• Under Jerusalem

  • The Buried History of the World's Most Contested City
  • By: Andrew Lawler
  • Narrated by: James Lurie
  • Length: 16 hrs and 2 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (48 ratings)

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Under Jerusalem  By  cover art

Under Jerusalem

By: Andrew Lawler
Narrated by: James Lurie
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Publisher's Summary

A spellbinding history of the hidden world below the Holy City - a saga of biblical treasures, intrepid explorers, and political upheaval

“A sweeping tale of archaeological exploits and their cultural and political consequences told with a historian’s penchant for detail and a journalist’s flair for narration.” (Washington Post)

In 1863, a French senator arrived in Jerusalem hoping to unearth relics dating to biblical times. Digging deep underground, he discovered an ancient grave that, he claimed, belonged to an Old Testament queen. News of his find ricocheted around the world, evoking awe and envy alike, and inspiring others to explore Jerusalem’s storied past.

In the century and a half since the Frenchman broke ground, Jerusalem has drawn a global cast of fortune seekers and missionaries, archaeologists and zealots, all of them eager to extract the biblical past from beneath the city’s streets and shrines. Their efforts have had profound effects, not only on our understanding of Jerusalem’s history, but on its hotly disputed present. The quest to retrieve ancient Jewish heritage has sparked bloody riots and thwarted international peace agreements. It has served as a cudgel, a way to stake a claim to the most contested city on the planet. Today, the earth below Jerusalem remains a battleground in the struggle to control the city above.

Under Jerusalem takes listeners into the tombs, tunnels, and trenches of the Holy City. It brings to life the indelible characters who have investigated this subterranean landscape. With clarity and verve, acclaimed journalist Andrew Lawler reveals how their pursuit has not only defined the conflict over modern Jerusalem, but could provide a map for two peoples and three faiths to peacefully coexist.

©2021 Andrew Lawler (P)2021 Random House Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"In Under Jerusalem, journalist Andrew Lawler directs our contemplation away from the heavenly city, and down into the roots of history and faith. . . Mr. Lawler, unlike so many of his characters, navigates the terrain without offending the political or religious sensibilities of his subjects. . . In a city where the winner takes all, Mr. Lawler does an admirable job of striving for the diplomats’ ideal of ‘evenhandedness.’ ” —Wall Street Journal

Under Jerusalem is a brilliant, highly innovative history of the most contested city on the planet. Andrew Lawler uses these untold stories of archeological digs near and under Jerusalem’s sacred sites to convey all the colorful and violent and contentious history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is an astounding achievement—and a compulsive read.” —Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and author of The Outlier and The Good Spy 

"Magisterial. . . [A] fast-paced adventury-story account. . . This is a spellbinding book—and a reminder that, just when one might have imagined that nothing new could be written about Jerusalem, there is still more to be found beneath its surface." Moment Magazine 

What listeners say about Under Jerusalem

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not what a thought it would be

I was hoping for a book about what has existed and been uncovered under Jerusalem. With long and complicated history I was hoping for the description of past hidden underneath with recreation of the life as it was - everyday for Jewish/ Christian, Moslem/ ancient Greek, Roman or even Jebusite and an unknown discovery for us - whoever we are. Trying for a peak into the past of this wonderful city.
Unfortunately it is the story of archeology in Jerusalem. A political story on top of that. It is not about what was discovered and how the life looked like at the time when it was present and not long gone but about archeologists, with whom they quarreled, who they supported or who supported them. I know this is part of life in Jerusalem today (and honestly was for a long time, just most of parties were changing) but I was hoping for a story about underground Jerusalem and not about political disputes among more or less professional archeologists.
So this was my first issue with the book. Not really the fault of the author. The book is very new and with few reviews so I was just gambling and counting on something else. But even considering what the book IS about and not what I expected it is very knowledgeable but unfortunately biased. It shows Jewish (and to lesser extent Christian) claims to Jerusalem as ridiculous in many aspects while completely not mocking the present day Palestinian ones. Comments by Arafat denying links between Jerusalem and Jews (Jerusalem by Quran is said to belong to Jews) go unchallenged while the fact that pig bones from 2 BCE where found gives way to assumptions that it was not a Jewish city at the time (it is Maccabees uprising period and time when Greeks were trying to Hellenize Jerusalem and sacrifice pigs to Zeus on the Temple Mount). So with the appear of objectivity and - undeniably - tons of information the book is pretty biased. Practically every step around.
BTW I am neither Jewish nor Moslem if you wonder. But definitely lover of Jerusalem well read about the history of the place.

4 people found this helpful

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Wonderful!!

A fascinating review of archeological history in Jerusalem. I visited there in 1988 so I had a preconceived idea of what lay beneath the surface and this only thrilled me more. I want to go back.

4 people found this helpful

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Fine, but neither comprehensive, nor free of bias.

Andrew Lawler strikes off on a fascinating quest to study how archeology has impacted parts of the old city of Jerusalem, however his book falls quite short. Many of his stories of archeological expeditions, while interesting, blend together and many become forgettable. It is neither comprehensive nor free of bias. Most disappointingly, the description of the book claim that Lawler describes how archeology can lead towards greater peace if done the right way, but he does not elaborate on that at all, even in the epilogue. He certainly doesn’t proposes any policy changes. Disappointing.

1 person found this helpful