It’s Solomon’s Tem­ple, com­plete with he­li­pad

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY IS­ABEL DE BER­TO­DANO

A VAST replica of Solomon’s Tem­ple opened this week in Sao Paulo, with the ca­pac­ity to seat 10,000 fol­low­ers of the evan­gel­i­cal Uni­ver­sal Church of the King­dom of God.

The tem­ple, which en­gulfs an en­tire city block and cost about £176 mil­lion to build, has po­larised opinion, par­tic­u­larly among the Jewish com­mu­nity from which it bor­rows much of its most eye-catch­ing sym­bol­ism.

The tem­ple was built us­ing stone from Is­rael and con­tains a num­ber of con­spic­u­ous meno­rahs and an al­tar im­i­tat­ing the Ark of the Covenant.

Bishop Edir Macedo, who founded the Uni­ver­sal Church 35 years ago and mas­ter­minded the new tem­ple, has a flow­ing beard and wears a yarmulke. A he­li­copter land­ing pad on the 11-storey com­plex will al­low Mr Macedo to drop in for ser­mons.

Along­side the tem­ple is a gar­den of olive trees sim­i­lar to the gar­den of Geth­se­mane, and the flag of Is­rael flies nearby, next to those of the Uni­ver­sal Church, Brazil and the United States, among dozens of other coun­tries.

The Brazil­ian so­ci­ol­o­gist Ri­cardo Bi­tun told Folha de Sao Paulo that the Ju­daica was part of a “Jewish ten­dency” shown by the Uni­ver­sal Church, which uses sym­bols and rit­u­als from an­cient re­li­gions to con­fer au­thor­ity and cred­i­bil­ity.

How­ever, the Is­raeli Rabbi Chaim Rich­man, direc­tor of the in­ter­na­tional de­part­ment of the Tem­ple In­sti­tute, said the new church “hi­jacked the con­cept of the Holy Tem­ple” and was a “to­tal bas­tardi­s­a­tion of its sanc­tity”.

Ri­cardo Berkien­sz­tat, vice pres­i­dent of the Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of Sao Paulo, de­scribed the achieve­ment of ar­chi­tect Roge­rio Araujo as “won­der­ful” but told the Brazil­ian site Diario365: “For Jews the only re­ally sa­cred tem­ple could be the one in Jerusalem”.

Rabbi Michel Sch­lesinger, of the Sao Paulo Is­raelite Con­gre­ga­tion, said the build­ing should be seen in a pos­i­tive light.

“I look kindly on any­thing which uses the model of the tem­ple to try to get closer to God,” he said.

The new build­ing, which was due to open on Thurs­day, with the Pres­i­dent of Brazil, Dilma Rouss­eff, as guest of hon­our, is part of a surge in en­thu­si­asm for evan­gel­i­cal and Pen­te­costal churches in Brazil.

Re­cent cen­sus fig­ures show that 22 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is now evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian.

JAMES WHIT­WORTH

Thetem­ple in Sao

Paulo

“Did Moses leave for Mount Si­nai in a he­li­copter?”

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