Historical Atlas of Jerusalem

By Meir Ben-Dov
New York : Continuum (2002). xvi + 400 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
13.2 (Fall 2002) : 268-269

 This volume is the English-language edition of a work originally published in Hebrew (Jerusalem: Carta, The Israel Map and Publishing Company, 2000) by the author. Meir Ben-Dov is one of the leading Israeli archaeologists and key advisor to the various ongoing excavations in Jerusalem.

The work blends a thematic and chronological approach to the history of the city of Jerusalem. It details the larger geographic setting of the city, in Israel and the even larger Fertile Crescent, along with the geographic and environmental features. Then comes the history of Jerusalem from the Canaanite period to the modern era. This volume is richly (perhaps sometimes too richly) illustrated with photographs, maps, and drawings (all black and white).

The strength o f the text is the general survey of material. The author excels at detailing the religious history of Jerusalem and the role the geographic location in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Also receiving excellent coverage is the role of the European powers, beginning with the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and ending with General Edmund Allenby and the British and their efforts to gain control of the city and the surrounding region. This work is not without its weaknesses, however. Though Ben-Dov ably defends his maximalist view of the boundaries of Jerusalem after Nehemiah’s rebuilding (85-88) vis-à-vis the minimalist view of Michael Avi-Yonah and the intermediate view of Raphael Grafman, he entirely ignores the discussion of various theories related to the location of the Temple and the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount. Given the author’s discussion of Jewish, Islamic, and Christian interest in the city, a brief discussion of prophetic views as to the future of Jerusalem would also have been useful.

The flaws in this book are minor, and for the beginning student or those interested in a survey of the history of Jerusalem and an introduction to the basic historical and cultural geography of the city, this book is recommended.