Gérard Israël

Jerusalem, the Holy City Publication date : May 1, 2001

What is the role of Jerusalem in the theological thought of the three great biblical religions? Why is the city considered holy by Islam, Christianity and Judaism? And is it the same sort of “holiness” in all three cases?
“For Islam, both Mecca and Medina are the obvious sites of the prophet Mohammed’s teachings. But that doesn’t mean that Jerusalem is absent from Islamic religious thought: the city is the “gate to heaven”, but it is not the locus of definitive holiness.
“Christianity has chosen Rome rather than Jerusalem. Yet, Jerusalem remains present in the Christian tradition: this is where Jesus visited the temple, where he lost his human life and where it is believed he was entombed. For Christians, Jerusalem is a “painful memorial”, but it is not the city of God’s triumph.
“In the Jewish tradition, Jerusalem is a divine city. A godly presence hovers over it at its anchorage point: the temple. When the temple was destroyed, the guardians of tradition attempted to formulate religious teachings and a doctrine that were fundamentally tied to the holy city. Since then, Jewish thought has focused on the reconstruction of Jerusalem and on the return of its scattered people,” writes Gérard Israël.

This study in comparative religion will enable readers to grasp more fully what Jerusalem represents in the world today, as well as to understand why, for the descendants of the temple builders, Jerusalem remains and must remain the locus of divine residence.

Gérard Israël, a philosopher and historian, is the founder of the quarterly magazine Les Nouveaux Cahiers. He is a member of the national advisory commission on human rights and the author of many works, including Quand Jérusalem Brûlait and Cyrus le Grand, Fondateur de l’Empire Perse.