The new millennium dawned quietly, defying modern-day prophets of apocalypse. Yet for countless believers around the globe - Christians, Jews and Muslims -- anticipation that the world is about to end burns more intensely than ever. God's kingdom is near, they believe, and the key to salvation is Jerusalem's Temple Mount, -- the most sacred and contested real estate on earth. In The End of Days, leading Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg portrays how such faith has fueled the real-world struggle in the Middle East and reveals why, even in times of peacemaking, it continues to be a powerful catalyst for conflict.
Adroitly portraying former-hippies-turned-true-believers, American radio evangelists of the End, radical Palestinian sheikhs, and Israeli ex-terrorists, Gorenberg weaves a story that stretches from California churches to West Bank settlements. He explains why believers hope for the End, and why prominent American fundamentalists provide hard-line support for Israel, while looking forward to an apocalypse in which they expect Jews to die or else convert. He makes sense of the messianic fervor that has driven Israeli settlers to oppose peace, and describes the Islamic apocalyptic visions that cast Israel's actions in Jerusalem as diabolic plots. He examines, as well, what happens when secular politicians try to channel these religious passions for their own purposes.
At the center of this story is the Temple Mount, where Solomon and Herod built their Temples, where the Dome of the Rock now stands -- and where both Jewish extremists and millions of Christian fundamentalists expect the Third Temple to be built soon. Holy to both Judaism and Islam, the Mount is where nationalism and faith join in a volatile mix. Any attempt to spark the End by clearing the ground for the Temple, therefore, could ignite holy war. This book explains the Mount's dangerous fascination for fundamentalists, and shows why the risks will actually increase in the new millennium as prophesied dates pass and believers look for a way to ensure that the End comes.
Cain murdered Abel, according to an ancient legend, in an argument over who would possess the Temple Mount. That parable sums up the passions aroused by the sacred hilltop. The End of Days shows, with clarity and poise, how conflict over Jerusalem is rooted not only in the past but even more in expectations of the future, and how the fiery belief in apocalypse has a very real impact on contemporary life and international politics.
Although Gorenberg, an Israeli journalist, does not specifically address the recent violence at Temple Mount/Al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, anyone who seeks to understand the root of the fighting will find his thorough history of those 35 disputed acres to be indispensable. Gorenberg makes a stellar contribution to comprehending the troubled relationships among Arabs, Jews and Christians in Israel, meticulously analyzing the actions and beliefs of fundamentalist groups in all three religions. Jewish messianists and Christian millennialists insist that building the Third Temple on the site where both Solomon's and Herod's temples stood is essential for the advent of the Messiah, while Muslim apocalyptic believers fear that efforts to destroy Al-Aqsa mosque to make way for the Third Temple will prevent fulfillment of the prophecy about Islam's Meccan shrine migrating to Jerusalem at the end of time. Gorenberg writes objectively about advocates of each stance, slipping just once when he rejects the title of "martyr" for Baruch Goldstein (1994 killer of 29 Arabs in the Tomb of Patriarchs), calling that label "obscene." Gorenberg's prescience is manifest by his calling Temple Mount "a sacred blasting cap" and by stating that "any incident at the site can spin out of control." This valuable study greatly enhances readers grasp of the Middle East's religious and political complexities.