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World: Madman at the Mosque

1 minute read

The flames that gutted a wing of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque last August added an unwanted measure of heat and hatred to a conflict that is never far from flash point. Arab leaders, blaming Israeli negligence for the damage to Islam’s third most sacred shrine, called for jihad—holy war. Prime Minister Golda Meir’s Cabinet met in emergency session amid deep concern that the fire might weaken Israeli rule in the holy city. Last week the man who confessed to setting the mosque ablaze, a 28-year-old Christian named Denis Michael Rohan, was judged insane and committed by an Israeli court to a mental hospital. Rohan, an Australian sheep shearer who was visiting Israel as a tourist, testified that he set the fire to prove that God wanted him to build a temple on the site and then would “set me up as king over Jerusalem and Judea.” A state psychiatric board will periodically review Rohan’s progress; if released, he will be deported. Al Aqsa, meanwhile, is being repaired under the direction of Arab religious authorities, and will be reopened to tourists, under much heavier guard, in a few weeks.

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