Sunday, 1 August 2010

Book Review: The End Of Days (2000)

On a relatively small site in Jerusalem, the three major religions of humanity come together. The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque are among Islam's most holy sites; the Western Wall is one of Judaism's most holy sites; and for some Evangelical Christians, the Third Temple needs to be built on this site to facilitate the return of Jesus Christ and prompt the End of Days. For some Jews, the Third Temple also needs to be built for the final redemption to take place.

The mixture of religion, history, prophecies, and anticipation of cataclysmic events is a highly combustible recipe, particularly when placed in disputed territory at the heart of the intractable Israeli - Palestinian conflict.

In The End Of Days, author Gershom Gorenberg, a senior editor with the Jerusalem Post, does well to shine the spotlight on the lunatic fringe obsessed with temples old, current, and still to come. His thesis is that while lunatics are often harmless and best ignored, when it comes to the incendiary Temple Mount, the lunatic fringe needs to be taken seriously because it can easily trigger mayhem and war on a mass scale.

Indeed, many lunatics may be actively trying to do just that, to speed-up their twisted version of the end of the world. Gorenberg links various extremist acts, such as the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and the Hebron massacre of Palestinian worshipers perpetuated by Baruch Goldstein, with the over-heated rhetoric associated, however remotely, with the Temple.

For some fundamentalist Christians and Jews, the destruction of the Dome of the Rock is a necessity to build the Third Temple or to fulfill the destiny of the Jews. For them, Israel's failure to do so soon after occupying all of Jerusalem in 1967 is a betrayal of history. For some Muslims, any moves that are remotely considered hostile towards the Dome of the Rock or Al-Aqsa Mosque are a cause for the immediate ratcheting up of tensions and accusations towards Israel. The Dome is central to the symbol of a future Palestinian capital.

There is no shortage of lost souls, from the clueless bedraggled to the conniving politicians, who can take advantage of the overflowing emotions.

The weakness of The End Of Days is that once the central point is made, there is little else that Gorenberg has to say. He struggles mightily to fill the pages, but cannot hide the fact that the book is essentially a chronicle of a series of interviews he held with a diverse group of people who hold strong views about the Temple Mount. Some advocate violence, others do not, and most are hopelessly lost in their own hypocrisy, ignorance and hate. They meld into one another, and Gorenberg soon has trouble maintaining interest or introducing anything new.

The nut-cases may think that they are working against each other; but nuts are nuts: they belong in the same dish and they all line up together against the rational world.

Subtitled "Fundamentalism And The Struggle For The Temple Mount"
250 pages, plus Notes and Index.
Published in hardcover by Free Press.

The Ace Black Blog Book Review Index is here.

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