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First the positive. This book largely achieved balance and an even handed approach to its subject. It fairly evaluates a little known and almost universally ignored piece of the back-story of the Arab-Israeli conflict, namely the late Ottoman period of 1898-1917. Maintaining neutrality in anything around Israel is a triumph in and of itself and the book can be celebrated for that alone.
The author sets out argue that 1913 was the turning point in history that made conflict between Arab and Jew nearly inevitable and that we can draw valuable lessons from 1913 Jerusalem. She more or less fails utterly to do this. More importantly, I ended the book without knowing what the “lessons of 1913” that she extolled actually were. It seems that she argues that Jews and Arabs can co-exist… when they are both oppressed minorities in a larger empire. I might not have been so disappointed had she not badly over hyped her thesis in the introduction. It created very unreasonable expectations.
The style was alright. It jumped around a bit and could be hard to follow at times and other times was rather dull, delving into the minutiae of personal details. Unfortunately the narrator mispronounced several common words -particularly "sepulcher". She put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLAble often. I can give her a pass on foreign words but there really was too much. She also seems to have ran over chapter breaks making it very hard to follow the flow.
While I do not recommend this book as an introduction to the subject, it fills a necessary gap in the historical narrative by shedding light on the Ottoman rule of Jerusalem which is generally totally neglected elsewhere. If Jerusalem has been your study then by all means read this book, just keep your expectations reasonable. (also make sure you start with O'Jerusalem and The Lemon Tree first)
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
I have long been searching for a good book on the origins of the arab-israeli conflict, but this is not it. It seemed like a good premise: going back to the origins of the Zionist movement and studying the historical consequences. However, Marcus never rises above the historical insight of a grade school history text. Leaders show up on the scene, but we never understand how they achieved prominence or what their real significance was in creating the situation we have today. I suppose Marcus thought she was being neutral and objective. Maybe she lost sight of her original target as the pages piled up. The result reads like an extended encyclopedia article, devoid of insight, inference, analysis, or even informed speculation. There has to be a powerful story buried under all these dry historical facts. Maybe someday someone will write it.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful