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James Carroll’s Jerusalem

Author James Carroll on his new book, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” and the ancient city that ignited the modern world.

The Dome of the Rock Mosque, known to Jews as the Temple Mount in the Old City, Jerusalem (AP /Karel Prinsloo)

The breath of the news has been enlivening the Middle East in this season.  (our coverage here here and here) Young people in the streets calling for freedom and democracy.  Soaring with hope on Twitter and Facebook. But the old is there, too.

For years before the Arab uprising, author James Carroll has been studying Jerusalem.  Not just the city today and its divisions and tensions.  But the city over thousands of years, as a symbol and locus of the sacred, the sublime, and the violent.  As a spark point for modernity, and a portal to antiquity.

This hour, On Point: James Carroll and Jerusalem.

-Tom Ashbrook


James Carroll, author of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World,” coming out tomorrow and New York Times bestseller “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History,” now an acclaimed documentary.  He is also a columnist for the  Boston Globe


Excerpt: Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignited Our Modern World
By James Carroll
Chapter One: Introduction: Two Jerusalems
1. Heat

This book is about the lethal feedback loop between the actual city of Jerusalem and the apocalyptic fantasy it inspires. It is a book, therefore, about two Jerusalems: the earthly and the heavenly, the mundane and the imagined. That doubleness shows up in the tension between Christian Jerusalem and Jewish Jerusalem, between European Jerusalem and Islamic Jerusalem, between Israeli Jerusalem and Palestinian Jerusalem, and between the City on a Hill and the Messiah nation that, beginning with John Winthrop, understands itself in its terms. But all recognizably contemporary conflicts have their buried foundations in the deep past, and this book will excavate them. Always, the story will curve back to the real place: the story of how humans living on the ridge about a third of the way between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean have constantly been undermined by the overheated dreams of pilgrims who, age in and age out, arrive at the legendary gates with love in their hearts, the end of the world in their minds, and weapons in their hands.

It is as if the two Jerusalems rub against each other like stone against flint, generating the spark that ignites fire. There is the literal fire of wars among peoples and nations, taken to be holy because ignited in the holy city, and that will be our subject. There is the fire of the God who first appeared as a burning bush, and then as flames hovering over the heads of chosen ones. That God will be our subject. But Jerusalem also ignites heat in the human breast, a viral fever of zealotry and true belief that lodged in the DNA of Western civilization. That fever lives — an infection but also, as happens with the mind on fire, an inspiration. And like all good metaphors, fever carries implications of its own opposite, for preoccupation with Jerusalem has been a religious and cultural boon, too. “Salvation is from Jerusalem,” the Psalms say, but the first meaning of the word “salvation” is health. That the image of fever suggests ecstasy, transcendence, and intoxication is also true to our meditation. “Look,” the Lord tells the prophet Zechariah, “I am going to make Jerusalem an intoxicating cup to all the surrounding peoples.”

Jerusalem fever consists in the conviction that the fulfillment of history depends on the fateful transformation of the earthly Jerusalem into a screen onto which overpowering millennial fantasies can be projected. This end of history is conceived variously as the arrival of the Messiah, or his return; as the climactic final battle at Armageddon, with the forces of angels vanquishing those of Satan (usually represented by Christians as Jews, Muslims, or other “infidels”). Later, the end of history sheds its religiosity, but Jerusalem remains at least implicitly the backdrop onto which millennial images are thrown by social utopias, whether founded by pilgrims in the New World, by communards in Europe, or by Communists. Ultimately, a continuous twentieth- and twenty-first-century war against evil turns out, surprisingly, to be centered on Jerusalem, a pivot point of both the Cold War and the War on Terror. Having begun as the ancient city of Apocalypse, it became the magnetic pole of Western history, doing more to create the modern world than any other city. Only Jerusalem — not Athens, Rome, or Paris; not Moscow or London; not Istanbul, Damascus, or Cairo; not El Dorado or the New York of immigrants’ dreams — only Jerusalem occupies such a transcendent place in the imagination. It is the earthly reflection of heaven — but heaven, it turns out, casts a shadow.

Thus, across the centuries, the fancied city creates the actual city, and vice versa. “The more exalted the metaphoric status of Jerusalem,” as the Jerusalem scholar Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi writes, “the more dwarfed its geopolitical dimensions; the more expansive the boundaries of the Holy City, the less negotiable its municipal borders.” Therefore, war. Over the past two millennia, the ruling establishment of Jerusalem has been overturned eleven times, almost always with brute violence, and always in the name of religion. This book will tell the story of those wars — how sacred geography creates battlefields. Even when wars had nothing literally to do with Jerusalem, the city inspired them with the promise of “the glory of the coming of the Lord . . . with his terrible swift sword,” as put by one battle hymn from far away. Metaphoric boundaries obliterate municipal borders, with disputes about the latter spawning expansions of the former, even to distant reaches of the earth.

Jerusalem fever infects religious groups, certainly the three monotheisms that claim the city. Although mainly a Christian epic, its verses rhyme with what Judeans once did, what Muslims took to, what a secular culture unknowingly pursues, and what parties to the city’s contemporary conflict embody. Yet if Jerusalem is the fever’s chosen niche, Jerusalem is also its antidote. Religion, likewise, is both a source of trouble and a way of vanquishing it. Religion, one sees in Jerusalem as nowhere else, is both the knife that cuts the vein and the force that keeps the knife from cutting. Each tradition enlivens the paradox uniquely, and that, too, is the story. For Jews, Jerusalem, after the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians and then the Romans, means that absence is the mode of God’s presence. First, the Holy of Holies in the rebuilt Temple of biblical times was deliberately kept vacant — vacancy itself mythologized. Then, after the destruction by Rome, when the Temple was not rebuilt, the holy place was imagined in acts of Torah study and observance of the Law, with a return to Jerusalem constantly felt as coming “next year.” Throughout centuries of diaspora, the Jewish fantasy of Jerusalem kept communal cohesion intact, enabled survival of exile and oppression, and ultimately spawned Zionism. For Christians, the most compelling fact of the faith is that Jesus is gone, present only through the projections of sacramentalism. But in the ecstasies of evangelical fervor, Jesus can still be felt as kneeling in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating blood for “you.” So Jerusalem lives as the locus of piety, for “you” can kneel there, too. The ultimate Christian vision of the future — the Book of Revelation — is centered in the city of the Lord’s suffering, but now that anguish redeems the very cosmos. Even in the act of salvation, the return of Jesus to Jerusalem is catastrophic. Muslims came to Jerusalem as occupiers in 637, only five years after the death of Muhammad. That rapidity makes the point. The Prophet’s armies, sweeping up out of Arabia in an early manifestation of the cohesion generated by an Islamic feel for the Oneness of God, were also in hot pursuit of Jerusalem. Desert heat this time. The Muslims’ visceral grasp of the city’s transcendent significance defined their first longing — and their first true military campaign. Islam recognizes God’s nearness only in recitation, with chanted sounds of the Qur’an exquisite in their elusiveness and allusiveness both. Yet the Prophet left a footprint in Jerusalem’s stone that can be touched to this day — an approximate and singular sacrament. To Muslims, Jerusalem is simply Al Quds, “the Holy.”

