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Jerusalem’s biographer explains a city steeped in holiness, violence
Author Simon Sebag Montefiore has written a new biography of the city of Jerusalem.
December 9th, 2011
11:01 AM ET

Jerusalem’s biographer explains a city steeped in holiness, violence

By Todd Leopold, CNN

(CNN) -– Its name translates from Hebrew as “abode of peace,” but for more than 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been anything but peaceful.

Ancient civilizations conquered it. The Romans left it a slaughterhouse. Muslims, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, the Israelis and the Palestinians all have left their mark, often in blood.

And that’s not even to bring up the religious disputes, the clashing neighbors, the fanatical pilgrims and the earthquakes. (Yes, earthquakes.)

Yet Jerusalem maintains its status as perhaps the most important and holy city in the world. It is here that the three great monotheistic religions lay their claims, that countless cultures have built centuries-old shrines, and where arguably the world’s biggest geopolitical conflict, between Israelis and Palestinians, plays out every day.

British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of the new book “Jerusalem: The Biography,” knows the city well. His great-great uncle, financier Moses Montefiore, was a major philanthropist who founded one of the city’s first “new” neighborhoods in the 1860s.

Montefiore spent three years on the biography, which chronicles the city’s evolution over more than four millennia, from a Canaanite development to the modern city splintered between Israelis and Palestinians.

Montefiore spoke to CNN from his home in London. The following is an edited version of the interview.

Why Jerusalem? Why this place, which is not a port and didn’t seem to have much strategic value – how did it become a world capital?

It’s both tradition and evolution and also the decisions of a series of powerful men, who for their own reasons made the decision to intensify Jerusalem’s importance. Some of them did it by destruction, [such as] Nebuchadnezzar and Titus. Other people did it by building – Herod the Great, or Suleiman the Magnificent. And others did it by political decisions, such as Lloyd George and the Balfour Declaration promoting Zionism. So all for different reasons, different times, and often for political reasons.

How did you know what sources to trust, including religious texts such as the Bible?

One has to look at every source. So in that sense it’s not that different reading the Bible [than other documents]. I treat it as a historical source, and you have to make judgments about whether it’s sound or not.

But in Jerusalem everything is more fraught and there’s more sorts of disagreements and more vicious hatred about every one of these arguments than anywhere else.

Did you find yourself challenged on your details of historical events by religious leaders?

I’ve been challenged by everybody. Every sect, every group tried to intimidate me into doing it their way, and it’s something you have to be very cautious about. But I wanted to make sure I included every sort of sect. It was a very hard book to write.

I had it read by both the [Palestinian] Fatah organization and the Israeli government, and both of them gave me a list of corrections that they wanted changed, and gave me guidance about what they thought was right and wrong. And both of them gave me absolutely the opposing corrections. If I’d really wanted to negotiate this book, it would have been as complicated as negotiating the Oslo accords.

Is Jerusalem now a political city, with the religious stuff tourist bait?

I think the Christian stuff is tourist bait, but [with] the Muslim and Jewish stuff, the religion and politics are completely interlocked. It’s impossible to separate them.

There have been other great cities that have vanished or turned into shadows of what they once were. Why did Jerusalem succeed where they failed?

It’s part of the alchemy of power, the combination of so many different things. It’s the geopolitical, geostrategic position of the Middle East, partly. Every conqueror has had to march through it. That’s a circumstance that has nothing to do with religion at all, but imperial and continental geopolitics.

But one thing over many centuries has made return to Jerusalem much more likely, and that’s the ascendancy of the Bible, which is really Jerusalem’s story in many ways. Anyone who believes it’s fundamentally God’s word will naturally return to Jerusalem, and that’s happened many times throughout history, and that more than anything has made Jerusalem the center of the world.

Jesus’ story is as much political as it is religious. What was it that made him special among all the prophets of the time?

What was special in part among the early Christians – and not just Jesus, but St. Paul, as well – was that they were two extraordinary men. Another thing was that the Gospels were written down, so the Jewish-Christian sect … [had] a far longer life than many of these short-lived prophets who rose up and were destroyed.

And the other part of it was timing. The fact that the early Christians survived 40 years after Jesus’ death and were already considering St. Paul’s work appealing not just to Jews but to gentiles, and the fact they were doing that when the Jews were defeated and Jerusalem was destroyed meant that they separated from the Jewish religion abruptly, and meant that the religion had a life outside Judaism.

