Jordan restores Temple Mount pulpit

Israel coordinates move with Amman as gesture to King Abdullah.

temple mount 224.88 (photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
temple mount 224.88
(photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
An ornate wooden pulpit on Jerusalem's Temple Mount that was destroyed nearly four decades ago by a deranged Christian tourist has been completely restored, Israeli and Jordanian officials said Thursday. The pulpit, which was demolished in a 1969 fire set by the Christian tourist on the Temple Mount, has been remade and transported to its original location next to the Aksa mosque this week, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The new pulpit, which towers six meters high, four meters long and one meter wide and includes 18 steps, was made of Turkish hard wood and Sudanese ivory, Dr. Raief Najim, the vice president of the Jordanian Construction Committee who has been involved in several recent Temple Mount projects, said in a telephone interview from Amman. He added that the pulpit, which weighs several tons, took Jordanian craftsmen three years to design, and four years to manufacture. The pulpit arrived in Jerusalem this week from Amman in 25 packages spread out on six trucks, and was brought up to the Temple Mount late Tuesday night in a move coordinated with Israeli officials. Wakf officials said that it will take a couple of weeks to install the pulpit at the site. The original 800-year-old inlaid cedar wood pulpit had been donated to the mosque by Salah al-Din in 1178 CE. It was destroyed on August 21, 1969, when Michael Dennis Rohan, a tourist from Australia and a member of the "Church of God," a Protestant sect, set fire to the mosque in an attempt to hasten the coming of the Messiah. He was judged insane and deported by Israel. The Foreign Ministry said that the new pulpit was brought to its former location as a gesture to Jordanian King Abdullah II, who initiated the restoration project, due to the close cooperation between the Jewish state and the Hashemite Kingdom. According to decades-old regulations in place at the Temple Mount, Israel maintains overall security control at Judaism's holiest site, while the Wakf, or Islamic Trust, is charged with day-to-day administration of the ancient compound, which is also Islam's third-holiest site. Over the last six years of Palestinian violence, Israel has been keen to involve the Jordanians in the ongoing repair work on the Temple Mount, with the Jordanians considered to be more moderate compared to the Palestinian heads of the Wakf appointed by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on his return to the West Bank last decade. Meanwhile, the Jordanians are pressing ahead with plans to construct a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, Najim said, with officials currently working on its design. The planned minaret, which will be constructed on the eastern wall of the Temple Mount near the historic Golden Gate, will tower 42 meters high and will be the highest of the four previous minarets erected at the Jerusalem holy site and the first since Ottoman times. Israeli authorities have not objected to the plan to date, although it has been condemned by leading Israeli archeologists as a blatant violation of the status quo at the site. Separately, the Israel Antiquities Authority has started a salvage excavation in an archeological garden adjacent to the Temple Mount ahead of the planned construction of a new bridge leading up to the Mughrabi Gate. The planned construction of the bridge has set off a new archeological dispute in Israel, with dozens of leading archeologists slamming the current proposal which would see the bridge constructed through one of the most significant archeological parks in Israel and the world. The current controversy over the bridge has served to temporarily overshadow the Jordanian plans to build the minaret on the Temple Mount.