The three monotheisms of Jerusalem are thus nested in a perennial present, a temporal zone in which the past is never quite the past and the future is always threatening to break in. The linear order of time keeps getting lost in Jerusalem, just as the spatial realm, by being spiritualized, keeps evaporating — except for those who actually live there. For the broader culture, interrupted time means that both psychological wounds and theological insights are transmitted here less by tradition than by a kind of repetition compulsion. These transcendent manifestations of hurt and suspicion and hostility — and ultimately fanaticism — can be overcome only by understanding their very human sources. But a procession of historical vignettes, beginning here and falling into place like pieces of a puzzle, can also make clear that Jerusalem is home to a spacious religious cosmopolitanism that no amount of overheated warping can ruin. Jerusalem, in its worldly history and its symbolic hovering, forces a large-spirited reckoning with religion and politics both — how they work, how they go wrong, how they can be cooled and calmed.

The cults of Jerusalem make plain that each tradition of the Book depends on a revelation of indirection, a knowing what is unknowable, which is why each tradition can miss the truth as well as hit it, sponsoring intolerance as much as neighborliness, discord as much as peace. This book is a pilgrimage through the ways of sacred violence, most of which lead, in the West, either from or to this same city. On medieval maps it marks the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Armies have swarmed out of all three continents to meet here — and now, in the twenty-first century, they arrive from a fourth continent, too. But Jerusalem’s geopolitical implications, however much ignited by religion, have been equally transformative of secular forces, for better and worse. Wars can be holy without invoking the name of God. That also gives us our theme. The point here is that for Europe, and for its legacy culture in America, the fever’s virus found a succession of hosts in ancient Roman assaults, medieval Crusades, Reformation wars, European colonialism, New World adventures, and the total wars of modernity — all fixed, if variously, upon Jerusalem. The place and the idea of the place mix like combustible chemicals to become a much too holy land, an explosive combination of madness and sanctity, violence and peace, the will of God and the will to power, fueling conflict up to the present day. Fuel indeed. The Holy Land has come to overlap the most contested geology on the planet: the oil fields of the Middle East. Oil now trumps every great power strategic concern. Its concentration there — the liquid crescent stretching from Iran and Iraq to the Arabian Peninsula — means the broad obsession with dead-centered Jerusalem is not merely mystical. Nor is the threat merely mystical. For the first time in human history, the apocalyptic fantasy of Armageddon could become actual, sparked in the very place where Armageddon began.

(Reprinted by arrangement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Copyright © 2011 by James Carroll.)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Hendrickson/1652586055 Joshua Hendrickson

    I adore the human imagination, but even I think it has gone overboard in investing one place on Earth with such overinflated importance as the city of Jerusalem. Its existence threatens the existence of life itself.

    • Claire

      Yes, I think this is the point of the book. Jerusalem has been a place where civilizations have warred with one another, and it has been a place holding out to us the promise of world peace. The God major Western religions hold sacred cannot save us if we choose war and annihilation rather than peace. The struggle is in the human imagination. Can we find a way to transcend our base instincts for self and “other” destruction? Can we find a way to live and let live? To stop the divisions and instead recognize our “oneness” (Buddhist teaching, too)? To recognize the Great Spirit (teaching of Native religions) inherent throughout all humans and throughout the cosmos? There is no God making us choose war. This is what must be recognized, and Jerusalem is a powerful symbol of the free will some would say God gave us. Others might say, it’s a human developmental milestone: when the futility of war is fully recognized as a way to solve disagreement, then we will reach Jersusalem/City of Peace/Harmony rather than Discord.

  • Michael

    For a place so holy, it has alot of bloodshed, racism,hated. If history is true about King David it was founded on genocide,death.

    Maybe the hope can be that it be considered international land where Muslims/Christians and Jews can get along. I do hope Mr. Carroll is not going to engage in revisionist history the whole hour

    But for some Bible History, The History Channel did a 15 part series were five talks about Moses, Joshua and David each.


    • Tina

      Thanks for those links!

  • Zinovy Vayman, the Galilee

    It is not about the heaps of stones, it is about the genius of the Jews of antiquity. The centrality of Jerusalem springs out from the centrality of Jews in the ancient Roman Empire and in the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Europe.
    Jews wrote their holy books taking in the achievements of their ancestors in Mesopotamia and Egypt. They became poets and proselytizers in the forms of Christianity, Islam, Marxism and hi-tech, the latter in fusion with Germanic people.
    But envious Christians, Muslims and Communists continue to restrict and annihilate Jews by killings and assimilation. Again and again they attack
    the tiniest modern State of Israel. While 10 mln Palestinian Arabs control 85% Palestine leaving to 5 mln Jews only 15%, Arabs want more. Many Christians and Muslims support hounding of Jews who are trying to become sovereign.
    Jerusalem is holy by its Jews. Palestine is holy by the presence of Jews while non-Jews try to emulate the amazing Jews.
    (As for hatred, genocide and racism the authors of the previous comments should pay attention to the European and American countries built precisely on these phenomenae. Palestinian Jews and Arabs can get along if the Arabs leave Jews in peace. But it is not going to happen because Arabs continue to learn from the Germanized Jews settled in their neighborhood after Christians–trying to shake off Judaization by embracing the Aryan idea– dealt a mortal blow to the Jewish Europe.
    Now Jewish North America is in progress but the end of this Germanic and Jewish project is still far away. )

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joshua-Hendrickson/1652586055 Joshua Hendrickson

      If both Jews and Muslims were to drop the nonsense about holiness and how special their peoples/lands are, a lot more progress toward peace could be made. Jews are a little closer to this nowadays, but are backtracking into fundamentalist/right wing thinking. Religion is the worst legacy of human history.

    • Michael

      We went over this Vayman, the 85% you speak of is false since it claims that since two distance Jewish kingdoms was there so therefore all the land belongs to modern jews today.No other country believes such, not even the U.S. and only the right-wing likud and the like believes such .

      As for what early Americans did still does not dispute that Jerusalem was founded on hatred and genocide there Torah, our bible clearly states that in it’s writing. Seems a clear example of some backtracking into fundamentalist/right wing thinking.

      You also make the false analogy that because one is Jew one therefore accomplish x,y,z, .Kind of like saying cause Michael Jordan was one of the greatest in basketball all blacks are great in basketball and if you don’t believe such than . That Germanic thing you keep ranting about seems more of a embrace of Aryan ideas for Israeli Jews than the opposite you claim. You seem to over and over again in your comment make the claim that Germanic and esp Germanic Jews are Superior to other races solely based on being born such. A clear example of Aryan, Neo Nazi crap.

      As well it’s hard to shallow you state on arabs leaving jews alone (who are descendants of ancient Jews as well or Canaanites ) When there the ones, you know natives being forcefully evicted to make way for religious often radical foreigners.

    • Michael

      Would you advocate perpetrating war crimes (such as massive ethnic cleansing, dispossession, or even committing genocide) against non-Jews to make “Eretz Yisrael” a country under “Jewish control”?
      In Biblical times, Israelites’ conquest of Jericho contained many documented cases of mass killings and looting, could such Biblical events be used as a precedent to “redeem Eretz Yisrael” from the “gentiles” or Golems?
      How do you know where, when, and how to draw the line?

    • ThePope

      See what religious abuse can lead to? Folks, don’t let this happen to you, or your head will also fill up with nonsense. Do not mix you guesses about how important you are mix with your survival instinct or you will believe anything. You are special, Zinovy, but I think you would be surprised in what manner this is so.

