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Bethlehem: Biography of a Town

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"[Bethlehem] brings within reach 11,000 years of history, centering on the beloved town's unique place in the world. Blincoe's love of Bethlehem is compelling, even as he does not shy away from the complexities of its chronicle." -- President Jimmy Carter Bethlehem is so suffused with history and myth that it feels like an unreal city even to those who call it home. For ma "[Bethlehem] brings within reach 11,000 years of history, centering on the beloved town's unique place in the world. Blincoe's love of Bethlehem is compelling, even as he does not shy away from the complexities of its chronicle." -- President Jimmy Carter Bethlehem is so suffused with history and myth that it feels like an unreal city even to those who call it home. For many, Bethlehem remains the little town at the edge of the desert described in Biblical accounts. Today, the city is hemmed in by a wall and surrounded by forty-one Israeli settlements and hostile settlers and soldiers. Nicholas Blincoe tells the town's history through the visceral experience of living there, taking readers through its stone streets and desert wadis, its monasteries, aqueducts, and orchards to show the city from every angle and era. His portrait of Bethlehem sheds light on one of the world's most intractable political problems, and he maintains that if the long thread winding back to the city's ancient past is severed, the chances of an end to the Palestine-Israel conflict will be lost with it.


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"[Bethlehem] brings within reach 11,000 years of history, centering on the beloved town's unique place in the world. Blincoe's love of Bethlehem is compelling, even as he does not shy away from the complexities of its chronicle." -- President Jimmy Carter Bethlehem is so suffused with history and myth that it feels like an unreal city even to those who call it home. For ma "[Bethlehem] brings within reach 11,000 years of history, centering on the beloved town's unique place in the world. Blincoe's love of Bethlehem is compelling, even as he does not shy away from the complexities of its chronicle." -- President Jimmy Carter Bethlehem is so suffused with history and myth that it feels like an unreal city even to those who call it home. For many, Bethlehem remains the little town at the edge of the desert described in Biblical accounts. Today, the city is hemmed in by a wall and surrounded by forty-one Israeli settlements and hostile settlers and soldiers. Nicholas Blincoe tells the town's history through the visceral experience of living there, taking readers through its stone streets and desert wadis, its monasteries, aqueducts, and orchards to show the city from every angle and era. His portrait of Bethlehem sheds light on one of the world's most intractable political problems, and he maintains that if the long thread winding back to the city's ancient past is severed, the chances of an end to the Palestine-Israel conflict will be lost with it.

30 review for Bethlehem: Biography of a Town

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    So I was misled when I chose to read this book, I thought I would read an ethnographical account of the town of Bethlehem but what I got instead was a whole historical account of a town that is over 2000 years old , I think the book went a little bit overboard with all the historical references and trying to explain the larger issues that the Middle East has ever been involved in clearly needed a bigger book and not to be inside a book that supposedly was about a specific town. While I appreciat So I was misled when I chose to read this book, I thought I would read an ethnographical account of the town of Bethlehem but what I got instead was a whole historical account of a town that is over 2000 years old , I think the book went a little bit overboard with all the historical references and trying to explain the larger issues that the Middle East has ever been involved in clearly needed a bigger book and not to be inside a book that supposedly was about a specific town. While I appreciate the effort by the author and the research in putting this book together I think that vast amount of information about empires in the Middle East , ancient Jerusalem history and the crusader states wasn’t necessary in this book as they took away the emphasis of the ancient town of Bethlehem which was supposed to be the main theme of the book. Also I do not like indoctrination in any book I read and after reading this book I can tell that the author has a clear bias in the issues represented in this book and tries to sneakily hammer you with his opinions on the matter (I won’t say what his bias is as I think you need to read the book to experience it for yourself) .

  2. 4 out of 5

    Abdullah Hussaini

    Kurang trivial untuk sebuah biografi. Terasa lebih kepada buku sejarah.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Kukwa

