In one of the rounds of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, the idea came up of dividing the Temple Mount vertically: The Palestinians would get everything aboveground and Israel everything below.
Archaeologist and Jerusalem scholar Shimon Gibson says the next time the subject comes up, the parties should discuss it in Christ Church near Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate, rather than in Oslo or Washington.
That's because since Sunday, Christ Church has been displaying a model of the contentious sacred mount. The work has returned home after nearly a century and a half in Switzerland.
The model was made 140 years ago by the architect and archaeologist Conrad Schick, whose work in Jerusalem was supported by the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. Its details reveal that its creator had access to places where no Western scholar of his day was allowed.
"Every time they dug a hole in the Temple Mount, he ran there to examine it," said Prof. Haim Goren of Tel Hai Academic College, an expert on Schick's work.
Schick, who made the model in an orphanage's woodworking workshop where he taught, crafted it for display at the 1873 Vienna World's Fair. It's four meters long and three meters wide.
Like many of Schick's models, this one had dozens of parts that could be dismantled to show inner, underground areas.
"It's not only beautiful, it's also an important research tool, because it was built by a man who visited every pit and understood the topography in a way we can't fathom," Gibson said.
After the Vienna exhibition, Schick tried unsuccessfully to sell his creation. It eventually found its way to the St. Chrischona mission near Basel, Switzerland, where it remained for 138 years.
Recently, Christ Church, which belongs to the same association that supported Schick, decided to buy the model. "The model is a piece of history and it was made by our organization," Christ Church Deacon Aaron Eime said. "We think it's very important to the city's history to return it to the place where it belongs."
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