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Denis Michael Rohan

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Denis Michael Rohan (born July 1, 1941) is an Australian citizen who gained worldwide infamy on August 21, 1969, when he attempted to set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque, located atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Rohan was arrested for the arson attack on August 23, 1969. He was tried, found to be insane, hospitalized in a mental institution and later deported from Israel.

Rohan's motives

Rohan, a Christian and considering himself "the Lord's emissary", stated that he tried to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque acting upon divine instructions to enable the Jews of Israel to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount in accordance with the Book of Zechariah, thereby hasten the second coming of Jesus as the Messiah to rule the world for one thousand years.

Herbert W. Armstrong controversy

Rohan stated that he had attempted to burn down the mosque after reading an editorial[clarification needed] by the Worldwide Church of God's founder Herbert W. Armstrong in the June 1967 edition of his The Plain Truth magazine, of which Rohan was a subscriber. The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London pictured Rohan on its front page with a copy of The Plain Truth magazine sticking out from his outside jacket pocket.

On September 26, 1969, Armstrong, in a letter to financial contributors to his The World Tomorrow program, distanced himself from Rohan:

Every effort, it seems, is being made to link us with it in a way to discredit the Work of God. The man, Rohan being held as the arsonist, the dispatches say, claims to be identified with us. This claim is TOTALLY FALSE. The first any of us at Pasadena ever heard of this man was when the press dispatches began coming over the Teletypes in our News Bureau. Checkups revealed that this man had sent in for and received a number of our Correspondence Course lessons. Last December he had sent in a subscription to The PLAIN TRUTH. But any claim to any further connection or association with us is an absolute lie.

Two million others subscribe to The PLAIN TRUTH. 100,000 others subscribe to the Correspondence Course lessons. These are sent to any and everybody who requests them, FREE. But such subscriptions do not connect us with such subscribers or any act any one of them might commit, any more than a subscription to the New York TIMES makes that newspaper responsible for any acts committed by its subscribers.

In the wake of this incident Herbert W. Armstrong decided to drop the building of a physical temple from his eschatological outlines. At the time he was trying to establish a relationship with the Israeli government, which after the Six Day War had voided Armstrong's earlier contract with Jordanian government about broadcasting his The World Tomorrow radio program on Jordanian transmitters. In 1968, prior to the Rohan incident Armstrong had become involved with the Israeli government in archaeological digs in the area of the Temple Mount.[1]

International reactions

Soviet reaction

The Soviet Union exploited the event in its propaganda campaign in the course of the Cold War. In a secret KGB document[2] signed by the head of the KGB Yuri Andropov, Israel was blamed for the arson. The document (dated August 28, 1969) describes a plan to organize and finance 20,000 strong Muslim protest demonstration in India.[3]

Response by United Nations

After several meetings by the Security Council to discuss the complaint, it adopted on September 15, 1969, Resolution 271 (1969):

Grieved at the extensive damage caused by arson to the Holy Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on 21 August 1969 under the military occupation of Israel. ... Mindful of the consequent loss to human culture, Having heard the statements made before the Council reflecting the universal outrage caused by the act of sacrilege in one of the most venerated shrines of mankind, Recalling its resolution 252 (1968) of 21 May 1968 and 267 (1969) of 3 July 1969 and the earlier General Assembly resolutions 2253 (ES-V) and 2254 (ES-V) of 4 and 14 July 1967, respectively, concerning measures and actions by Israel affecting the status of the City of Jerusalem. Reaffirming the established principle that acquisition of territory by military conquest is inadmissible. ... Recognizes that any act of destruction or profanation of the Holy Places, religious buildings and sites in Jerusalem or any encouragement of, or connivance at, any such act may seriously endanger international peace and security ...

Adopted at the 1512th meeting by 11 votes to none, with 4 abstentions (Colombia, Finland, Paraguay, and the United States of America.)[4]

Arab reactions

The Arab press accused the government of Israel and claimed that Rohan was "Jewish". Yasser Arafat later developed a regular television interview speech in which he would refer back to this act of attempted arson, while avoiding mention of Rohan by name, as being the reason for his own motivation for attacks on Israel.