    A surprising look at a relatively youthful city in historical terms...yet stationed at the crossroads of so many key events, and in the cross-hairs of so many empires and conquerors. If you think Bethlehem has only one story, then you need to read this excellent work...you will be quickly disabused of that notion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I want to explain that I am giving this a one star rating as objectively as possible, as it was poorly written, a bad history and reeking of prejudice. This book is presented as a history of Bethlehem, but saying so is generous at best, since it relies heavily on the personal stories and opinions of the author, British novelist Nicholas Blincoe. While using these stories could help illustrate the town, they always seem to revolve around him and point to the worst qualities in the Israelis, often I want to explain that I am giving this a one star rating as objectively as possible, as it was poorly written, a bad history and reeking of prejudice. This book is presented as a history of Bethlehem, but saying so is generous at best, since it relies heavily on the personal stories and opinions of the author, British novelist Nicholas Blincoe. While using these stories could help illustrate the town, they always seem to revolve around him and point to the worst qualities in the Israelis, often without any relevant details about Bethlehem or its inhabitants, painting the Palestinians as lacking agency. Along with being poorly written and presenting historical data in a very biased and often inaccurate way, this book dehumanizes both Jews and Palestinians in a Eurocentric worldview. He leaves out a lot of historical details in an effort to enforce his own flimsy narrative. In the very beginning he uses a cute metaphor of the Christmas Pudding and how essentially all the ingredients could be found in his host’s garden (in Bethlehem) and how each ingredient could theoretically represent different eras, such as citrus during the period of medieval trade. It was a cute metaphor, albeit exaggerated. As I read the book I realized that although it was ridiculous to think that the Christmas Pudding could be a proper metaphor for Middle Eastern town, it was a fantastic metaphor for the book. It was an invention by a British person to serve to the tastes of other Brits, Europeans and some North Americans, with exaggerated elements that could be found in Bethlehem, but did not truly reflect the city or its history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    LeAnne

    I read this as research for a novel set in 1st c Bethlehem, and it definitely gave me the kind of geographic and cultural details I was looking for, but in the first three chapters the author’s iconoclastic POV was obvious. He seemed to have an agenda of debunking anything that might give the modern state of Israel a claim to the land. It wasn’t the facts that disturbed me (I am very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause), but I didn’t appreciate the tone of disdain for any truth that might be em I read this as research for a novel set in 1st c Bethlehem, and it definitely gave me the kind of geographic and cultural details I was looking for, but in the first three chapters the author’s iconoclastic POV was obvious. He seemed to have an agenda of debunking anything that might give the modern state of Israel a claim to the land. It wasn’t the facts that disturbed me (I am very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause), but I didn’t appreciate the tone of disdain for any truth that might be embedded in the biblical record. The result was to undermine my confidence in everything he said about the current political situation on the West Bank even though our sympathies lie in the same direction.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Philip Hunt

    Blincoe compresses millenias of material into a readable, cogent story with the warm tone of one who continues to live Bethlehem's dramas. His treatment is fair without hiding his biases. His analysis benefits from the perspective of an outsider who has become an insider. Telling the story in a couple of hundred pages allows little depth in many places, but should provoke a commendable desire to delve. Blincoe compresses millenias of material into a readable, cogent story with the warm tone of one who continues to live Bethlehem's dramas. His treatment is fair without hiding his biases. His analysis benefits from the perspective of an outsider who has become an insider. Telling the story in a couple of hundred pages allows little depth in many places, but should provoke a commendable desire to delve.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jonelle

    Fascinating history and portrait of the city of Bethlehem and all the cultures, faiths, ethnicities, and people who have made it an international crossroads for the several centuries. The author really demonstrated that no one cultural or ethnic heritage could ever have an exclusive claim upon it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shai

    An excellently written book that exposes why Palestinians should not assume the Jewish narrative. Many things that clash with mainstream Jewish self understanding should not be a reason not to engage with the Palestinian narrative that is well displayed in this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads giveaway program. Very informative book about the town of Bethlehem. Sometimes maybe too informative but a very solid history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    RajaFatin

    I need to google the facts and names in order to have better understanding regarding the story. Good introduction regarding Palestine-Israel issue and history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Davis

    Began this book in anticipation of a March return trip to Israel, this time to include a visit to Bethlehem. Lots of unexpected information about the history of Bethlehem and Palestine, especially Arab Christians. Not particularly well written with quite a few errata. I wish I had completed it before I planned the Israel trip, instead of after returning.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mazelli

    Bethlehem is part history, part travelogue/memoir with a welcoming emphasis on gastronomy. One thing that detracts from book is the annoying style of footnoting. There were footnotes, you just need to guess what statements are sourced. Even though he is prone to making controversial statements as fact, this is still a really good book with an extensive bibliography.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Robert Memery

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Moore

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Caruth

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Scott

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  19. 4 out of 5

    Renée

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Kistler

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey Hampton

  22. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

  23. 5 out of 5

    Duane

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rudi

  25. 5 out of 5

    Henny Beaumont

  26. 5 out of 5

    Liam Armstrong

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ralphz

  29. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  30. 4 out of 5

    S. B.

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