THE JERUSALEM SYNDROME-LIFE THROUGH THE MADNESS OF ETERNITY

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WHENEVER WE GO, OUR HEARTS STAY ONLY IN JERUSALEM

MENTAL ILLNESS IN HOLY CITY

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“One doesn’t go to Jerusalem, one returns to it. That’s one of its mysteries. “

Elle Wiesel

Jerusalem. Golden city, lost in the mist of the three great monotheistic religions, stuck in the centuries for being discovered every new day, as the reason of the whole world to keep going. There is something so magical about Jerusalem that doesn’t exist anywhere else but in the impressions of those who fed their spirits in this city, who found soul peace  in the same Jerusalem which has been always the ground for war among people and among religions. One and only. Alpha and omega of the book of civilization. The beginning and the end of all of us. No matter who we are or what we do, we burn with the same passion for our Jerusalem. We live for the sanctified  nature of Jerusalem and we die for cherishing it. After eternity, Jerusalem gives us colors of our existence.

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All Abraham religions consider Jerusalem as the holy city because of its historical significance and the fact that the majority of sacred places are exactly located in this legendary place. God is hidden in Jerusalem or at least, if you talk to Him there, He might answer to you. However, the timeless beauty of Jerusalem is a collage of different believes and praying sounds. The tragedy  of Jerusalem is to be everyone’s in the same time but no one’s really. When Jews claim that Jerusalem is Jewish, Muslims will deny it while Christians will state that Jerusalem is the alphabet of Christianity. So many grudges and lack of pure love turned this amazing city into the fire ground, into the war without end. Everyone against everyone for nothing but the greed and religious fanaticism. If God is somehow there, I am sure He is embarrassed by  all His children.

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“Ten measures of  beauty were created in this world; nine were taken by Jerusalem and one by the rest of the world. Jerusalem is a beauty unparalleled.”

Babylonian Talmud

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Jewish name for Jerusalem is Yerushalayim and it is the holiest city in Judaism and the homeland of the Jewish fate since 10th century BCE.This is why it is obligated for Jews outside the city to pray facing its direction. The famous Kotel known as the Western Wall is the center of Jewish Quarter of the city :“A remnant of the retaining wall of the mount on which the Holy Temple once stood.Inside the temple was the Holy of Holies, the most sacred site in Judaism.Jews believe that this was the location of the foundation stone from which the world was created, and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Many Jews believe the Dome of the Rock is the site of the Holy of Holies.Today, the Western Wall is the closest place Jews can pray to the Holy of Holies.” Even the Talmud is divided into two parts: Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) and the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud). The references about the Talmud usually consider the Babylonian Talmud while the Jerusalem Talmud is known as the Palestinian Talmud or Talmud of the Land of Israel and it is not so analyzed as the second one set of instructions.  Beside that, the holy city is mentioned more than hundreds of  time in Tanach (The Five books of Moses, so called Written Torah) and as Jews believe, God’s face is over Jerusalem while so many people gave lives to build the holy temple and to ensure the God’s presence. As it is stated, every single Jew knows what is Yerushalayim for the whole line of Jewish blood and that goes from one to another generation.

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“That he heard Allah’s Apostle saying, ‘When the people of Quraish did not believe me (i.e. the story of my Night Journey), I stood up in Al-Hijr and Allah displayed Jerusalem in front of me, and I began describing it to them while I was looking at it.”

— Sahih Bukhari: Volume 5, Book 58, Number 226
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In Islamic Religion, this city is famous as Al-Quds, the third holy site for Muslims who share Sunni tradition, along with Mecca and Medina:“The Muslim Quarter is the largest of the four and contains the shrine of the Dome of Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque on a plateau known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and is under the administration of an Islamic trust called the Waqf. Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad traveled here from Mecca during his night journey and prayed with the souls of all the prophets. A few steps away, the shrine of the Dome of the Rock holds the foundation stone, where Muslims believe Muhammad then ascended to heaven.” Muslim believe that Jerusalem was the first direction of prayer, before The Kaaba in Mecca and the importance of Al-Aqsa Mosque is the big one for the whole Islamic world. The uncleared inter religious boundaries between Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem make things being more complicated for the final  political solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the Glory of the Lord rises to shine on you”

Issaiah 60:1

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The Christianity is based on the idea that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, on Golgotha, on the hill of Calvary so his tomb is also considered as the sacred site of his resurrection. There are a lot of different denominations:”The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Franciscan friars from the Roman Catholic Church and the Armenian Patriarchate, but also by the Ethiopians, Coptics and Syrian Orthodox Church.” All of them are united in glorying this golden city and that is the main ground why so many pilgrims are coming every day over there, visiting the empty tomb of Jesus and hoping for the God’s blessings through the prayers. Christians strongly believe that Jewish ties with Jerusalem are based on the God’s preference for chosen people and it is enough to said that for many years, the holy Jerusalem was the center of the world for Christians. If we go back to history and crusading wars, there is no other conclusion than to emphasis that all Christian lands  have looked at  Jerusalem as the holder of the faith,as the base of Christian civilization and the whole heritage. It doesn’t surprise a lot the madness of the radical Christians who connect Jerusalem with the Judgment Day and the importance goes up rapidly.