  • Dee

    Yes, Michael I hope James Carroll isn’t going to glorify Judaism for an hour as I am frankly fed up with the Zionists and thieves and murderers who illegally occupy most of Palestine today and I am supporting world
    efforts to help the Palestinian people reclaim their historic homeland
    from them…

    Jews were only one of many tribes who made up the ancient Israelities and ruled jerusalem for a brief period…The Muslim and early Christians
    Syrians and others it seems were the dominant tribes then…

    I wonder who died and gave them the right to block Palestinian access and others access to their Holy City and their fathers and grandfathers places of worship and office….That’s the injustice the world -including
    those in the region are rising up against today and it is none to late to
    put them in their place or indeed kick them out….I will take it either way today…..I hope James Carroll speaks to this rising tide against
    the Zionist Jews….They are out of step with mainstream today and
    should go if they can’t reform and restore Palestinian rights…Dee

    • Michael

      Interesting to not from 70AD to the 1900′s such was the case, but if you want some reading it’s a rebuke of Joan Peters book Times Immemorial. Many of the claims Vayman has been getting and many others claims, myths, and ideology many radical Zionist purported by rewriting history

      Yehoshua Porath

    • Michael

      What makes this “unique and special connection” different from the one that German, Polish, Greek, Italian, Egyptian, … etc. Christians have towards Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem? Ironically, once upon a time the Catholic Christians felt a similar “unique and special connection” to “Eretz Yisrael”, and we all know how that turned out to be!
      Why must this “unique and special connection” imply Palestinian dispossession?
      Why cannot this “unique and especial connection” continue to flourish without “transferring” the Palestinian people out of their homes, farms, and business?
      Why Christians’ “unique and special connections” to “Eretz Yisrael” flourished without Palestinians being “transferred” or dispossessed?


    • PunctuaionNazi

      (Dee has no idea what an ellipses is, or how to use it, and she doesn’t care if the world knows it.)

  • Michael

    * Does this “unique and special connection” transfer to other humans upon their conversion to Judaism?
    In other words, assuming that a million people convert to Judaism (which already occurred during the great Jewish Khazrian empire),
    Did these new converts magically overnight develop a “unique and special connection” to “Eretz Yisrael”? If your answer is yes,
    Could Palestinians reclaim their looted homes if they all made a mass conversion to Judaism?
    Are you aware that it’s against the Israeli Law to pretend to be Jewish? This is actually punishable with up to a year’s imprisonment, and many such cases have been successfully prosecuted in the “only democracy in the Middle East”. (Fateful Triangle, p. 158)

    There is no question of the fact that many Jews do feel a “unique and special connection” toward “Eretz Yisrael”, which we neither seek to diminish nor nullify. However, to claim that this “connection” is stronger, different, or even more divine than the way Muslims and Christians feel toward Palestine, is nothing but a racist claim. This fact was very well articulated by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the father of the Israeli political Right, in 1923. He wrote:

    “They [Palestinians] look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true favor that Aztecs looked upon Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie. Palestine will remain for the Palestinians not a borderland, but their birthplace, the center and basis of their own national existence.” (Righteous Victims p. 36)

  • http://www.loganxart.com loganxart

    Free Palestine…these folks claiming to be Hebrews are nothing but decedents of converts…they have no historical claim to any of the land…

    In fact most were communists/atheists fleeing Russia, etc…who got a free ride to Palestine…because they claimed they were Jewish…and because the British/Americans didnt want thousands of poor Jews flocking to their country…

    zionist war criminals use their media outlets and lobbyist to black-mail the world into letting occupy, rape, bomb, kill women and children with no second looks…

    say no to zionism because its bad for your children…

    • Susan

      If you are so concerned about refugees why don’t you discuss the 1 million jewish refugees kicked out of Arab countries .50% of population in Israel are from the Arab countries . By the way there are always been a large population of jews in Israel so lets not pretend that jews came from Mars.

    • hilary stookey

      Our tacit support for whatever Israel does is bad for not just our children. It is bad for this whole country. Every one of us is affected by it.
      - Our budget includes $3Billion in aid to Israel. We are cutting programs which radically affect the welfare of women and children, but Congress has not allowed one cent of its aid to Israel be cut. Not 1c. This decision-making affects the economic picture of our country and the welfare of its citizens.
      - Nearly all members of Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, are beholden to AIPAC for campaign support dollars. With that hanging over their heads, they are not about to vote on anything which will hurt Israel. That hurts our political system.
      - In the last vote at the United Nations, America was the only country to veto a statement condemning the settlements situation. The ONLY country amongst 130+ members. That situation says something about the blindness of support. We are alone. That is not good for the standing of America in this world.
      - This blind support is a magnet for terrorists to hone in on. That could be a disaster in the making for us all, again.
      See this article: Why is Israel aid exempt? (http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/201135115850632729.html)
      MJ Rosenberg is a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters,

  • Anonymous

    All three religious groups should leave and give the land to the Tibetans.

  • John

    Zechariah – Chapter 12 – Verse 3. And it hath come to pass, in that day, I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone to all the peoples, All loading it are completely pressed down, And gathered against it have been all nations of the earth.

    Ask yourself why a city with no modern strategic value or natural resources keeps countries around the world occupied trying to come up with a peaceful solution. Because God said it would.

    • H_stookey

      No, God does not dictate what you and I do. He has given us the freedom to decide for ourselves. This is therefore happening because humanity is behaving this way.

  • Houligansmum

    I was priviledged to visit Jerusalem in 1996; it is a beautiful, ancient city that was as moving to my atheist husband as it was to my Catholic soul. I know it is unlikely to happen but I feel that Jerusalem should become a free city not belonging to any nation or group. It is a sacred place to too many diverse religions and peoples to assign it to any one nation.

    • ThePope

      There is no such thing as a “sacred place”. Either all places are equally sacred or you are an idiot.

    • Glyn Ashwood

      Hi.  Go here for an Op-Ed agreeing with your views, written in 2002: http://www.scribd.com/doc/22403142/Jerusalem-should-be-a-free-city  

  • http://www.facebook.com/larryfiehn Larry Fiehn

    There should not be any land or place considered “holy”. Amazing what believers in various “Sky Fairies” will do. Personally, I hope Jerusalem disappears from the face of the earth.

    • Steve

      …”Personally, I hope Jerusalem disappears from the face of the earth…”

      …”A blooming mushroom cloud…”

      …”Religion is the worst legacy of human history…”

      These comments have proved mankind’s need for a benevolent God…

    • Jim in Omaha

      That’s exactly what the “wisdom of Solomon” would dictate. Of course we would have to make it look like a meteorite hit it or some other “act of God” so the crazy people who think it’s a sacred place wouldn’t make it their life’s work to exact revenge.

  • WannaBet

    I have an alternative future image for Jerusalem. A blooming mushroom cloud.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=584989777 Brian P. Kasso Gaidry

    It is important for us to understand that Jerusalem is the place of salvation that is the soul of the world, and it can be found any place in the world where the soul is. Jerusalem was called The Holy City that descends from Heaven anywhere and anytime people are sincere enough, and can make a prayer proper enough to manifest the “Abode of Peace”. It has existed in as many places as there are people on this Earth. In West Africa it was called Wagadu, and in Ireland it was called “The Fifth Province”.

    Jerusalem will never be won or taken from another by force, nor will it be rebuilt of stone, or wood or earth. It is found within your soul, and heart and womb and once you realize that you already HAVE Jerusalem, wherever you are, there is no longer anything to fight over.

  • Ellen Dibble

    To me, the mystery of Jerusalem is that it embodies so many ideals and hopes and yet only the idea of those ideals remain. The truth is a history of violence and conflict back before Babylon.
    What other city becomes owned by this people or that, this set of ideas or that?
    How about Sevastopol, Ukraine, which was shown was physically fought over in the Ukrainian assembly lately, over whether to allow Russia port rights there. It has been an important military and commercial port for Muscovite power for centuries. Now it’s settled until 2042, but in the meantime assemblymen bring an umbrella and open it in front of the Speaker (I think), and beat him up behind the umbrella. Something like that.
    My point is that cities can be fought over. But not quite like Jerusalem. To me, Jerusalem is like a dead parent, no longer existing on earth. Only the grave is there. I don’t really want it to reappear as perfection incarnate. That is too hard to defend.