Those are the decisive reasons a historian would name. Obviously a Christian believer would simply believe that Jesus spoke the truth and he was the real thing.

You talk about Jerusalem Syndrome, the mental delusion triggered by the city. Is it possible prophets were affected, as well?

It all depends on your definition of holiness and madness, doesn’t it? There are a lot of holy people that secular people think are mad, and religious people think are observant. This is one of those judgments I tried to avoid making in the book, for obvious reasons. And people tend to think that their own religion is kind of sensible and rational, and think that everybody else’s is totally nuts.

What are your impressions of Jerusalem after having chronicled its history? Did your opinion of the city as a city change?

It did in a way. The more time you spend there the more you realize what an angry place it is. It’s angry, it’s dirty, it’s chaotic, it’s bigoted, it’s fanatical – as well as being the most holy, most beautiful, most exquisite, most fascinating, most complex city in the world. Again and again you return to the fact of how extraordinary and beautiful it is, as well as how bigoted and tense it is. It becomes more contradictory the more you know it.

It’s becoming even more religious. For a start, the Muslims of Jerusalem are becoming even more observant than they ever used to be. And at the same time, the Jews are becoming much more Orthodox, too. Nationalism is still very powerful, but religion has become even more so.

Are you optimistic about the future of the city?

Not in the short term. I just hope the quality of leadership on both sides improves. I hope that somehow some leaders come to the fore that are more far-seeing. In Israel it’s not helped by the political system which is becoming disastrous, and on the Palestinian side it’s not helped by corruption, division and extremism – which are also very present on the Israeli side.

The peace deal is already kind of known. It’s just a question of accepting it, and both sides have to have the will. There has to be the right moment and there has to be the right leadership. That’s a lot of conditions, isn’t it?

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Israel

soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. captain america

    It is common practice for canadians to steal and butt in where they are not welcome. Not to worry, canada is morally bankrupt and rapidly declining from a third world country to a fourth.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • captain america

      That's why they are always jumping the border and trying to marry Americans, for green cards and full citizenship.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  2. captain america

    Oh, crap! I screwed up my persona name!

    December 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • captain america

      You have mistaken me for someone who cares.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • captain america

      canadians are ineffective trolls.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • mrwow

      ungodly poor you.. you are nt even a muslim. You dnt knw the meaning of life, what do u knw abut islam and muslim person. u idiot. get a life donkey kong

      December 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  3. JEw

    and you dont know what its like to be massacared by the MILLIONS nor hated by many

    December 9, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  4. captain america

    I would call the canadian fake an ass hole but it would be demeaning to real ass holes .

    December 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  5. Muslim

    You don't know what it's like to be humiliated by Jews. Muslims are so ugly and stupid. We are cowards, too. We disgust ourselves; that's why we behave in such primitive ways. I am weeping as I type this.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • RayT

      I do really believe you that you are a Muslim, its really obvious.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Poor Muslim. You must wish you were never born.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • Kleenex

      Here's a tissue to wipe those tears...

      Buy Kleenex brand always!

      December 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Observer

      Wait..why are you weeping? aren't ya the one that makes others weep?

      December 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • captain america

      Thank you, Mr. Kleenex. I always try to buy your brand ... because I weep so much ... because I am Muslim. Oh, why did I remind myself that I am Muslim? Now I am weeping again!

      December 9, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • troll

      I lost track of my personas. Well, time for dinner.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • captain america

      Enjoy your freshly roasted canadian log of moose feces.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • captain america

      Dine in hades with your communist canadian comrades.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america doesn't say hades, he says hell.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Clean X

      oye Captain, our brand is much stronger, I will ship u a carton free for your weeping pleasure!
      Happy weeping 🙂

      December 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  6. us1776

    Plow this stupid place under and start over with some modern traditions.

    .

    December 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      What is a modern tradition?

      December 9, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  7. captain america

    OK, everyone: gay Christmas party at my house this year! Santa, bring me a hot man!

    December 9, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Doctor Obvious

      That was terrible. Not even worth a snicker.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • captain america

      It appears that a very qu eer canadian has stolen my persona. One more reason to nuke the bas tards.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • captain america

      @captain america: Methinks you protest too much, girlfriend! How would you like to buff my helment, Captain?

