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Jerusalem syndrome is a rare psychiatric disorder described by Dr Gregory Katz (head of the Emergency Unit at the Givat Shaul Mental Health Centre) in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2000.
Sufferers arriving in Jerusalem are afflicted with the delusion that they are characters from the Bible.
Dr. Katz described 7 stages:
- The afflicted tourist becomes nervous, agitated and tense.
- The tourist splits away from the tour group.
- An obsession with cleanliness.
- The sufferer prepares a long white robe.
- The person begins to sing psalms, Bible extracts or religious songs
- The person marches to a holy place in Jerusalem.
- The person delivers a sermon described by Dr. Katz as "very confused and based on an unrealistic plea to humankind to adopt a more wholesome, moral, simple way of life".
The Israeli police have set up a special unit to deal with such people and between 30 and 40 people a year are admitted, but only a few are diagnosed as having "true" Jerusalem Syndrome. Most patients are middle aged from small towns in the USA or Scandinavia. Jet lag and lack of sleep are often predisposing factors.
Because there are so many self-proclaimed messiahs arrested every year, rabbis had to define the messiah to exclude such people, without unintentionally condoning the arrest of the real messiah, should he appear. Their official explanation is that, by definition, the real messiah will be self-evident, and everyone will automatically know he is such. (This position, interestingly, disqualifies Jesus from being the messiah, because there were those who met him and still doubted him ( i.e., the Sanhedrin and most Roman officials). This is not a problem for believing Jews, as they don't believe Jesus was the messiah in the first place.)
- The Epoch Times UK Edition 19 December 2007 from a Reuters report.