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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.
David Sunfellow, Founder & Publisher
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