      December 9, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • captain america

      Shouldn't you be skipping hand-in-hand back to your canadian homeland with richard simmons right about now?

      December 9, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america doesn't say gay, he says fa ggot. (qu eer)

      December 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  8. Alex in NJ

    The trouble that this city has caused through the two groups fighting over it has made it a terrible burden on humanity, particularly the United States. Personally it's my least liked city in the world.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I want to swing over to Christ's tomb on Mohammad's golden rope. Just once. Then we can tear it down and put in a Harry Potter them park.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  9. George

    God said let their be light in the Bible and I believe in it. It wasn't just talking about light from the sun or light bulbs, but light as in the salt of the earth, or us, Christians. We are to represent the light of the lamb and spread the word of Jesus. You know how I know the Bible is 100% accurate? The Bible Codes. You people have no idea what the Lord's plan is because you ignore the morality the Bible tells you about.

    http://www.hiddencodes.com/

    The codes are prophecies in the Bible that prove it is real. No one can dispute it. This proves that the Bible was given to us by God Himself to save us. Only a fool would ignore this truth. Just look around. The world is proof of God that Jesus saved us.

    December 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      Really ? Really ? Which part ? The 12,000,000 Africans who starved last summer ? That proves what to you ? And as for your "codes"...which language are they coded in ? Hebrew ? Greek ? Aramaic ? Latin ? Bwahahahahahahahaha. So it's down to bible codes is it ? You're late for your middle school Christmas play, George.

      December 9, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Adolf

      Mildred the Mouth: 12,000,000 Africans starved last month? Sounds a bit optimistic to me, but I'll keep hoping. What would you suggest, that we feed "people" who are incapable of sustaining, let alone creating, a civilization worthy of the name so that in ten years we'll have twice as many to care for? Let them starve.

      December 9, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      George,
      You are a funny dude. Now I know you are always joking. You couldn't possible believe what you wrote. NO one is that stupid.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • One7777777

      God is 100 percent real.

      The Bible has so many intricately linked messages that you know they could have ONLY come from someone truly Divine.

      Follow The Way laid out by Jesus to get to The Truth to obtain Eternal Life

      December 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      @One7777777

      Ask yourself this simple question:

      Why, when you read the Bible, are you not left in awe? Why doesn't a book written by an omniscient being leave you with a sense of wonder and amazement? If you are reading a book written by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe, wouldn't you expect to be stunned by the brilliance, the clarity and the wisdom of the author? Would you not expect each new page to intoxicate you with its incredible prose and its spectacular insight? Wouldn't you expect the author to tell us things that scientists have not been able to discover yet?

      Yet, when we open the Bible and actually read it, we find it is nothing like that at all. Instead of leaving us in awe, it leaves us dumbfounded by all of the nonsense and backwardness that it contains. If you read what the Bible actually says, you find that the Bible is ridiculous. If we are honest with ourselves, it is obvious that an "all-knowing" God had absolutely nothing to do with this book.

      The reason why the Bible contains so much nonsense is because God is imaginary. The Bible is a book written thousands of years ago by primitive men. A book that advocates senseless murder, slavery and the oppression of women has no place in our society today.

      December 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      If your bible is 100% accurate, then why can't the gospels decide which day Jesus died on, (the gospels differ on that), or how many women, and who went to the tomb, what they saw there, and what happened on Easter. You keep telling yourself that, though. And I know the moon is made if green cheese, and my book tell me so.

      December 9, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I can't wait to get my mouth on some of that delicious cheese!

      December 9, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  10. captain america

    Canada isn't even a real country. Some of them might speak English, but make no mistake, that country is the gateway to Hades and the bowels of El Diablo.

    December 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • troll

      Are you a real troll? I mean dues paying? You've got to improve your technique. I'll show you how it's done.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Doctor Obvious

      You're obviously not dues paying if you're announcing you're a troll and then go and make a stupid post. That's not how it works. There's an art to it, and by the looks of things, you don't even own a brush or the paint required to create a masterpiece let alone a simple cave troll drawing.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america would never capitalize canada.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  11. Ha Ha!

    I'm laughing at the author's "Zoolander" portrait! Ha ha ha h aha haaa ahahha! That's just great!