  • Eric M. Jones

    Aw common….this is bogus crapdoodle. Jerusalem is the center of madness and violence. It’s not on my list of places to go.

  • Susan

    “Muslims took Jerusalem without Bloodshed” James Carroll who are you kidding?

  • Anonymous

    Humans were not created in the image of god. The god that humans invented in the bible is a warlike egotistical tyrant. Religion is the problem not the solution.

  • Charlie Mc, Scituate, MA

    The idea of the “Holy Ground”, “Sacred Place”, Sanctuary etc…, has served its purpose in all religions throughout the centuries. This was fitting when we “thought like a child, spoke like a child etc…, and had the IDEA that God favored certain peoples over others. I suggest a careful reading of Karen Armstrong’s “History of God”, to help us gain some perspective.
    Astrophysics currently describes an evolution of the cosmos from a “singularity”, a point of no dimensions, a condition where space and time did not yet exist and everywhere was no where; i.e., creation ex nihilo requires an inconceivability of the “cause” [God is NO THING].
    That point still exists and is at the center of each and every one of us, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and also agnostics and atheists. When will our world be helped by its teachers to grow up and
    realize that faith is coincidental. The very earliest words on Jesus’ lips as related in the Gospel of Mark were: “”Jesus went to Galilee and preached the good news from God, saying,
    ‘The present moment is the right time,the Kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU Change the way you think about reality; believe this “good news’.”

  • YourGuestIsAss3

    Sacrifice originates in the observation that when a large cat or group of cats kills one of your friends you are then safe for a while. Thus you are saved by their sacrifice. This guy is spouting Jewish propaganda as if it is history.

  • Ashaby1

    Jerusalem should be a neutral city, It is spiritual to all the three major religions. There is ONE GOD , the GOD of and for ALL of US. If all of us believe this there should be no violence. ONLY PEACE can FREE Jerusalem.

    • Thaddeus

      It should be destroyed. It has been nothing but a curse

  • Anonymous

    Athens had better gods, science, and architecture.

  • YourGuestIsAss

    Take all the people who believe this kind of bull and shoot them into the sun and that would be a meaningful sacrifice. Then the rest of us could get on with being human

  • SouthernRob

    Great discussion. I’m a non-believer who grew up religious. Recently, I’ve started to understand how the “god” described in the Bible- that makes practically no sense if understood in the mainstream way- makes a lot of sense if thought about 180 degrees differently. “God” could be an attempt to describe our one-ness with each other, and with everything. Not in a woo-ey way, but in a very “Carl Sagan’s Cosmos” kind of way.

    To me, this really explains why the idea wasn’t supposed to be represented with icons- or even pronounced. The moment you try to describe how you perceive it, you risk limiting it for the people you tell (yeah, like I’m doing here :)). When you expect or demand that they perceive it the same way, you get “religion” and “dogma”.

    It’s not an understanding that you can put into doctrine, and that makes it difficult to spread. Doctrine and inflexibility lead to violence, not ideas themselves- no matter how right or wrong they are.

    • Sue

      I’m with you, Rob. Any religious dogma that divides us, that makes us separate from each other and the God within us, that preaches hate, destruction, judgment, subjugation, and murder, is a problem.

      If you think of organized religions as man’s way to gain power, control and wealth, Christianity, Judaism and Islam make a whole lot of sense.

      Having been raised a Christian, my message is get over what you were taught and start exploring what will really nurture the human family. Love yourself unconditionally. Then love your neighbors, your enemies, and your planet as you love yourself.

  • NiceNLite137

    The Greatest Bull ever Thrown

  • Tina

    I can’t stand this PUNY analysis! He completely ignores the cultures of the Americas and of Sub-Saharan Africa, all of which were destroyed by this very same kind of arrogance (and by disease, of course)!

    • Tina

      And of Mongolia, China, Japan, the Australian Aborigines, Polynesia, India, the Celts, Sami, etc.

    • Tina

      I can’t say that I heard a satisfying answer to my comment from Mr. Carroll, but I will listen to it again thru podcast.

      Thanks, Tom, for airing my comment, and thank you for the lesson! Had you read my full comment on air, with its first sentence, the tone of the show would have gone down. In the middle of interviewing your guest, fielding comments/questions from callers, Facebook, Twitter, and this page, you STILL you had the presence of mind to edit OUT my first sentence! This is yet another example of why this show stands out from so much else that is on air! You had “the ear” to leave out the cranky part of my comment, and go right to the substantive part! I am happy to be subtly corrected in that way, as it is a GREAT lesson!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I don’t mind thinking about this: Is religion tribal or is it global? Is it a force for unity, community, peace? Or is it a force for division, us/them, the arrogance of saying my god is the only god, and it is not your god. Truly baffling statements like that.

    • Claire

      My guess is that the psychological (even physiological) impulse for religion is global. It’s a way to reduce stress generated by conflict and killing, as Mr. Carroll said. It’s expressed “tribally,” with different points emphasized in different locales by different groups. All of the great religions, I’d ague–even including Buddhism, which calls itself a philosophy more than a religion–emphasize the need to work through the baser human impulses (killing, destruction–self or otherwise), to work toward harmony. Some organized religion’s leaders have emphasized dominion rather than harmony, but the main teachings are for peace, for non-division, for equality, for equity.

      Jersualem has served as the mortar and pestle–a Western focal point–where the bad stuff may be ultimately ground down, until humans finally grow up enough (psychologically) to recognize that human concepts are all limited, no one has all the right answers, which might not ever be fully knowable. So live and let live already. Organized religions serve to provide a framework and language through which this message can be discussed and expressed until more people “get it”–the message that peace will only happen when we knock off the judgments about others’ views and treat each other with care and compassion.

  • NewRulesForOldFools

    People who are not Enlightened (with a capital E) should not be allowed to speak the work god.

    • Ellen Dibble

      That was part of religion. The word for the divine was rendered as a sort of blank, I believe, in the Old Testament. I think maybe Jahweh might be that one, a sort of space holder.
      Not that it prevented people from claiming special relation to said entity.

    • SouthernRob

      Who decides that?

      • ThePopeyGuy

        Such a question only exists in the unenlightened mind. An enlightened individual will be creative in a manner that is a quantum leap above any type of mash-up of previous material. Their explanations of reality will be impossible to understand by the unenlightened mind (just like quantum mechanics is impossible to understand in the ordinary associative sense) but by their works they can come to be known if they expose themselves.

        • SouthernRob

          Wow. Just…wow.

          Since the (your?) original phrasing was “should not be allowed”, some interference is implied in preventing the unenlightened from speaking certain ideas. So, I was asking who that should be. I can tell this conversation is going no where…I really would have expected the enlightened mind to come off as far less condescending.

          • ThePope

            There is no such thing as an enlightened mind. The nearest a mind can come to being enlightened, is to know for sure it is not enlightened, and has no possibility of ever being enlightened, and the important part is that it is actually able to see, in real time, why this is the case. That is the closest it can come.
            Yeah listen my “should not be allowed” was obviously wishful thinking. Actually almost humor, as it is obvious that this could never come about, because the people who say god this and god that, have no idea what they are talking about. But they will never know this. They believe. If they could actually see anything they would just shut the f*ck up anyway.

