Although Jerusalem has had similar psychological influences upon Jews, Christians, and Muslims, struggles for its possession have served historically to divide rather than unite these three great faiths. Karen Armstrong, a British subject and former Roman Catholic nun, illustrates this in JERUSALEM: ONE CITY, THREE FAITHS, a history designed for general readers.

For Armstrong, Jerusalem represents the idea of spiritual community, and this is more significant than its geography. As individuals identify on a personal level with places or objects because they represent the poignant but irretrievable past, Jerusalem signifies potential recovery of spiritual history for three religions. This significance has given the city its turbulent glory.

Variant repetitions in Jerusalem’s history are strikingly frequent. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and deported the Jews to Babylonia. Their return in 539 B.C. was, even for Jews of the period, like the end of the Mosaic exodus, like a second triumph of David. Roman rule will seem a more benign but nevertheless odious return of the Babylonian Captivity.

The theme reemerges in A.D. 614, when the Persians end Christian control of Jerusalem. They lose it in 629 when Heraklius enters bearing a relic of the True Cross. For Jews and Christians alike, this must have seemed a recreation of David’s entry before the Ark. It would be infamously replayed by the Crusaders in 1099 and by the Muslims in 1187.

Viewed in this context, Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 signified the end of two millennia of silent acquiescence by Jews in their own spiritual destiny, not merely a military victory. It has also, in Islam, created another player determined not to remain similarly passive.