Response by Arab leaders

On August 28, 1969 a complaint was submitted to the United Nations Security Council by twenty-four Muslim countries in response to the Al Aqsa arson attempt. Mohammad El Farra of Jordan stated:

Today, my delegation joins the 24 other members, representing 750 million adherents of the Muslim faith, which requested a meeting to consider another, more serious tragedy, namely of Al Aqsa Mosque, and the fire which severely damaged that historic Holy Place on the morning of 21 August 1969. The Israeli authorities introduced more than one explanation for the start of the fire and at last charged an Australian with the arson. According to news that originated from Israel sources, the Australian suspect is a friend of Israel who was brought by the Jewish Agency to work for Israel.

The Jewish Agency arranged for the Australian to work in a Kibbutz for some months, so that he could learn the Hebrew language and acquire more of the Zionist teaching. The report published in the Jerusalem Post - an Israeli semi-official newspaper-of 25 August 1969 concerning the life of this Australian in the Kibbutz and his dreams of building Solomon’s temple casts doubt on the case and adds to the fears and worries of the Muslims about their holy shrines; it also throws light on who is the criminal and who is the accomplice.

We have not forgotten statements in the early days of the 5 June 1967 Israeli occupation about the future of Jerusalem, nor have we forgotten the report of Menahem Borsh, which was published in Yediot Aharanot of 18 August, 1969, only three days before the burning of the Mosque, emphasizing that the Temple would be built anew in the same spot ... on Thursday, 21 August 1969.[5]

The Arab Press further reported that:

In the early hours of that morning fire broke out at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Muslims praying in the Mosque and others rushed to the scene to remove some of the valuables in the Mosque and extinguish the fire. The Jordanian fire brigade in Jerusalem was called. Muslim religious leaders as well as Jordanian officials within the Israeli-occupied area came to the scene.

To the outside world news of the fire came in Arabic from Radio Israel at 8:30 a.m., that is, one hour and ten minutes after the fire started. The broadcast carried the news of the arson; it did not give any reason for the fire and did not say whether it was extinguished.

Meanwhile, Jordanian fire brigades from Ramallah, and even those from Al Khalil (Hebron) and Nablus, were sent to the scene ... According to Reuters, it took the fire brigades over five hours to extinguish the fire; this, to a certain extent, was substantiated by Israeli authorities.

Response by and on behalf of Yasser Arafat

The Palestinian newspaper, La Presse Palestinienne, reported the following:

During an assembly commemorating the 1969 arson attempt on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Zakaria al-Agha, a member of the PA Executive Council, made a speech on Arafat's behalf, stressing the determination of the Palestinian people to continue along the path of Jihad until the occupation ends.[6]

Response by Aljazeera Television

On the web site of Aljazeera Television the following information has been posted about Michael Dennis Rohan:

Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock mosques have come under several attacks since 1967 as Jewish groups prepared for construction of the Third Temple. ... In 1967, a Jewish group tried to lead prayers within the Sanctuary despite a Rabbinate prohibition. Two years later, the entire south wing of the mosque was burned, including a pulpit commissioned by the Muslim leader Salah al-Din al-Ayubi some 700 years earlier. Israeli authorities claimed the perpetrator - Australian Dennis Michael Rohan, a tourist belonging to an evangelical group who hid out in an illegal Israeli settlement - had been mentally imbalanced. By his own admission, he claimed that he was trying to hasten the return of the Messiah by destroying the mosque and rebuilding the temple in its place. Rohan's actions may have alluded to research conducted by Israeli archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, who claimed that the Second Temple stood on the very grounds of al-Aqsa Mosque and the Noble Sanctuary.[7]

2003 Hamas attacks in response to Rohan

On August 21, 2003, The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia reported "Ceasefire illusion just blown away":

The terrorist bomb that killed at least 18 Israelis in Jerusalem yesterday has shattered the illusion of a Palestinian ceasefire and dealt yet another blow to the moribund peace process. The bomb was detonated on a packed bus taking people from the Jewish shrine at the Western Wall, just after it turned into the narrow, crowded streets of the ultra-Orthodox Shmuel HaNavi neighbourhood. Another bus traveling behind was also badly damaged by the five-kilogram homemade bomb. At least five children were among the dead, and more than 50 passengers and bystanders, including many children, were take to hospital badly injured...