  • Ellen Dibble

    If religion is/was a new development (in Islam, Carroll is saying) in how we relate to each other, how is that?
    I read that Mohammed created a much, much better social order, far less conflictual and short-sighted, with Islam. So that is a new way of relating — for them, then.
    But does religion really open doors, or does it provide pre-cooked answers, traditions, that foreclose coming together in meaningful ways?

  • Anonymous

    “Tangible relics of the way god has touched the human imagination” – a bit of a new definition of tangible relics. Only a theocratic mind could have come up with that inspired nonsense.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’ve definitely got to buy this book to see if a peace capital can evolve out of Jerusalem. I don’t see Netanyahu coming close, nor his constituents, nor the Palestinians, not the Islamic peoples in such upheaval across the diasporas of this and that. However, perhaps there are seeds of common cause that I don’t know about. All those under 30 with access via cellphone to ideas that are newly hatched (and hatched not in Jerusalem). We’ll see. But this book probably was written pre-Tunisia.

  • Anonymous

    Even Newark?

  • ThePope

    “Here” none of this crap actually happened.

  • Todd Lewis

    The problem is monotheism, the absurdity of God hating nonbelievers being one of the most pernicious ideas in human history. That and the teaching that the world is coming to an end.
    Monotheism gave humanity a powerful new weapon for subjugating fellow man. Freud had on thing right: “Religious intolerance was inevitably born with the belief in one god.”

  • Ukumbwa

    Jerusalem is a touchpoint for modernity? He is proud of Jerusalem’s role in helping to bring foundation to the rampant world desecration that modernity has created for us? Why is this narrow-minded romanticism stand as scholarship? This whole connection made to modernity is this book’s downfall. If he had been able to make a case…and maybe he has, but I haven’t heard it here….that the spiritual traditions focused there in Jerusalem have the clarity and spiritual ascendency to move us BEYOND the materialism and secular-suicidalism of modernity, then he’d have something important to share about this one place on a very large sacred, blue planet.

    For all those for whom Jerusalem is important, please find your sustenance and empowerment and connection there….in peace and compassion….but please do not assume, as this man does, that Jerusalem holds some sort of universal redemption for EVERYone. This is one special place in a world of sacred places. Please let us not fall into this narrow-mindedness.

    • JJC

      I think his point is that it is for EVERYone. If peace can be found in Jerulalem, then peace can be found anywhere. This would be the inspiration that ends war, for EVERTone.

      • Ukumbwa

        I think that he is mistaken in his assumption and his brash generalization that Jerusalem is for EVERYone, if that is indeed what he has said. There has been too much of the assumption that monotheism and the christian “G-O-D” is for everyone. If you’ve never been on the “other” side of that brashness, you may never know the familiar sting of his stridency. Jerusalem isn’t for everyone, but it could be if the minds that ruled it would put down the guns of their own ideological imperialism and understand the sacredness of EVERYwhere else. To end war will take more than the soft symbolism of Jerusalem….AND I know peace is possible….but all roads to peace do not lead through this particular embattled city.

  • JJC

    Did I hear this right?
    Mankind finally agrees that God is unknowable, common to all religions already.
    There can be no conflict over God.

    Israel and the Palestinians resolve their differences.
    This shows the world than anyone can resolve their difference.
    End of war.

    This is very inspiring.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Agree with Tina, that unity would have to include other traditions not part of the trinity of Jerusalem monotheisms. But we are far enough from the creation of the United Nations in New York City to know it cannot be all things to all people. Maybe another approach is called for. A fresh start.

  • Michael

    Interest guest, Thanks for the show Onpoint.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The caller now is talking about the derivation of the word Jerusalem, a duality, two cities of peace. Salem, related to shalom, I think, as in shalom aleichem, peace be with you.

    And I think it’s related to salaam, to islam, devotion — I’m forgetting exactly. But I think the word Islam is very close to Jerusalem.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I think it is important conceptually, but I don’t know the languages enough, only enough to point things out.
      But besides salem/Jerusalem/shalom being linked to salaam and Islam, don’t forget Muslim. I’m betting Muslim has shalom in Mu-slim. Remember how Arabic script leaves out the vowels. And the Mu would be mother of or something, as Abd-allah (Abdullah) is servant of Allah, and Muhammed is probably Mu- of Ahmed, so Muslim is probably Mu of Ahmed. And then Muslim is a lot like Mu-salem. And if you think of Allah, think also of Elohim, the El root being part of one way of referring to the lord in Hebrew. And one might say well, it’s just that the languages of the Middle East are closely related, derive from one another. Yes, but so do their concepts. Whereas here in the West, I have gotten the impression that the concepts are seen as at war with one another, as if one barely sees the other’s way of worship as “true” in any way of value.
      What the world needs is idiots like me who are way, way, way too busy to be experts about anything, but nonetheless display their ignorance, hoping someone who knows will fill in the gaps.

      • Ukumbwa

        It IS important conceptually, but it remains to be seen how people bring those concepts into compassionate manifestation. This is the true test of Jerusalem and those who find it important as a place or as a concept. This will be a great thing to see.

        • Ellen Dibble

          I am trying to think what can be done to forward “compassionate manifestation.” What can be done by people like you and me, because it seems not to be happening elsewhere.

          • Ukumbwa

            I think there is a lot of time and honest communication and spiritual/social work that goes into that process. There are a lot of things we talk at, but not about enough. One of the first steps is being conscious and honest about history and its effect on the present. We also have to be willing to change our lives and practices based on what we feel and know. I don’t think Carroll’s presentation of his book really got us there. It was more of a smoke-screen to more grounded issues that didn’t come up until the end of the hour. He’s steeped in his own confusing dogma. It’s important for us to talk and I think there should be opportunities for on-going engagement of these issues. I need to look into that. Be free to contact me on facebook if you’d like to talk further.

            Part of compassion in manifestation is honesty. That part takes work in this society.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think the Civil War was so akin to Jerusalem because we were actually fighting, losing many thousands of lives, for a goal that was in some ways transcendent. Slavery was very profitable to all the parts of the new nation that traded in all aspects of owning other humans. Creating a profitable economy that did NOT exploit others is STILL a struggle. But yes, if you’re fighting for what is likely to REDUCE profitability north and south, you will feel close to Jerusalem.

  • Martart1

    Please explain the slaughter (beheadings) of all the Jews of Medina by
    Mohammed and the professed love of honoring the lost Temple by
    Muslims of the time?

  • Ctrain70

    Geez… Democracy started and/or was promoted in Jerusalem? The Greeks would have something to say about that and there is nothing less democratic than religion in any form. Jerusalem “modernized” what? A singular god is somehow considered an advance over polytheism? Why, exactly? Because he happens to be the god that the author believes in? I say it’s nothing short of pure arrogance. Obviously the author badly wants Jerusalem to be special and twists every “fact” he can glean from ancient texts written by ancient Sarah Palins to connect dots in his favor. Instead of basing all conclusions off the studying of gibberish written and rewritten by older and less advanced cultures, call it as it is. Jerusalem is no better than any other city that exists where multiple cultures collide. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We’d have far more piece and less hatred in the world without it. We owe our cultural advances to the Greeks and Romans infinitely more than we do anyone else. I’ve listened to and been a supporter of NPR for years and years and this was the first time I feel like I wasted an hour of my time. Not one caller with a dissenting view was allowed through making the entire show more of an advertisement for a book, a place and a people than a honest discussion. If I want to heat that I can flip the station to Fox.

