How many cities can be said to embody an idea? Athens, the cradle of the Western tradition of scientific inquiry, comes to mind. So does Rome, the seat of humanity’s most far-flung empire, instrumental in disseminating both Greek culture and Christianity.
Some cities’ legacies have been tainted by recent history – Vienna and Berlin, for instance. Others – Nagasaki, Guernica, Dresden – are known primarily as the site of horrible battles. African or Far East cities such as Timbuktu, known for its gold, slave trade and the Great Mosques of Djenne, or Qufu, the location of the Temple of Confucius, seem too exotic and inaccessible to be truly relevant to the Westerner. And American cities are, as writer Cynthia Ozick put it, places “where time has not yet deigned to be an inhabitant.
In contrast, Jerusalem, quoting Ozick again, is a “phoenix city” with a “history of histories” where “no…
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