In a particularly dense chapter, Fox illustrates the dizzying spiral of zealotry affecting the Holy Land’s focal point of Jerusalem, where holy spots were enshrined, demolished, replaced, wrested from rulers with differing beliefs, and given new histories and new futures.
For example, the last straw that spurred the first Crusade, a 1099 military campaign of a Pope to wrest the Holy Land from Muslim rule, was a Caliph’s demolition of the Holy Sepulchre, rumored to have held the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, and underneath it, the tomb of Adam himself, considered the center of the Christian cosmos, says Fox.
When the Crusaders took Jerusalem, another site was similarly hijacked, given a different history and a future: The Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine thought to be on the spot of Muhammad’s ascension to heaven circumambulated by Muslim pilgrims and possibly the site of an Israelite Temple now came to be seen as the original Temple of Solomon, and soon religious military order the Templars made its headquarters there.
By the end of the 19th century most of the world’s powers had bought into the fabrications, establishing national archaeological societies to explore the Holy Land despite the fact that Palestine’s archaeological remains were among the poorest in the Near East.
“This was negative cosmopolitanism in action,” declares Fox, coining a phrase to mean the identification of many people with one place.
In half a sentence, he sums up the region’s most insoluble problem.