Beaming down the Messiah

In the April issue of Wired, Joshua Davis delivers an amazing report on Yitzhaq Hayutman, an English-born architect with a high-tech solution to Middle East conflicts: using lasers to project a restored Temple above the Dome of the Rock and, thus, to "induce the arrival of the Messiah and the coming of peace on Earth." Davis' report offers details almost too good to be true -- an eccentric pinning his hopes for Middle East peace on a $20 million patent-infringement lawsuit against Palm; an executive with NDS, a News Corp. company, who tried to destroy the Dome in the early 1980s; a rabbi who studies the kabbalah, helps Hayutman design video games and complains like a young geek about Windows 95. Davis makes overly broad generalizations about Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, but he has written an engaging feature about one man's quixotic efforts to resolve millennia-old religious conflicts.

Davis explains the details of Hayutman's plan:

He has two big ideas, two ways to engineer the apocalypse. The first: a hovering holographic temple. Hayutman wants to set up an array of high-powered, water-cooled lasers and fire them into a transparent cube suspended beneath a blimp. The ephemeral, flickering image, he says, would fulfill an ancient, widely revered Jewish prophecy that the temple will descend from the heavens as a manifestation of light. Hayutman hopes to finance the project with some of the proceeds from a $20 million patent-infringement suit he and his partners have filed against Palm.

The rest of that money would be poured into Hayutman's second idea for jump-starting the end-times: a virtual temple within a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The goal is for thousands of people to join in its construction on the Web. Hayutman even wants to display progress reports in the floating hologram as a kind of apocalyptic scoreboard.

Most of what Hayutman says to Davis offers little hope that he'll succeed in launching the project. Hayutman publishes many detailed essays on this website (Davis did yeoman's work at summarizing Hayutman's vision).

Still, Davis describes a surprisingly encouraging interview with Imam Mohammed Hussein of Noble Sanctuary and Adnan Husseini, director of the Islamic Trust:

I start by asking Husseini if he's familiar with Hayutman's idea of projecting a holographic temple over the Dome of the Rock. "We have heard of this man's projections of light," he responds, speaking slowly and cautiously. "And we will allow it to happen here -- when there is a peace settlement."

Similarly, Davis concludes that many "fundamentalist Christians" support the project because of support expressed by Jan van der Hoeven, director of the International Christian Zionist Center.

Davis only briefly engages the point of whether biblical prophecy could be fulfilled in virtual reality, especially considering that the God described by all three monotheistic faiths has favored old-fashioned meat space. Davis describes this as a problem only for "fundamentalists":

Jewish and Christian fundamentalists are intrigued by this new approach to prophecy. But because they read scripture literally, they have a lot of questions. "How will I perform an animal sacrifice if the temple is in a computer?" demands Amos Taieb, a 32-year-old member of the recently organized Temple Guard, a small group of primarily young Jewish men dedicated to rebuilding a physical temple as soon as possible. Taieb emphasizes that scripture clearly states that lambs must be sacrificed on the temple's altar.

. . . As for a holographic temple, Taieb cites the Midrash Rabbah prediction that the temple will come from the sky. This is a possibility, he allows, but there's still the matter of how to sacrifice animals. "Do you bring a lamb hologram into the sky as well?" he asks. "And how do you throw lamb blood on a holographic altar that is floating in the sky? It gets complicated."

But he also offers these poignant remarks by Hayutman:

"Politicians don't want to address the Temple Mount as a religious problem," he says, slowing for a security checkpoint manned by three well-armed Israeli soldiers. "They think Jews and Arabs should just get rid of their 'idiotic' religions and then everything will be OK. But the whole reason we are here is because of religion. And if you just divide the land, you end up with a situation similar to India and Pakistan -- always teetering on the edge of war."

Please respect our Commenting Policy