A Review of Jerusalem: The Biography
Jerusalem has been called many things, among them “a golden goblet full of scorpions,” and “an old nymphomaniac who squeezes lover after lover to death, before shrugging him off with a yawn” (Amos Oz). One such lover was Heraclius, identified by Montefiore as “the first crusader.” “Blond and tall,” he goes on, “he looked the part of imperial savior. The son of a governor of Africa and of Armenian descent, Heraclius had seized power [in the Byzantine Empire] in 610 when much of the East was already in Persian hands and it seemed that things could scarcely get worse – but they did. When Heraclius counter-attacked, he was defeated… The next year he marched through Armenia and Azerbaijan. The shah retreated. Heraclius wintered in Armenia and then in 625, in a Herculean display of military virtuosity, prevented three Persian armies uniting, before defeating each in turn.” Montefiore goes on to discuss in some detail Heraclius’s activities in Jerusalem.
Elsewhere he writes: “The celebrated Armenian monk Euphemius whose protégé Sabas founded the hauntingly beautiful Mar Saba Monastery, today inhabited by twenty monks, in the Judean mountains not far from Jerusalem.”
On the Genocide we read: “Enver lost 80,000 men in his inept Russian offensive. He and Talaat blamed their disaster on the Christian Armenians, who were systematically deported and killed. A million perished in a barbaric crime that would later encourage Hitler to begin his Holocaust. Jemal claimed to disapprove of the massacre. Certainly he allowed refugees to settle in Jerusalem, and the number of Armenians there doubled during the war.”
There is more, much more, on the subject of Armenians in Jerusalem. The book has already been called a “magnificent,” “magisterial,” and a “dazzling” “classic.”
Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Jerusalem: The Biography (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2011) is available at Simon Sebag Montefiore’s website and other online booksellers.