Crazed in the Holy Land, Jerusalem Syndrome

Picture the scene: sitting in a small café in Old City Jerusalem enjoying a lemon and mint drink, (please look this up and try it if you never have) discussing the merits of the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock (has anyone else noticed that the wall is simply a wall?). When along comes a woman dressed head to toe in a white robe reminiscent of those worn in the biblical era and only depicted in very old paintings, to top off the creative yet slightly impractical outfit she is carrying a large cross with a crucified Jesus upon it over her head (my first consideration was how long her arm had been vertical), and a bible tucked under one arm. Welcome to Jerusalem syndrome.

Crazed in the holy landNow I am the first to admit, even for those of you who, like myself feel religion has had its greatest moments on earth and should maybe retreat slightly, Jerusalem is overwhelming. The meeting point of three main religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Jerusalem holds within it some of the most important religious temples, heritage sites and churches known to any one of these religions. Put it this way they all got a top spot in the bible. For centuries people have been going on pilgrimages to Jerusalem in order to commune with their relevant god and enjoy spiritually enlightening paths and many still do. Those of course who are allowed in, as the Israeli occupation imposes very strict movement controls on the West bank which means that Palestinians are denied access to their holy city and religious monuments, such as the Dome of the Rock which has long been heralded as one of the most important Muslim sites of worship. Nor is it difficult to see why, its scale and grandeur far outreach that shown by any other monument in Jerusalem. Yet another reason why the occupation should be lifted, to allow free access to all religions and religious artifacts. Let’s face it, you can not make a wholly Jewish city out of the foundations of a Muslim one.

We detract, the point is during all these holy visits and pilgrimages there are the inevitable few who get struck by the enticingly humorous Jerusalem syndrome. Essentially people enter the Old City, visit all the sites and then get struck by such an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder that it becomes too much. The end result is people under the genuine belief that they themselves are in fact prophets, or the new Jesus, or a person whose sole task in life in too spread the word of God. In other words totally delusional bordering on seriously psychotic. The best part is, this unknown explained delusional issue isn’t even fussy as too which religion it strikes down, you can be Jewish, Christian or Muslim, whoever thought that a mental health problem could be the key to linking these religions back together. In actual scientific studies conducted on people affected by the syndrome, those who wee inflicted by it showed no signs of mental health problems and psychopathological problems prior to entering the city, it literally strikes you when you least expect it. There are even three types. Although two of those types involve the undetection or previous detection of some form of mental imbalance, as suggested by a doctor not by myself, which rather detracts from the fun idea that God merely strikes you down. The most assuming part is that these symptoms completely disappear within a few weeks of leaving Jerusalem and the person returns to their previous state with no lasting signs or indicators that they were ever struck by such a mysterious illness. Of course this means that the person inflicted has been travelling with someone who is prepared to physically remove them, what about all those hapless souls who enter on their own and get struck down? Well, they remain, for years in fact and they wander around proclaiming God in which form he takes for them and it genuinely becomes a lifestyle. There are people who have been wandering Jerusalem for years; really these are the guys you want to ask for directions.

I think the part that I find most amusing it that surely Israel loses completely, they go to such lengths to ostracize (illegally I may add) Muslims from entering the city without obtaining crazy an largely pointless permits beforehand all in the name of ‘security matters’, but yet they welcome with open arms tourists that then remain on Israeli land for huge lengths of time, presumably at the expense and annoyance of the Israeli government. Hilarious, that’s the modern day punishment for being an illegal occupation, you introduce crazed laws and sanctions and you attract the worldwide crazy. Enjoy Israel.