    December 9, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  12. Kenrick Benjamin

    From the time of Cain and Abel to today the world has never known peace. WE say we believe in God ya though his First Commandment is thou shall not kill. Yet we profess to be killing in his name, how can God contridict himself I wonder. No one ever stop to think why all the prophets of old had a one way ticket to hell, up until Jesus(Prince of Peace) came and redeem us. Now it is my understanding that the messenger Mohammed came to restored God's word, yet their is no peace. The only thing that I must say is Peace be Still.

    December 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • News Flash

      That's not the first commandment.

      December 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      All of your confusion and contradictions caused by tribal mythologies go away once you understand that there are no gods.

      December 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • captain america

      What does it take to get canadians to go away?Or at least mind their own business?

      December 9, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What does it take for you to grow a brain? What does it take to shut you up? What does it take to make you disappear?

      December 9, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  13. GodPot

    "Jerusalem’s biographer explains a city steeped in holiness, violence"

    I can see all the holes in the picture, but it looks pretty peaceful to me...

    December 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  14. Johnson

    so many trolls.....tisk tisk tisk, such a shame you little weaklings.

    December 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  15. Bo

    11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:

    “You are now pregnant
    and you will give birth to a son.
    You shall name him Ishmael,
    for the LORD has heard of your misery.
    12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
    his hand will be against everyone
    and everyone’s hand against him,
    and he will live in hostility
    toward all his brothers.”
    Genesis 16:11,12

    This prediction was made to Hagar thousands of years ago; has the prediction failed?

    December 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Chris

      Oh well, it is what it is!

      December 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Ideal

      Would have been a different story had Father Abraham waited!

      December 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      not to mention Mary was a lying sl_t,.. and I don’t blame her. She was 17 he was 20something, there were two hot blooded people who were attracted to one another. In addition carpenters are s_xy and you get stoned to death for forn_cation (s_x outside of marriage)

      December 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      I know it has nothing to do with ishmal but that’s for the Jesus lovers out there

      December 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • News Flash

      The problem with your an'alysis is that those verses were actually written at least a thousand years AFTER that conflict had begun. It was part of their "national story" which they invented during the Babylonian Captivity. It actually "predicted" nothing, and was an already self-fulfilling prophesy, as the conflict had been in progress for an eon. It really would be helpful here, if those on this board had actually taken a course or two or three in Biblical Archeology.

      December 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      News Flash : Right ,take a course in Biblical Archaeology but also recognize theory for what it is, theory, not fact. Because some professor needs to boost book sales and projects his or her theory on their class, does not make it the truth. Evidence may still be unearthed showing Old Testament prophecy as just that, prophecy. Dead Sea Scrolls revealed prophecy that could not have been written after the events. Also note the proper spelling of archaeology, News Flash, it will make you look more believable if you can spell the words to the topic you are challenging.

      December 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • News Flash

      Felix, you are not one to be lecturing anyone about spelling / grammar...to wit : you name. Second, the dating of the writing of Genesis is not in dispute. If you think it is, cite your source. I am not challenging anything, just repeating accepted fact. Your comment about "some professor" is irrelevant. What EXACTLY about the dating of Genesis are YOU disputing ? And lastly, as anyone who has taken Bible 1-01 knows, the function of a "prophet" is NOT to tell the future, but to speak "truth to power". The fortune telling thing is from Hollywood. Have a good day.

      December 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      News Flash
      You got caught being an ass hole, lets accept it and let it go at that. Any one who reads this already knows.

      December 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • News Flash

      BTW Felix the Cat, there were no original prophesies found at Qumran. They were copies of other texts, all previously known to exist.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Felix The Navidad

      News Flash:They were earlier copies than previously available ,and confirming of an earlier date. Didn't we establish you as an ass hole already?

      December 9, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • News Flash

      Felix the Cat,
      you do a lot of name calling, and very little explaining, my being an ass has nothing to do with the fact you have no clue what you are talking about, so STFU.

      December 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Is herbie off his meds again?

      December 9, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      Maybe the meds, but he tawt he taw a puddy tat, a sneakin up on him.. Meow.

      December 9, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • One7777777

      That passage is NOT about Jesus but about Ishmael.

