Monday, December 24, 2007

Meeting the Mufti of Jerusalem

From the Dome of the Rock our Australian delegation was ushered to the offices of His Eminence the Mufti of Jerusalem, who welcomed us (in Arabic) and introduced us to an unexpected guest, His Excellency Sheikh Tayseer Bayoud Tamimi, the Chief Judge of the Islamic Court. They apologised for the delay in gaining entry to the Temple Mount, and observed that we had experienced a small part of "the intentional harassment of the entire Palestinian community." They described the Security Barrier as the "Discrimination Wall," and stated their belief that "the Holy City is under Israeli siege." Much more was said, including answers to questions from our group.

On behalf of our delegation, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall formally apologised for the reprehensible act of one of our fellow Australian citizens in 1969 that caused a devastating fire in the al-Aqsa Mosque. The Chief Judge accepted our apology.

Background to the fire from Wikipedia:

In the morning of August 21, 1969, a fire at Masjid al-Aqsa, gutted the southeastern wing of the mosque. The fire destroyed a priceless one-thousand-year-old wood and ivory pulpit (minbar) that had been sent from Aleppo by Saladin. The "twin" of this minbar (Saladin had them both made at the same time) is still extant in the mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Michael Dennis Rohan, a tourist from Australia, was arrested for the arson attack on August 23, 1969. Rohan was a Protestant follower of an evangelical sect known as the Church of God. By his own admission, Rohan hoped to hasten the coming of the Messiah by burning down the al-Aqsa Mosque. Rohan told the court that he acted as "the Lord's emissary" on divine instructions, in accordance with the Book of Zechariah, and that he had tried to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque in order to rebuild the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount. He was hospitalized in a mental institution, found to be insane and was later deported from Israel.

We were honoured to visit these two significant Muslim leaders in this place. It was ironic that no senior Jewish religious leaders were able to meet with us, yet Islamic leaders found time to meet us.

Below are some of the images I recorded of our visit with the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Chief Judge of the Islamic Court (details at bottom of page).

1. The Australian delegation meets with Islamic leaders at the Temple Mount.
2. L-R: The Mufti of Jerusalem, the Chief Judge of the Islamic Court, our interpreter.
3. Archbishop Phillip Aspinall apologises for the 1969 desecration of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
4. The delegation with Islamic leaders, guides and interpreter outside the Dome of the Rock.

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