In This Review

Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City
Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City
By Bernard Wasserstein
Yale University Press, 2001, 412 pp.

This detailed but readable book starts with a succinct chapter on the idea of Jerusalem as seen by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It then moves chronologically from the early nineteenth century through the British Mandate period, the divided city from 1948-67, and Israel's imposed unification of Jerusalem thereafter. Two chapters treat Jerusalem in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation and negotiations. Another offers a depressing account of the sharp decline in Jerusalem's Christian population and the continued skirmishing among the different Christian sects. In the chapter titled "Trouble on the Temple Mount," Wasserstein shows how the sacred space of the "Wailing Wall" became politicized. He also underscores the irony of Jerusalem's contentious status: largely scorned by early Zionists, not always uppermost in the concerns of either Israelis or Arabs, but ever capable of providing the flashpoint for conflict. The epilogue lists the many schemes for sharing this holy city, revealing no lack of creative thinking on the subject. But the stubborn tradition of Jerusalem's different peoples bargaining hard over every issue -- and the explosive potential of politicized religion -- may continue to bar a solution.