    • Phill

      Really? The Greeks were that advanced in culture? What do you mean, the homo-erotic nature of their relationships or their waging wars?

      What people like you fail to realize is because there is a G-d, that same G-d didn’t direct them to wage war, pillage, kill in the name of Him. You somehow think G-d is responsible for man’s actions – it is the other way around. You have free will to make absurd comments in your post – who’s to blame? G-d?

      Try to separate religion from G-d and you might be enlightened rather than ranting.

  • Fhuguenard

    Hello there,

    I’ve recently produced a free documentary on meditation that is available online. Every day, I receive emails from around the world from people who tell me how life changing it has been for them so I am promoting awareness of the film by doing radio interviews.

    Here are some recent interviews that I’ve done (they are low budget internet radio programs but you should at least hear how compelling I can be as a guest).


    All I want to do is help people so if this is something that you might be interested in, please contact me.

    See the film here:


  • Ellen Dibble

    One reason Jerusalem is off my wish-I-could-visit list is that I believe once you’ve been there, you are not allowed to visit plenty of other places with similarly rich histories: Egypt, for instance. There is a way of entering by way of the West Bank, if you make special efforts not to get your passport marked some certain way. But this was not mentioned today. Until that policy passes, I don’t pass, that’s for sure.

  • ThePopeyGuy

    To the person who decided to ban my comments. Frack you

  • Claire

    Terrific show! Thank you, Tom and Mr. Carroll for much food for thought. Jerusalem as the focal point for a next stage of human development: recognition of the folly of fratricide, war, cruelty. When we have achieved that, after wrestling with the devil within us all for the past 10,000 years, we will see the “amazing grace” that’s become the erstwhile hymn of the USA. That grace, that is, that will enable us to stop being so blind and pigheaded about ways to live peacably with one another.

    In fact, it’s probably only when we LET GO of the idea that Jerusalem is a “special” physical place, AND a promised but future reality, and instead recognize that Jerusalem–city of peace (secular and religous)–lies within us, that we’ll make some real progress toward our fratricidal tendencies cloaked in religous scripture and robed with religous zealots of all stripes. That is, there’s no God to save us from our worst tendencies. There’s no one State or Religion that can take the higher ground–some City on a Hill–only all of us, worldwide, to share common ground.

  • Zinovy Vayman, the Galilee

    The genius of Jews continues to this day.
    Jews allow themselves to ridicule their prophets and to disagree with their teachers.
    Jews are essentially atheists because G-d is nothingness for them (Kabbalah.)
    [James Carroll defined G-d as an unknowable one which is close but not quite.]
    After thousands of years Jews became peaceful. [Judges in California do not want Jews on jury because it is hard to obtain a death sentence.] No death sentences in the State of Israel; the Arab neighbors do have capital punishments.
    The “grateful” mankind does impose apartheid against Jews, it kills them and hates the survivors. It tries to emulate them and envies them even more. Jews are bright and hounded. They try assimilation and sometimes accept outsiders banging on their doors and willing to join their genetic pool. It is quite true that Germanic powers decided to dump poor Jews in Palestine. But now Germanic rulers like to do ethnic cleansing of their guinea pigs, Jews corralled in their Bantustan. This will divert the masses’ attention from their problems. Blame it on Jews, folks !
    Just listen to Tom Ashbrook. He counts like that, “…Christian, Arab, Palestinian…” No “Jews” in this segment of his remark. Even the best and the brightest subconciously want to get rid of Jews.
    But Palestinian Jews are now 5 million strong and they are more or less faithful to their teaching. Not like some genetic brothers who dropped their Judaism in the past millenia and became Palestinian Christians and/or Muslims.
    Ah, Mr Carroll, Armageddon (Megiddo) is not outside Jerusalem, it is more than a hundred miles to the north, in Galilee…

  • Michael


    Found this, it may interest you from project aladin a group consisting of jews,muslims and christians trying to work together (from what I read)

    projetaladin org /holocaust/en/muslims-and-jews/muslims-and-jews-in-history/muslims-and-jews-in-history

    Medieval Islamic civilization developed into its most productive period between the years 900 and 1200, and Jewish civilization in the Islamic world followed suit. The fact that, with the spread of Islam, Arabic became the language of the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, including the Jews of those countries, facilitated cultural cross-influences. For several centuries, most Jewish writing in those regions, both secular and religious, was in Arabic, written in Hebrew letters.

    Beginning with rabbis like Saadya Gaon in Iraq, and continuing especially in Muslim Spain, Jewish thinkers followed in Muslim footsteps and applied the same kind of loving study and exploration to the Hebrew language that Muslim scholars were doing to Arabic, the language of the Quran. They developed the study of Hebrew grammar, which was something new in Jewish thinking. Over time, they worked out the understanding of Hebrew grammar that is in use today

    During this period, some of the greatest works of Jewish philosophy, grammar, law, philology, and lexicography were written, in parallel with great advances in these fields in the Islamic world. Jewish poetry in Hebrew found a renaissance during this period as well, and its meters, styles, and contents parallel those of its Muslim Arabic counterpart. In Spain, Jewish civilization flourished along with the flowering of the Islamic and secular sciences and culture throughout the region, known in Arabic as al-Andalus.

    • Ellen Dibble

      Thanks for this. If Jews in Muslim Spain and North Africa (Sephardic, I believe) were writing, circa 900 to 1200, in Arabic written in Hebrew letters, that is interesting to me, in that something similar happened as well in German-speaking areas, where the Ashkenazi Jews were writing in German using Hebrew letters, in a German they made their own as Yiddish. It’s using German grammar and vocabulary but with an accent and plenty of spice: See http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/ for a Massachusetts institution that is keeping this rich way of speaking out of the morgue of languages.

  • apple

    Please come to the performance of

    in Stow, MA on Sunday at 3pm.

  • Dave in RI

    Why do so many of you think that this show was an invitation to you to express your hatred of religion and vent your disgust at those who value their religions? That was not the topic of the show. If you feel there is no value in discussing the impact of the spiritual philosophies that emerged from and centered around the city of Jerusalem, that’s great. But it seems more than a little inconsiderate to intrude on the thread with your off-topic, and insulting comments about specific religions and the people who practice them.

    • Ukumbwa

      I don’t know about “hatred of religion”, but I do know that it is important to allow people to take a discussion where they will. There are no rules that say that a conversation/discussion must stay within certain boundaries. And I think it must be understood that the discussion of christianity and the issues that Jerusalem raises are going to engender the revelation of people’s feelings and clarity around history. And a soft-soap presentation like Carroll’s makes it hard to stay silent in the face of ignorance that has hurt so many people throughout history and the present. We have to be ready for the shadow side to show itself when certain subjects are broached.

  • Liz Groves

    I really enjoyed listening to this discussion and its mixture of history and spirituality, while also acknowledging the politics of the Middle East.

  • Zeno

    Holy places? …Holy relics? …Holy cow? …Holy Christ?

    So many places on the planet have been the focus of the gods. Too many to name and most forgotten. Do the old dead gods still hold sway over the ruins of the Maya, Aztec, Ur? The most important places of their times and the focal points of mans quest of appeasement to the unseen as a demonstration of real power over people and culture.

    When excavating at the base of a Aztec structure in Mexico City the workers could still see and smell the putrid blood of thousands in the sand. What was it all for…this Holy place and the Holy rites? All their gods are dead now…so logically and religiously what was the point? How important are their holy sites and lands now?

    If history teaches us anything…millions will have to die and suffer before the gods and their holy places are willfully forgotten and replaced by new gods again.

