JERUSALEM: City of Mirrors by Amos Elon
Kirkus Star

JERUSALEM: City of Mirrors

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Kaleidoscopic view of the most famous and fought-after city in the world. At every turn, journalist Elon (Herzl; The Israelis, etc.) emphasizes Jerusalem's conflicts and contradictions. This ""Capital of Memory"" is coveted by three major faiths; its inhabitants celebrate three sabbaths, speak 13 languages, use seven alphabets. ""Too much holy zeal has been poured out here, for too long, into too narrow a space,"" he says about the Temple Mount--a judgment that also fits the city as a whole. Often Elon seems to be trying to mimic in his prose the dust, clash, color, heat of this holy place, as he piles up layer upon swirling layer of history, sociology, architecture, literature (and what other city could have repelled Melville and Koestler and Chateaubriand?), exhausting readers but also convincing them of Jerusalem's metaphysical punch. Splendid accounts of life in Hasidic Mea Sherim and in the Armenian quarter, and of the foolishness and devotion churning around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock, cap a tour de force that successfully re-imagines a town of limestone and chalk as a magical metropolis of shifting, deceiving, light-kissed mirrors. Enchanting and terrifying: an exact reflection of the city it describes. Among the endless number of books on Jerusalem, this stands out as one of the best.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1989
Publisher: Little, Brown