Rock and Rohl

06.02.20: HEEDING THE seventh commandment to love thy neighbour, the world's three great religions were united in Jerusalem yesterday.

After centuries of often bloody dispute, freedom of worship was restored to the city as Jews, Christians and Muslims offered up prayers.

The occasion was the consecration of the rebuilt Temple of Solomon, the most important shrine of the Jewish people.

Israel's Chief Rabbi, Shimon Cohen, and Pope Joseph walked through the arch of the Golden Gate together and kissed the temple's original foundation stone, on which the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments once stood. Muslims prayed in the nearby al-Aqsa mosque.

Crucial to the event was the settlement of a ferocious political and religious problem. Towards the end of the last century, fundamentalist Christian groups and Jews wanted to rebuild a new Temple of Solomon on the Dome of the Rock, arguing that this was the original site. But the Dome of the Rock is sacred to Muslims, and the rebuilding would have razed Islamic buildings.

A solution was provided in the 1970s by the late Professor Asher Kaufman, who argued that the original temple was farther north. But not until 2015 did the English archaeologist David Rohl prove that the temple and foundation stone were indeed sited 100 metres north on open ground.

Thus the Dome of the Rock and the rebuilt Temple of Solomon could coexist side by side. PM