    Who created all of the old dead gods? Who created “the living god?”

    Armageddon is when all the believers are dead… and in their passing, take their gods with them. Enki, Ki, Enlil and An are waiting.

    • at

      When are people going to realize that outside of what may have taken place in the consciousness of a few individuals throughout history, the religion thing is all made up. There are no Jews or Christians, or Moslems, it is just a fiction that divides and creates its own history which then ensnares them. I go along with George Carlin, these people are not worth any nostrification whatsoever other than what amusement can be found in the comitragic posturing about elves and faeries that their bathos demands. They call it tradition and faith but it is more akin to a type of child-abuse that is passed down the generations as this disease we call religion.

      • Zeno

        That’s the genius of it.. its unprovable. It may be “all made up” but the power of the unprovable is horrifying real. Just like political parties…just ideological constructs for controlling minds.

        To be be exploited the subject must be willing.

  • Jmbuzard

    I wish I had listened to this show when it was first broadcast this morning. Carroll presents an anodyne, sugar-coated vision of biblical religion. A religion of nonviolence? The Bible includes portions in which God enjoins his people to kill off the entire indigenous population of the land he’s decided to give them. The idea that God is one is also susceptible to a reading less generous than Carroll provides -as Tom perceived. Whose God is it, anyway? Maybe we stand to do each other greater good if we think we all have different gods, none of whom has a monopoly.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I have a feeling we will be coming back to the issues of Jerusalem, when the fly ball that came out of left field in Tunisia and Egypt stops rolling, and our obeisance to oil and oil shipping routes stops making hypocrites of us. (What does she mean?, you ask. Good question.)
    On this issue, I have just begun to bite. I read all the acknowledgements in Carroll’s book, which I bought, and saw that I’d need maps and additional sources. I am physiologically incapable of addressing a book on a topic such as this without what I consider counterbalances, groundings in the way of maps, at a minimum. Just to look at Carroll’s table of contents makes me numb. Every topic has been worn down like an ancient stone threshold by millions of cultural connections. It looks like a grand synopsis of what has led to our present stalemate. So I wouldn’t come home without ballast.
    So I have bought “The Next Jerusalem: Sharing the Divided City,” by Michael Sorkin, editor, and about three dozen contributors, which came out shortly after 9/11 by Monacelli Press, NYC, based on two conferences, the first in 1997 in Jerusalem on modern urban cities, from which Palestinians were conspicuous by their absence. The second conference, in July 1999, in Bellagio, Italy, had a balance of participants, gathering to address the “physical future of the city,” with mood “constructive, emotional, frank, and willing.” Their work is supplemented by architects and writers added. I’ll note there is zero overlap between the Carroll bibliography and acknowledgements and the “Next Jerusalem” book, which is more of a planning document, 431 pages, with dozens of drawings and photos, designs. Visually it is very rich. I open to Amir Sumaka’i Fink’s To Hell and Back: Jerusalem’s Queer Center and find out about Turkish baths, and the nondefinition of certain behaviors as nonstandard, page 238. There is the Civilization Center: Sketchbook for a Public Space by James Wines, which has many pages of trans-religious symbols and ways of building those into the landscape. Did you know the star of David is the water symbol (triangle pointing down) crossed with the fire symbol (triangle pointing up)? Or The Subversion of Jerusalem’s Sacred Vernaculars by Eyal Weizman, or Parrando’s Paradox: Error in Holy Lands by Keller Easterling. On and on and on.

  • Ellen Dibble

    And I’ve got “Palestine: A Guide,” by Mariam Shahin, Interlink, 2006, which will tell you right at the beginning a history of this territory without a Biblical shadow. (Note, Philistine and Palestine are words that sound the same for a reason, if you know what I mean.) “In about 1250 BCE the arrival of the Philistines, Sea Poeples from the Aegean, and the migration into Canaan of the Hebrews, changed the landscape forever. Both groups are belie ed to have mingled with the local poulation, but only the former fully amalgamated, losing its separate identity over several generations. “Iron Age: 1200-330 BCE: Remains of pottery decoraed with stylized birds discovered in Askalan, Isdud, Gath, Ekron, and Gaza were the first evidence of Philistine communities in Palestine. The commerce-minded Philistines introduced new ways to ferment wind, as well as tools and weapons and chariots made with iron. The Philistines, unlike their neighbors the Hebrews, consumed pork and did not circumcise their men.
    “Constant conflict with the Hebrews, who had settled inland and became a considerable force, created much destruction ahd havoc as kingdoms were established and destroyed. According to Hebrew teaching, the Jewish King Solomon (970-928 BCE) built a great temple at this time… Although Ekron was still considered a distinctly Philistine city, by the time the Assyrians ruled Palestine in 722 BCE, the Philistines had become part and parcel of the local pouplation and the ‘kingdom of Israel’ had been destroyed. But it was not until 586 BCE, when the Babylonians stormed the country with their largely Chaldean troops and carried off significant numbers of the population into slavery, that the distinctly Philistine character of the coastal cities ceased to exist.”
    My friends, the Babylonian captivity, wherein as I understand it the Old Testament began lovingly to be put together in exile by the Jews, “By the waters of Babylon”… as the old gospel song goes, as sung by another community in exile (African slaves) — that had an effect on Palestinians too. Anyway, that is part of page 6 out of 500 with index and plenty of grit, for instance a recipe for Zucchini Stew among Bethlehem traditions, on page 356. You see how this might counterbalance a book that has Boston intellectuals and Harvard academics coming out the seams.
    And there is the book Jerusalem in History, edited by K.J. Asali, author of 15 books on the Islamic heritage of Jerusalem, published 2000, Olive Branch Press. I think all that might adequately counterbalance years of Christian intellectual inbreeding and let me focus.
    America is the land of hope and frontiers; our forefathers built the Panama Canal, even AFTER the Gold Rush. I don’t think we give up on the prospects for humanity being graced by a sense of purpose and progression. Russia, lower Africa, India, China might look at us rolling their collective eyes, but so what.

    • Michael

      Pretty cool stuff,


  • zinovy vayman

    Many thanks for digging out the most valuable piece about the Indo-Germanic Philistines and their interaction with the Semites.
    One correction: the Philistines came to the Canaan, not to Palestine. Palestine is an Indo-Germanic name which was applied to Canaan much later.
    Please, come to discuss a theory of mine on the genesis of Judeans, the remarkable breed of people calling to us from antiquity. Their genetic pool diluted and wiped out again and again, they still keep enough DNA to fascinate the world.
    I like Mr Carrol writing about the Jewish DNA in the Germanic countries (“the West”). The Germanic nations did carry a certain percentage of Jewish genes. And vice versa…
    BTW, I left a message for you last month while discussing ethnicities. It seems to me you did not read it.

    • Ellen Dibble

      I thought I not only read your message on ethnicities but replied to it. Anyway, I’m glad you think we’re approaching objectivity. I was reading Carroll’s book last night, and it is a lot better than I expected. I think he was talking about the holiness of the place of Jerusalem and so on which got me all defensive. All that mythologizing can be a big problem. Anyway, I recommend it.

