Saturday, February 10, 2007

Infamous Aussie

A few days ago, in my post named Astronaughty female, I alluded to a psychiatric disturbance known as the Jerusalem syndrome. And today, I brought up the current-affairs subject of yet another conflict in the Holy City, concerned with the al-Aqsa mosque.

It has often been said that one of the most likely spots on Earth at which World War III could erupt is the Temple Mount: the magic pinnacle of this ethereal and volatile city, capable of casting a fleeting spell of madness upon certain inspired visitors. Well, an Aussie Protestant pilgrim named Denis Michael Rohan—born, like me, in 1940—is often quoted as an exemplary case of clinical Jerusalem insanity, for he succeeded in setting fire to the al-Aqsa mosque at seven o'clock in the morning on 21 August 1969. He watched and laughed as the ancient sanctuary burned, taking photos of the flames on his Instamatic camera. A medieval pulpit was destroyed, along with most of the dome, including the beams and ceiling.

Not surprisingly, many Muslims were convinced for years that mentally-disturbed Rohan was in fact a Zionist agent. The contemporary Israeli writer Amos Elon tell us that, when arrested, the crazy Aussie informed police that he did indeed wish to destroy the Muslim mosque so that the Temple might be rebuilt, "for sweet Jesus to return and pray in it".

I believe that Rohan was tried in Tel Aviv. I've often wondered what became of him. Did he return to Australia, and maybe form a sect out in the desert near Alice Springs? Or did a divine voice convince him that he could safely jump off the Sydney Harbour Bridge and glide above the waters like a seagull, or mount towards the heavens like a dove? For me, it's frustrating to realize that I have (or at least had) such a notorious fellow countryman, who might have succeeded in starting World War III, and yet I do not know what became of him. So, any recent information concerning this individual will be appreciated.

When I first started to visit the Holy Land regularly, in the '80s, I wouldn't have imagined I look enlightened. Be that as it may, I could never understand why I was subjected at times to intense interrogations from the Israeli authorities. They would ask me why I was carrying such a sophisticated Nikon camera, and why I had decided to stay at a Protestant hostel in the center of the Christian Quarter of the Old City, and what I intended to do in Jerusalem. At that time, I had not yet heard the tale of the would-be Aussie Messiah. Maybe the Israeli authorities were worried that a guy like me might suddenly imagine himself as a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and start running around the city madly looking for money-lenders' tables to overturn, or souls to raise from the dead. Well, I can reveal publicly today, retrospectively, that these exotic ideas never even crossed my mind.

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