Author Bruce Feiler takes us on a journey through the cradle of civilization to investigate the people, culture, climate and historical record of the land where our Western conception of God was assembled.
The book is filled with a wonderful variety of interviews with the personalities that make up today’s Middle East, from Egypt to Iran. He interviews a Mormon army commander in Iraq, a head of the Zoroastrianism religion in Iran, and archeologists in Israel, to name just a few.
He describes new and intriguing (at least to me) possibilities in king David’s personality and times—how he might have conquered Jerusalem through underground cisterns and the possibility of being an outsider rather than full Israelite. He describes the origins of the pyramids in Babylon and the dramas of the Jewish Exile there and the pivotal role these events played in our development of perceptions of God.
Feiler explores the Islamic, Christian and Zoroastrianism cultures of today and the links between them and the Jewish heritage of the past and present. Being proud of his Jewish heritage, he sometimes leans toward arrogance in his emotional personal insights (don’t we all), which doesn’t detract from the narrative at all, but is disappointing nonetheless. (My personal insight: The Jewish people will never acquire the respect they seek until they start proselytizing their religion. The fact that they don’t “share” sets them apart as “above” us heathens, and as long as they do so they will be hated for such arrogance.)
This book is an engaging read with many touching personal stories and accounts of strength and caring along the way. It is beautifully written and is very insightful. I gained a better understanding of the ideals and hopes, and “baggage,” the people of the Middle East—and by inference, the rest of us—have to work with in their quest for God.