Jerusalem Syndrome

The temporary psychiatric condition-characterised by patients
believing that they have become biblical figures such as Jesus, John
the Baptist, or Moses-has been known to Israeli psychiatrists for
decades. It affects mainly Christian pilgrims but is occasionally
diagnosed in Jews who tour holy sites. Those affected begin to act
strangely, sometimes proclaiming that they are ancient religious
figures sent on a holy mission. Apocalyptic Christians expect the next
millennium to herald the second coming of Jesus on the Mount of Olives
in Jerusalem, so experts have warned that the number of patients may
increase sharply.

Professor Eliezer Witztum, a psychiatrist at Jerusalem’s Herzog
Memorial Hospital, explained that many Christians view Jerusalem as
the site of the Armageddon and the second coming. When they visit
Jerusalem, they may experience cognitive dissonance because of the
conflict between their mental image of ancient Jerusalem and the
reality of the modern city. Religious Jews with the syndrome may
believe that the building of the third temple is imminent, that the
ancient animal sacrifices will be restored, and that their own Messiah
will soon arrive.