Islamic Jihad claimed that it carried out the attack in revenge for the Israeli killing of one of its leaders in Hebron last week. Shortly afterwards, however, Hamas released a video of the bomber, whom it named as mosque preacher Raed Abdel-Hamed Mesk, 29, from Hebron, a city still under Israeli control. Hamas claimed that the attack was timed to coincide with the anniversary of a 1969 attempt by a deranged Australian Christian, Dennis Michael Rohan, to set fire to Jerusalem's hallowed Al Aqsa mosque...[8]

2004 Comments by Mufti of Jerusalem

On by September 6, 2004, Sheikh Ekrima Sa'id Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem is reported[by whom?] to have commented that:

Since the Israeli occupation in 1967, the Islamic Waqf has been constantly wary of attempts by extremists to harm Aqsa. Most infamous was the fire set to the Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969 at the hands of one Michael Dennis Rohan, said to be an Australian national. At the time, the Israeli authorities said he was insane so as to clear him from standing trial and the file was closed.[9]

Israeli Chief Rabbinate response

According to the Jewish Political Studies Review, author Yoel Cohen recorded that the official Israeli Chief Rabbinate adopted a mostly conservative stance toward the capture by Israel of the Temple Mount in 1967, in response to questions of whether to rebuild the Temple and reinstitute the sacrificial service to whether to allow Jews to ascend the Temple Mount to pray:

Given the uncertainty where the Temple building itself was located, Unterman and Nissim (Israel's chief rabbis at the time) decided to impose a complete ban on the Mount. Dr. Zerah Warhaftig, the Religious Affairs Minister, who favored preserving the "status quo", fearing that permission to Jews to pray on the Mount would inflame the Arab world, spoke to the two rabbis about the political dangers.[10]

Cohen further footnoted these remarks with comments from an interview:

Dr. Warhaftig said that in 1967-68 he had favored the erection of a small synagogue in the area of El Aqsa, but once he saw the violent reactions after the Michael Rohan arson at El Aqsa in 1968, he concluded that such a step would not be possible. "Had it just been a matter of the Palestinians," Warhaftig said, he would have favored prayer facilities for those Jews who insisted on such prayer rights, even though it transgressed the decisions of the chief rabbis. But once he saw the emotional strength of feelings throughout the Moslem world, he did not pursue this idea.[10]

See also


  1. Education: Digging for Credit. Time. September 3, 1973.
  2. (in Russian)
  3. Soviet Archives [1] collected by Vladimir Bukovsky.
  4. Resolution 271. United Nations Security Council. September 15, 1969.
  5. Letter dated 28 August 1969 addressed to the President of the Security Council by the Representatives of Afghanistan, Algeria, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Southern Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Republic and Yemen (S/9421 and Add.l and 2).
  6. La Presse Palestinienne. La Presse Palestinienne. August 22, 2001.
  8. O'Loughlin, Ed (August 21, 2003). "Ceasefire illusion just blown away". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  9. Sabri, Sheikh Ikrama (September 7, 2004). "Constant threat". Media Monitors Network. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Cohen, Yoel (1999). "The Political Role of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in the Temple Mount Question". Jewish Political Studies Review 11. 

External links

Other pages related to Michael Dennis Rohan and Al Asqa arson
Herbert W. Armstrong profile | Radio Church of God history prior to reform Worldwide Church of God current history of the church | Lost Ten Tribes links to related theories | 1975 in Prophecy! theory of two time cycles | The World Tomorrow radio and television broadcasts | The Plain Truth magazine history | Ambassador College and Ambassador University | Big Sandy history of Texas campus location | Bricket Wood history of UK campus location | Ambassador Auditorium history | Garner Ted Armstrong profile | Stanley Rader profile | Basil Wolverton profile | Art Gilmore profile | Bobby Fischer religious affiliation
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