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Jerusalem Syndrome

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      Friday, November 26, 1999
      Jerusalem Braces for Syndrome Surge in Millennium


      JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Jerusalem's main psychiatric clinic said Thursday it
      expected a surge in admissions among millennium pilgrims struck by a
      syndrome that convinces some people that they are characters from the bible.

      "There is already an increase of about 50 to 60 percent," Gregory Katz, a
      doctor at the Givat Shaul Mental Health Center, told Israel Radio.

      "If all the forecasts of an increase in tourists are true, then we think the
      cases will increase by 100 percent...We have a new emergency room but the
      situation is difficult because we have to treat many sick people not
      including the tourists."

      Katz said the clinic was at present treating three foreigners affected by
      what is known as Jerusalem Syndrome, including a woman who was convinced she
      was a prophet.

      The syndrome afflicts a minority of pilgrims to Jerusalem who are
      overwhelmed by the religious magnetism of the Holy City, sacred to
      Christians, Jews and Muslims.

      The Givat Shaul clinic usually treats about 150 cases of the syndrome a
      year, of which about 40 require admission.

      The disorder is most notable among some Protestant Christians and Jews,
      predominantly from the United States and Europe, according to Katz and
      Jerusalem district psychiatrist Yair Bar-El, who identified the syndrome in

      Some sufferers arrive mentally disturbed and become convinced they are
      biblical figures such as Old Testament prophets, King David, Jesus, John the
      Baptist or the Virgin Mary.

      Others come to Jerusalem with visions of the end of the world and a third
      type arrives perfectly sane yet feels inexplicably compelled to don white
      robes -- sometimes their hotel bed sheets -- and preach rambling sermons.
      "We've seen cases from aged 17 to 70," said Katz. "The average age is 35 and
      people are of above average education."

      Israel and the Palestinian Authority expect a record three million pilgrims
      and tourists to visit the Holy Land in 2000 to mark the start of
      Christianity's third millennium.

      Israel has expelled about 60 Christian cultists from the country so far this
      year, concerned that a tiny minority of zealots with apocalyptic visions of
      the end of the world might try to trigger violence.


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