Jerusalem: the making of a holy city – BBC 4


Word PressJerusalem has been captured/recaptured 44 times.  That’s rather a lot.  It just about sums up religion: it claims to be a positive force, but it generally ends up in bloodshed.  Jerusalem the Golden ought to be one of the most visited places on earth, but it continues to be torn apart by the different religious groups who all claim it and never seem to be capable of … well, sharing nicely, for lack of a better way of putting it!

This series was first shown in 2011, but I can’t remember whether or not I watched it then.  Anyway, we’ve got a three part series, presented by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  The first episode was mainly about Biblical times, and the second episode took us up to the 13th century.  The final episode, to be shown next week, will take us up to the present day.  An awful lot of rubbish gets spouted about the history of Jerusalem, by people – and it’s usually Westerners ranting on the internet, rather than the people who actually live there – who are only interested in using it to support their own political views, so it’s very nice to see a respected historian presenting an accurate and impartial picture of what – as far as we know, as it’s hard to be sure of exactly what was going on in Biblical times – actually happened.

Unfortunately, however well-presented the history of Jerusalem may be, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a history of violence.  Attacks.  Sieges.  Capture by first one side, then another.  Destruction.  Massacres.  What a tragedy, and what a travesty.  The name “Jerusalem” is supposed to symbolise everything to which people should aspire.  “Till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.”  And it’s an incredible city.  There’s nowhere like it.  I remember stopping for a tea break in the Old City and just being mesmerised by all the different people in the different types of traditional dress walking along.  Whatever your own personal views on religion, the sense of history and of so many different cultures that you feel there is almost indescribable.  One lady who was in my tour group on my last visit there was actually overcome with emotion and burst into tears.  It’s some experience, visiting Jerusalem.

But there is no peace there, and, at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much prospect of it.  It’s arguably the most controversial subject in world politics, and the most ironic.  It’s supposed to be a Holy City, a City of Peace, but the thread that runs through its history, and therefore through this series, is violence.

A very well-presented and interesting series, but one which inevitably makes the viewer rather sad.


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