      Ishmael is the one the muslims claim their muhommad descended from. He is the enemy of the 12 Tribes of Israel (Jacob) – God's chosen.

      Scripture reveals they do not carry the word of our God. He is buried with the False Prophet.

      December 9, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      One7777777
      I have used undiscovered evidence to prove your point. Well done.

      December 9, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  16. Sam Yaza

    …And I’m stuck in this city another day……And I’m stuck in this city another day… Is it too much to try and get some medicine into Gaza....this city should just burn to the ground.

    December 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • DB

      It shouldn't be too hard, all you have to do is stop hiding weapons in the shipments of medicine.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      Unless they consider medical books(and from what I remember about god knowledge is a weapon ) and insulin as weapon. I have no contraband they just want me to spend the weekend here to support their economy and watch the Palestinian die painfully

      December 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Need a light?

      Don't you have any matches? Is it all sand and rocks? Like a big litter-box? Funny how that works....

      December 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  17. Der

    A great place to avoid religion is China. It's also a great place to raise the one kid they MIGHT let you have.

    December 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • News Flash

      Maybe you better read something. That rule is long gone. But meanwhile, do you think the geometric progression in human population rates can continue at this rate indefinitely ? What exactly is your solution to that ? Oh wait, I know. God has a plan for that.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Der

      So letting people breed like rats is a better solution? Like the Duggars, drop their little Christian misfits like roach egg sacks around a tenament?

      If the Chinese didn't do that, you would already be hip deep in them.

      Do you reaize we can kill a MILLION Chinese EVERY DAY for a YEAR, and they STILL have more people than we do.

      You better pray they keep that policy, or one day you are gonna be Der Fried Rice for an army of occupation three times our whole population.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • DB

      You're wasting your time, "News Flash." He probably believes that our only role here on Earth is to fill Heaven with as many souls as possible. "What happens to the Earth doesn't matter at all" is a key part of his ideology. You can't reason with that kind of thinking.

      December 9, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  18. William Demuth

    Is it me, or does anyone else look forward to the mushroom cloud that will eventually bloom over this cesspool?

    The most divisive piece of real estate on the planet, it should be plowed under and made into a parking lot.

    December 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Honestly, it might be the only way. A place that so many people have claimed there's can't possibly go on existing for very long when we have bombs that can wipe it off the face of the earth.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      And you guys don't think they'd just find something else to fight over?

      December 9, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Mushroom cloud? No.
      I do wonder sometimes if some Wisdom of Solomon isn't in order. Perhaps a UN force should move in and just remove everyone. If this geography is the cause of so much strife, then no one gets it. Just seal it off and let no one in.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      Harry Potter theme park. Only solution.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Damian

      When the first guy proudly claimed a piece of land for himself ever, I'm positive there was another guy right next to him who looked out over the endless miles of expense in all directions and thought to himself, "I want THAT exact piece of land". However, Jerusalem has become more than just a holy city at this point, it's become almost a charicuture of itself at this point and no one will be happy regardless of who "owns" it. It's destruction might be the only way to really shine a light on everything and really start a negotiating process.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Chuckles,

      At the risk of sounding incredulous and sarcastic, do you REALLY think destroying arguably the most holy city of the three major religions in the world is going to endear people to sit down and talk? I think it's just going to fuel more anger, resentment and finger-pointing.

      "Well, Mr. Palestinian, if YOU would have left, we'd still have Solomon's Temple!"
      "Well, if YOU, Mr. Israeli had left we'd still have the Dome of the Rock!"

      I don't think nuking Jerusalem is going to have the desired effect of creating mutual respect and honest discussion.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Damian

      No, you're right, it's a long-shot gamble with a 95% chance of failure, however I think the thing that kills me is that the Dome of the Rock, although special in Islam, is by no means the most holy site around. The Mosque was built specifically around the rock were (supposedly) abraham almost sac.rificed isaac. It's really a very jewish site and yet muslims have taken control and refuse to seed it back. Jews have taken control over most of the city and incorporated it into israel as their cap.ital and christains have their own section just for them, like one big happy family. And yet there is so much stri.fe and anger over ow.nership it would be better to somehow get it off the table when negotiations come back around, but how?

