Monday, April 25, 2011

The Long Journey

This is the first of three non-fiction or historical fiction books I'll be blogging about the history of the Holy Land. First I revisited James Michener's "The Source", published in 1965, more than 1000 pages. Using the device of explaining artifacts from different eras unearthed at an archeological dig in Israel, Michener moves through time. He starts about 3500 BCE with cave dwellers, tracing the birth of religious feelings and ritual along with the evolution of agrarian societies. Every few decades or centuries we visit the area again to see a somewhat changed way of life. The constants are many: people of different religions trying to co-exist (or not), and conquerers blasting through massacring multitudes. The area is controlled successively by Jews, Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans and British.

My interest certainly picked up as it reached the more familiar Greek and Roman times. Historical figures pop up, often in unexpected contexts, adding a human dimension to the general carnage.

Reading this years ago, I recall being discouraged about human nature, with all the killing again and again. The book evoked the same sentiment this time. But it's a valuable aid to understanding the history of the area.

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