The Temple Mount is the spot where the Temple of the Jews once stood, and it is where the Temple will be rebuilt when the Messiah comes. It is also, however, the Noble Sanctuary, the third-holiest site in Islam, the spot where Muhammad ascended to heaven nearly fourteen hundred years ago. The Temple is the site of millennial hopes and aspirations for Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike, which is why journalist Gershom Gorenberg makes it the focus of his study of fundamentalism, millennialism and the havoc that religious passion can wreak on ordinary life.

Millennialism--the belief that the end of the world is imminent--is, Gorenberg argues, the central ideology driving politics in the Middle East. It motivates the "apocalyptic foreign policy" promoted by the religious right, in which support for Israel is key to bringing about the coming of the Messiah. "Belief in final redemption" drives the most hard-line Israeli opposition to giving an inch in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. And among Muslims, millennial fear helps to stoke anxiety about what Israel does in Jerusalem. Gorenberg's examination of millennial fear is gripping and disturbing, a reminder that even within modern society, irrational passion swirls around us everywhere, sucking even those who strive for tolerance and reason headlong into the vortex.

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