      Obviously Israel owning it makes it a co.ntentious issue. It can't be ceded back to Pale.stinians because that would raise ever more hel.l. As for a third party, the only serious candi.date would be the UN, but considering the UN is such a mind field these days, there's much anti-israeli sent.iment and they lose trust capital on a daily basis, administration over an international city seems like a pipe dream.

      You could do what Nonimus says and basically reenact a nuke without destruction, just wall the place off, make it a ghost town. Then again if it still stands, then everyone wants it.

      I'm not saying my idea is perfect, very very far from it, but at this point that's almost the inevitable outcome in order for any sort of peaceful resoultion to move forward. Unless somehow, magicallly even, Palestinians start accepting land negotiations and allow israel to fully control jerusalem and agree to a two state solution, even then it's dicey with so many arab countries that would still claim the city for themselves.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      @Chuckles,

      Agreed, in Islam, Jerusalem is not the holiest site (maybe third after Mecca and Medina, but I no way claim to be a scholar of Islam). But let's be honest. Jerusalem is the city of David (big deal to the Jews) and Christ was crucified and buried there (big deal to the Christians), so when you throw all of them together, it cannot be argued that Jerusalem is a sacred site to believers.

      I think there's some blame to be cast on both sides. I don't know what the solution is; I don't think anyone does. Because, while the Isarelis have superior technology (funded by the US), the fighting wouldn't stop even if the Israelis annihilated the Palestinians. Because as we've seen, Iran is ready to charge in there, guns ablazing. Nothing would stop, it would just be a bigger and bigger fight.

      My only point was, from the get go, I don't think dropping atomic weaponry on Jerusalem is the answer. Secondary to that is, I don't think that even if you obliterated it, would it suddenly mend fences between the two sides.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Wow!

      I hit a nerve.

      We could always make the Falklans Islands the Palestinian Homeland, and move all the Jews into Brooklyn (That is their bomb shelter of sorts)

      Then we just give the city to the Sikhs, who them execute the remaining Evangelicals.

      December 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  19. Reality

    Maybe not so important historically based on the New Torah for Modern Minds:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    December 9, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • .........

      best possible solution
      hit report abuse on all reality bull sh it

      December 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Bo

      @Reality, you keep harping on this same old theme, until you are like pile of old dried-up bones. You harp like Abraham too, but consider this prophecy given to Hagar, Sarai’s maid who was impregnated by Abram: Genesis 11,12; 11 The angel of the LORD also said to her:
      “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael,  for the LORD has heard of your misery. 12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Ishmael was the father of all Muslims)

      December 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Reality

      As a good student, you have read the reiterations of the "fems" of religion. Therefore the seeds have been planted in rich soil. Go therefore and preach the truth to all nations, reiterating as you go amongst the lost, bred, born and brainwashed souls of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as Rational Thinking makes its triumphant return all because of you!!!!

      December 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Reality

      No biblical Adam and no biblical Eve makes the book of Genesis another fictional tale devised by the Jewish scribes for telling around the campfires.

      As per National Geographic's Genographic project:

      https://www3.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/

      " DNA studies suggest that all humans today descend from a group of African ancestors who about 60,000 years ago began a remarkable journey. Follow the journey from them to you as written in your genes”.

      "Adam" is the common male ancestor of every living man. He lived in Africa some 60,000 years ago, which means that all humans lived in Africa at least at that time.

      Unlike his Biblical namesake, this Adam was not the only man alive in his era. Rather, he is unique because his descendents are the only ones to survive. "

      December 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
  20. Jack

    Mr. Montefiore-Are you going to take us back in history to Canaan? If yes, that would be very interesting.

    December 9, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Joe

      @Jack,
      Are you going to take us back in history to when you decided to make this comment? If yes, that would not be very interesting.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • random

      Did Iggy the piggy change its handle to Joe?

      December 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • News Flash

      If you as'sume that this city existed for 5000 years, that is about 0.015 % of the time that Ho'mo sapiens has been around. It is, relatively, a new place in human history. What does "steeped in holiness" even mean ? It means humans have found the place to be important in their mythological conco'ctions, which they use to explain the world they see around them. Since the rise of science, as a more productive way to construct worldviews, the many, many religious conco'ctions, all competing for primacy, will be gone in another 5000 years, and the "Epoch of Religion" will be long gone. Meanwhile, stay away from this place. It is nowhere to raise your children and grandchildren.

      December 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.