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Why Does Muammar Qaddafi Own a Mansion in New Jersey?

Image credit: NorthJersey.com

As General Muammar Qaddafi continues to evade the Libyan rebels who chased him out of Tripoli last week, there has been some tongue-in-cheek speculation about the possibility of him fleeing all the way to his five-acre estate in—wait for it—Englewood, New Jersey.

Almost thirty years ago, in 1982, the Libyan government paid a million bucks for this three-story, 10,000 square foot, 25-bedroom mansion, which they inexplicably named “Thunder Rock,” on Palisade Avenue in Englewood, a suburb in Bergen County. It’s a bizarre choice of neighborhood for a government that has made a habit of bankrolling terrorists and talking about how much they hate Israel, considering it’s right smack in the middle of a sizeable Orthodox Jewish community. In fact, Thunder Rock is directly next door to the largest yeshiva in town, and just a short walk from the home of one Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who, if in case you missed that episode of Oprah, is an outspoken leader in the American Jewish community and a former spiritual mentor to Michael Jackson.

Who’s up for a block party?

Thunder Rock was originally purchased as a summer retreat for the Libyan ambassador to the U.S. and his or her family, but it was never really used, and in the last decade or so, the now multi-million dollar pad had mostly wallowed in obscurity, with a few notable exceptions. In 1985, it was the subject of a prolonged legal battle, which ended with the court decision that the Libyan government would not have to pay property taxes on the place.

It was a decision that rankled New Jerseyans, especially when, twenty-four years later, in 2009, Qaddafi proposed setting up his air-conditioned Bedouin tent—he always travels with one—on the mansion’s front lawn. The little camping trip would, the Englewood mayor predicted, cost residents an estimated $20,000 per day in police presence and garbage removal.

It wasn’t only the cost that got the Garden State protesting: A few months before the announced visit, Qaddafi had given a hero’s welcome to Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi after he was released from prison to Libya on humanitarian grounds. Al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing a jetliner over Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people—38 of whom, the protesters were quick to point out, were from New Jersey.

It’s not likely New Jersey residents would stand for Qaddafi’s ignoble return, but on the off chance that he does make a break for Thunder Rock, here’s hoping for a cameo on Jersey Shore, where he and Snooki show up wearing the same outfit.

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Date
August 31st, 2011

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Stranger to the World

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