  • AC

    I listened to the program twice, to be sure I got the sentiment as well as the details. Jerusalem (on high) is the “prize” for all peoples because it is “Jerusalem of Gold” and as everything gold, it glitters. Now Jerusalem is in the hands of the Israelis. They won it fair and square after 3 major wars versus the entire Arab World. The territory of Jerusalem is much like the territory of the American Indian, also won by war. Will the USA willingly give back the choice lands taken by force from the American Indians? I suspect not. The human race is a race of animals, prone to the evolutionary predisposition of “their” genes. Like it or not, we are what we are. And, with our brain, our inventive mind, which has come about through evolution and which keeps us surviving against the elements, providing solutions to problems of shelter, clothing, food and education of our young, we bask in the “success” of our species: 7 billion individuals to date roam the earth. We have the mental capacity to “dream” the sublime and the ideal and the fictional. Yet we are grounded by our biology to continue to struggle and fight the wars among peoples, nations (or whatever artificial, non-biological distinctions we can invent, like the Cold War Capitalism/Socialism). We are what we are, like it or not.

    I did not like James Carroll’s scare tactic remark: we much cease being “human” or that part of us which is prone to violence and war, because we will blow ourselves up to extinction with nuclear weapons in the Armageddon (referred to in the Bible). Not a pretty thought, but we will not side-step our inclination to fight to the death. Just look around the world and see the conflicts blowing up life and limb: Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia, Tunisia, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Central America. Indeed what part of the world is free from fighting and killing? And if asked if they care if they risk total annihilation, the zelots who are fighting around the world, would say a resounding: no!

    Well, does this mean we must sucumb to the inevitable? In our minds, we envision heaven, a place of peace and rest, free of war. We need this place, if only in our conscious mind. All well and good.

    But Jerusalem as a city has inspired men to war, in all cultures and at all times. And a correction for JC. About the Jewish World and Jerusalem of the Bible. Sacrifices were not a substitute or a carthesis for a propensity of the human spirit for war and violence. Sacrifices were a way to bind the society together, to establish a hierarchy, with the aristocrats (the priestly class, the Kohanim) on the top. Much of the meat from animal sacrifices served to feed the kohanim and their families, as well as all visitors to Jerusalem who signed up in advance to participate in the distribution of meat of some designated sacrifices. In no way did the category of “holy sacrifices” or the actual performance of sacrifices mitigate the Hebrew’s propensity to defend the honor of God and to fight wars to maintain their control of the City on the Mount. And Muslims and Christians also were inspired to fight to the death for their gods to conquer by any means the City of Jerusalem. The word Jerusalem is a composite of two etymologies: (rain, or radiate) and (complete). Jerusalem was the embodiment of a radiating of completeness or “peace” to the world, a nice image, a great thought. Yet, the Jews, non-Jews, Muslims, and Christians throughout history, fought and spilled much blood to conquer, reconquer and reconquer again, the coveted City of Gold. “During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times” (Wikipedia)

    If anything, Jerusalem is an inspiration for all peoples who believe that this city is “theirs to own, to possess” to get all fired up, emotionally and spiritually, to blow the trumpets of call to arms and to send army after army to besiege the City of “Peace” This is the legacy of

    • Harold MacCaughey

      ATTN: AC You wrote… “They won it fair and square after 3 major wars versus the entire Arab World.”
      We are a world governed by laws, not “might makes right,” AC
      UN Resolution 242 dictated, among other things, that Israel gained territory in the Six Day War illegally. Israel needs to learn to live with its RIGHTFUL neighbors, or Israel is doomed to failure.

  • Israeli

    Mr. Carroll’s piece presents a very interesting view of Jerusalem, although it is my belief that he distorts the “Jewish model” as based on religion and “Zionism” (which he unfortunately does not define, thus leading to the distortion). Jews and Israelis began with a religious precept, monotheism of a G-d who cannot be seen, and as a result of this religious precept became an ethnic people. Only Jews who choose to live in Israel are NOT recognized or defined by the world as an ethnic people – which should, in sociological terms, perhaps be the definition of the much-misunderstood term of “Zionism”. Tibetans are largely Buddhists by religion, but are never, as an ethnic people, described as Buddhists, but as Tibetans. Mr. Carroll seems to refer to “Europeans” as a type of ethnicity, and, as a group, of Christian religion and yet we all know of the changing demographics of Europe. My point is that “Jews” are thought of only by their religion, except for “Zionists”. My contention is that Mr. Carroll is missing a very important concept when discussing Jerusalem solely as a religious icon for the Jews. It is also the center of their peoplehood since the time of King David building it as his people’s capital city. On the other hand, for both Christians and Moslems, Jerusalem is important only for religious events that happened there.

  • Jose

    Mr. Carroll’s statement that Abraham was the first Muslim is the most absurd, ridiculous, heretical and non-factual Biblical statement I have ever heard.

    How can anyone take this guy seriously?

  • Christobal

    I haven’t read the text. I saw it in a Borders in Puerto Rico, of all places. The only thing I will say is that White guys with maximum, liberal guilt who point fingers at their Christianity, but leave out their western, secular, Americanisms are the most hypocritical people who walk on this planet. He has issues.

    Yes, everybody has picked on the Jews, but that darned Bibi, according to this man. Good luck making that policy in the M.E., James.

  • Christobal

    I did hear some of Mr. Carroll’s critiques of America’s City on the Hill propaganda, and was relieved. Yes, the same Lincoln and Grant who freed the African American slaves killed and enslaved Native Americans very gleefully(Grant, along with Sherman, had an Anti-Semitic streak that would make an 11th century crusader blush).

    Plus, while admitting that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is riddled with troubles, thinking that Buddhism and Hinduism aren’t plagued with their own share of violence and corruption is the epitome of White, naive liberalism run amok, frankly. As I type, an African American Democrat, very critical of Bush’s invasion of oil rich Iraq, is gleefully engaged in oil rich Libya, along with his buddies Sarkozy, Cameron, the UN, the Arab League, and the ICC, looking as corrupt and war-hungry as any rulers since ancient Babylon. Syria looks to be on the verge of a sectarian civil war, and the Israeli police just went to town on the Temple Mount with some Palestinian Muslim worshippers on this Friday in early June.

    Some are saying that if  the PA doesn’t deliver at the UN come September, Jerusalem could be on fire.

    It’s not just religion, or politics, or Dems, Repubs, Cons, Libs, Labors, Commies, Fascists, Nazis, etc.  who engage in violence  and war.

    It’s the human condition. The Kingdom is within, my friends. Christ had this one down cold. Looking for peace from outward institutions, riddled with their own share of corruption and sefl-interest, is folly, pure and simple.

Aug 28, 2014
Photos surround the casket of Michael Brown before the start of his funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014.  (AP)

The message that will last out of Ferguson with New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb.

Aug 28, 2014
Some of the hundreds of earthquake damaged wine barrels cover and toppled a pair of forklifts at the Kieu Hoang Winery, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A powerful earthquake that struck the heart of California's wine country caught many people sound asleep, sending dressers, mirrors and pictures crashing down around them and toppling wine bottles in vineyards around the region. (AP)

Drought in California, earthquake in Napa. We look at broken bottles and the health of the American wine industry.

Aug 27, 2014
The cast of the new ABC comedy, "Black-ish." (Courtesy ABC)

This week the Emmys celebrate the best in television. We’ll look at what’s ahead for the Fall TV season.

Aug 27, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, looks at them, prior to their talks after after posing for a photo in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP)

Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s leader meet. We’ll look at Russia and the high voltage chess game over Ukraine. Plus, we look at potential US military strikes in Syria and Iraq.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

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1 Comment
Why Facebook And Twitter Had Different Priorities This Week
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

There’s no hidden agenda to the difference between most people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds this week. Just a hidden type of emotional content and case use. Digiday’s John McDermott explains.

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1 Comment
Our Week In The Web: August 22, 2014
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

On mixed media messaging, Spotify serendipity and a view of Earth from the International Space Station.

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