It’s official. According the Mayor of London’s office, the fuss surrounding the reconstruction of the Palmyra Arch in Trafalgar Square is nothing more than a big misunderstanding!
Quote: “Contrary to a small number of recent press articles, it will not be reconstruction of the Temple of Baal and it has no connection with the occult. The Triumphal Arch in Palmyra was Roman ceremonial architecture erected much later and is not associated with any deity.”
Conclusion: Christians, as usual, have been getting all of a dither about nothing!
Now this is interesting, because up until a few days ago the news reports were both unanimous and adamant in stating that the planned reconstruction scheduled for 19 April in Trafalgar Square was of the Arch from the destroyed temple of Bel/Baal.
For example, as reported by The Daily Telegraph on 28 December 2015, “The full-size recreation of the entrance to the Temple of Bel, one of the city of Palmyra’s most important monuments, is reportedly being built as a symbol of defiance against terrorists’ attempts to erase the Middle East’s pre-Islamic history.” (http://(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12071316/Replica-of-historic-Syrian-arch-attacked-by-Isis-to-be-recreated-in-Trafalgar-Square.html)
There were similar reports carried in The Daily Mail (http://(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3376093/Ancient-arch-Palmyra-site-destroyed-Isis-recreated-Trafalgar-Square-world-s-largest-3D-printer-call-action.html), The Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/28/palmyra-temple-bel-arch-survived-isis-syria-london-new-york), and even the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-35188860).
In fact, as late as 29 March of this year, The Guardian was still saying the same thing (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/29/palmyra-message-isis-islamic-state-jihadis-orgy-destruction-heritage-restored) Quoting Roger Michel, the Director of the Institute for Digital Archaelogy (IDA), they reported that a 3D facsimile arch from Palmyra’s destroyed Temple of Bel would be unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square on 19 April.
But only few days later – coinciding with the first stirrings of protest from Christian groups complaining about the Arch’s occult associations – the reporting changed. Suddenly, it was no longer the arch from the temple of Baal that was under reconstruction, but the more spiritually neutral triumphal arch of Palmyra. We were assured that this was in no way associated with the Temple, but had been constructed by the Romans in around 200AD – at the other end of the colonnade leading up to the temple. (See for example, The Daily Telegraph, reporting this time on 8 April, 2016 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/08/why-the-arch-of-triumph-of-palmyra-is-being-recreated-in-london/)
Interestingly, the IDA appears to have been similarly confused. Up until a few days ago they were proclaiming their intention ‘to reconstruct the entrance arch to the destroyed Temple of Bel in Palmyra.’ However, their website has now been changed, stating instead that on 19 April they will install the world’s first “monumental scale reconstruction of Palmyra’s Triumphal Arch on Trafalgar Square.”
How very puzzling. The structures after all are entirely separate, distinct and, VfJUK believes, look different – so how can this confusion have arisen, especially amongst experts? Did none of them realize that they had been thinking and talking about the wrong arch? Or did they at the last moment change their minds and begin construction of the other one…? Or is it the same arch, but with a different name?
If one were feeling sceptical, one might be tempted to suggest that the organisers of this debacle were trying to avert allegations that they were paying tribute to a Canaanite deity symbolizing evil and the occult. In other words, that they were ‘rebranding’, so that the reconstruction would no longer be seen as a celebration of mass murder, child sacrifice and the kind of sexual orgies that would have made the excesses of the Bullingdon Club look like a vicarage tea party – but rather a tribute to history and Roman architecture.
Though alternatively, of course, they may genuinely have abandoned plans to commemorate the Temple and switched to reconstruction of the Triumphal Arch instead.
However, to be convinced we need full transparency here. The desire to make a stand against the destruction and violence perpetrated by ISIS is to be welcomed. But a duplicitous rewriting of the facts is not. We need therefore a full explanation and to be convinced that it is the truth. Otherwise, this scheme should simply be abandoned.