jerusalem would indeedrnmake an ideal wodd capital of sorts: certainlyrnwe can understand why for twornmillennia cartographers persisted in depictingrnthe city as the center of thernknown world.rnArmstrong strives for balance in herrnaccount of the modern Arab-Israeli conflict,rnoffering a sympathetic history ofrnthe Zionist movement and its aspirationsrnand confirming the Zionist claimrnthat the Jewish presence never vanishedrnaltogether from the city over two millenniarnof exile, while remaining criticallyrnimportant to the life of the region. Nevertheless,rnshe emphasizes the role of Jewishrnforces in atrocities like the Deir Yassinrnmassacre of 1948, and describes the terroristrncampaigns by Zionist Ultras in thernlast two decades. She shows little sympathyrnfor the more bizarre Zionist claims torne’ery square inch of Eretz Israel, and isrnappropriately horrified by the lunaticrnschemes of extremists who fantasizernabout the destruction of the Muslimrnholy places and their replacement byrnsynagogues—even, perhaps, by a restoredrnTemple. As she rightly remarks,rnsuch a policy would be a high road tornWorld War III. On such contemporaryrnmatters, Armstrong’s opinions fit wellrnenough with those of irenic Jews or Arabsrnwho yearn to see the city as a genuinern”City of Peace.”rnArmstrong ably communicates thernpowerful sense of continuity associatedrnwith the Holy City, in which it seemsrnthat virtually every decade brings somernnew find or reinterpretation which isrnhailed by believers as a major contributionrnto religious truth. She also makesrnpainfully clear that this process of constructingrnand reconstructing religiousrnmemory is very much alive. Ironically, itrnwas only a very few months after herrnbook appeared that a dispute over a tunnelrnconnecting holy sites near the al-rnAqsa Mosque erupted into a shootingrnwar between Israelis and the new Palestinianrnauthority. People are still preparedrnto kill to defend the secrets of the cityrnof life.rnPhilip Jenkins is the author, most recently,rnof Hoods and Shirts: The ExtremernRight in Pennsylvania 1925-1950rn(University of North Carolina Press).rnMARCH 1997/31rnrnrn