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Now when we know the mythological shield of the city, we must elaborate the another phenomena which has been noticed  lately and it is very much related to our eternal city. The Jerusalem Syndrome. This syndrome is old almost like the holy city but it has never been given so much attention or at least it hasn’t been identified as such. The story about it is very inviting and thrilling. The Jerusalem Syndrome is a term for some kind of    psychotic and delusional behavior of tourists who visit the holy city. The majority of those affected with this mental illness are religious tourists who get into the depth of faith when they step into Jerusalem and breathe in the centuries of the rich religious heritage. The businessman from Canada  believed that he must take one stone from the Wailing Wall, the teacher from Ireland  was convinced she will give a birth to baby Jesus, the Austrian teenager was sure he saw King David and spoke to him. Those people are not just unstable in psychological way, they are hyper sensible in spiritual way. They are so fragile and easy to be intoxicated by Jerusalem that the diagnosis of soul madness comes very fast :“The Jerusalem Syndrome was first clinically identified by Dr. Yair Bar El, formerly director of the Kfar Shaul Psychiatric Hospital. Bar El studied 470 tourists who were referred for treatment between 1979 and 1993. On the basis of his work with these visitors, who had been declared temporarily insane, Bar El reached some fascinating conclusions.Of the 470 visitors from all over the world who were hospitalized, 66 percent were Jews, 33 percent were Christians and one percent had no known religious affiliation. Bar El is quick to point out that it is not only tourists who demonstrate behavior that indicates the Jerusalem Syndrome; in fact local residents can be temporarily or permanently affected as well.”

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The Israeli Ministry of health informs that every year there are about 50 new cases of religious tourists who suffer from the Jerusalem Syndrome. The statistic grows in Easter weekend and the health officers are all over the streets of the Old City to offer the necessary health. It is interesting that Jews and Christians are among those who experience this delusion but there is no record about the Muslims with this Syndrome, in spite the fact of the great significance of Jerusalem for Muslim people too.  Usually, the targeted people are those who were already suffering from psychotic moments and they only find a fertile field in the holy city to deliberate their hidden  fears and tensions and to set themselves  free in  own theater.  The mentioned people are harmless and they get better after recovery in local  mental hospital Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre , built for that purpose. What was the most fascinating for the researchers are the third category of the Jerusalem Syndrome patients. These are people with no history of mental illness and who lose  their minds for a while in this religious city. According to some studies, there were 42 cases of people who suffered psychotic episodes while they were in Jerusalem and after they left the city, the madness has been gone. All of them were ultra religious and radical protestants which explains a lot the mentioned psychopathology in the holy city:” Among them was a Swiss lawyer who arrived in Jerusalem as part of a tour of the Mediterranean. He spent a perfectly happy week with friends in Greece before reaching Jerusalem, where he became obsessed with ritual purity and started wearing sheets as a gown and calling out verses from the Bible. Within days he recovered and went on with his group to Egypt, apparently never suffering any mental health problems again.” 

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There is nothing supernatural about the holy city of  Jerusalem but there is everything about the ancient beauty and mesmerizing glory of the city which has been the pearl of all main religions. We don’t need to be fanatical believers to accept the timeless meaning of this city and to catch the pictures from the past imprinted in every corner of the Old Town. It is enough that we are humans, so small in the front of our Gods who count our sins and encourage our good deeds. In that moment, we live the story old like the oldest city. We breathe in the whole mankind’s drama and breathe out our own, primitive fear. Fear from being punished because we are not good or because we are really bad. That fear is older than the most ancient street in our beautiful Jerusalem.

God is love and we should find him wherever we go. Jerusalem could be closer to God but that doesn’t  mean we are closer to God only if we are over there. It means that we are bringing God’s love wherever we go and that we are safe, from external and internal demons.

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Jerusalem shines for eternity, for all of us.The darkness is only within us and it must be defeated by light.

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “THE JERUSALEM SYNDROME-LIFE THROUGH THE MADNESS OF ETERNITY”

  1. So beautifully and eloquently wtitten! I read the whole article from beginning to end without moving! This is how riveting the writing and the story are!

    Thank you so much Sandra for this wonderful and informative article!

    Liked by 1 person

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