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Ten Great Books set in Jerusalem

11th March 2021

Jerusalem is the latest location for us to visit in our Great Books series. Ten Great Books set in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is the capital of Israel.

”If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” Psalm 137

Ten Great Books set in JerusalemJerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore

“The History of Jerusalem is the History of the World”, states the author. A tremendous history of this unique city, from conquering forces of the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians, through to the Romans, and subsequently the arrival of Christianity and Islam. This is a vast undertaking, instructive and compelling.

Murder in Jerusalem by Batya Gur

Eva Neidorf, psychoanalyst, is found dead early one Saturday morning in Jerusalem. Detective Michael Ohayon begins his search for the murderer. As the investigation continues, the reader gets hooked in and if you know anything about Freudian theory, it will be of extra interest.

The Jerusalem Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan

An archaic manuscript contains a secret, one that could change the world …The second in the series, from the author of The Istanbul Puzzle.

Behind Lady Tunshuq’s Palace in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, archaeologist, Max Keiser, has been found dead.

In the same city, Doctor Susan Hunter who was translating an ancient script discovered in Istanbul, is missing.

With his girlfriend Isabel Sharp, Sean Ryan is about to piece together the mystery of his colleague Max’s death and Susan’s disappearance. But as they explore the ancient and troubled city, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous and deadly game of fire.

Ten Great Books set in JerusalemWhat Do you Buy The Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? by David Harris-Gershon

A man seeks out the Hamas bomber who changed his family s life in this unflinching, mesmerizing literary debut. David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, moved to Jerusalem full of hope. Then, mere days after Israel thwarted historic cease-fire negotiations among the Palestinians, a bomb ripped open Hebrew University s cafeteria. Jamie s body was sliced with shrapnel: the friends sitting next to her were killed. When a doctor handed David some of the shrapnel removed from Jamie s body, he could not accept that this piece of metal changed everything. But it had. The bombing sent David on a psychological journey that found himdigging through shadowy politics and traumatic histories, eventually leading him back to East Jerusalem and the Hamas terrorist and his family. Not out of revenge. Out of desperation. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, this fearless debut confronts the personal costs of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and our capacity for recovery and reconciliation.

The Rabbi’s Daughter by Reva Mann

The book starts with the early life of the writer growing up in an Orthodox household , her rebellion against her parents, and her subsequent enlightenment when she embraces her faith by marrying her husband, also from the Orthodox community. The main part of the book describes their life together in Jerusalem, her immersion and observance of the strict tenures of her faith, followed by her withdrawal from the hard observance of religion in her everyday life. It is a riveting and compulsive read.

Crossing Jerusalem by Nicholas Woodsworth

Jerusalem is not an ordinary city and Crossing Jerusalem is not a standard telling of a city’’s story. While the author himself is deeply skeptical of religion, this book is both a portrait of a spiritual Jerusalem, and a recounting of the effect the city has on the spirit of one visitor who discovers its ongoing distress – through it he discovers some sort of spirituality in himself. At the same time a travelogue, a questioning of spiritual values, and an examination of the beliefs that have sustained Jerusalem’s populations through centuries of conflict and division, Crossing Jerusalem offers an unusual and penetrating perspective of the city. While many of the themes the author touches upon are inevitably sensitive and controversial, Crossing Jerusalem is intended to provoke thought rather than antipathy. At a time when both Jewish attitudes and the West’s foreign policy options on a Middle East solution are evolving, Crossing Jerusalem is now especially relevant.

It’s Easier to Reach Heaven Than the End of the Street: A Jerusalem Memoir by Emma Williams

A deeply affecting memoir and a unique contribution to our understanding of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In August 2000 Emma Williams arrived with her three small children in Jerusalem to join her husband and to work as a doctor. A month later, the second Palestinian intifada erupted. For the next three years, she was to witness an astonishing series of events in which hundreds of thousands of lives, including her own, were turned upside down. Williams lived on the very border of East and West Jerusalem, working with Palestinians in Ramallah during the day and spending evenings with Israelis in Tel Aviv. Weaving personal stories and conversations with friends and colleagues into the long and fraught political background, Williams’ powerful memoir brings to life the realities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Understanding in her judgment, yet unsparing in her honesty, Williams exposes the humanity, as well as the hypocrisy at the heart of both sides’ experiences. Anyone wanting to understand this intractable and complex dispute will find this unique account a refreshing and an illuminating read.

Ten Great Books set in JerusalemJerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner

The poignant, colourful, and unforgettable story of a young woman in early 20th-century Jerusalem who must choose between her faith and her passion, Jerusalem Maiden heralds the arrival of a magnificent new literary voice, Talia Carner. In the bestselling vein of The Red Tent, The Kite Runner, and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Jerusalem Maiden brilliantly evokes the sights and sounds of the Middle East during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Historical fiction and Bible lovers will be captivated by this thrilling tale of a young Jewish woman during a fascinating era, her inner struggle with breaking the Second Commandment, and her ultimate transcendence through self-discovery.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle

Guy Delisle expertly lays the groundwork for a cultural road map of contemporary Jerusalem, utilizing the classic stranger in a strange land point of view that made his other books, Pyongyang, Shenzhen, and Burma Chronicles required reading for understanding what daily life is like in cities few are able to travel to. In Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, Delisle explores the complexities of a city that represents so much to so many. He eloquently examines the impact of the conflict on the lives of people on both sides of the wall while drolly recounting the quotidian: checkpoints, traffic jams, and holidays.

When observing the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim populations that call Jerusalem home, Delisle’s drawn line is both sensitive and fair, assuming nothing and drawing everything. Jerusalem showcases once more Delisle’s mastery of the travelogue.

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist by Ruchama King Feuerman

In this 2013 National Jewish Book Award Finalist, an eczema-riddled Lower East Side haberdasher, Isaac Markowitz, moves to Israel to repair  his broken heart and becomes, much to his own surprise, the assistant to a famous old rabbi who daily dispenses wisdom (and soup) to the troubled souls who wash up in his courtyard. It is there that he meets the flame-haired Tamar, a newly religious young American hipster on a mission to live a spiritual life with a spiritual man. Into both of their lives comes Mustafa, a devout Muslim, deformed at birth, a janitor who works on the Temple Mount, holy to both Muslims and Jews. When Mustafa finds an ancient shard of pottery that may date back to the first temple, he brings it to Isaac in friendship.  That gesture sets in motion a series of events that land Isaac in  the company of Israel’s worst criminal riff raff, put Mustafa in mortal danger, and Tamar trying to save them both.

As these characters – immigrants and natives; Muslim and Jewish; prophets and lost souls – move through their world, they are never sure if they will fall prey to the cruel tricks of luck or be sheltered by a higher power.

Enjoy your literary trip to Jerusalem! Any books we have missed? Add them in the Comments section below…

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