Jerusalem Syndrome and Jerusalem Stories

Supernatural Travel Tales S1E15

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The summer I turned 16, I took a trip. “Teen tour”, my parents called it. We would be touring across Israel and then spending a few weeks in Jerusalem, at Hebrew University, studying Hebrew.

Something happened when I stepped off that bus. My restless soul took a deep breath, and let out a sigh. I was home.

From the very first time I walked through the Old City, my feet somehow knew the way. No taking a turn down a wrong alley. No wondering how to navigate back. I was confident, and calm. Impossibly, I knew my way.

For most of my friends on this trip, Jerusalem was a scenic backdrop. For me, the city was more. I couldn’t explain my sudden overwhelming attachment. It puzzled me. It frightened me a little. Never before had I experienced that sort of… what to call it even? Deja vu? In my minds eye I was walking through the same streets, but I wasn’t myself. It wasn’t now. Was it a past life? Was it my imagination?

It was two summers later, when I returned for the third time, that I heard the term Jerusalem Syndrome, and though I didn’t think I fit the clinical description, something about it resonated.

From Wikipedia:

“The best known, although not the most prevalent, manifestation of Jerusalem syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a person who seems previously balanced and devoid of any signs of psychopathology becomes psychotic after arriving in Jerusalem.

On my fourth trip to Jerusalem, I spent a summer working at a youth hostel. There I encountered several people with full blown Jerusalem syndrome. Most notably: two gentlemen who came to blows over which one of them was the REAL John the Baptist.  Also checked in at this budget hotel was a 20 something man who was certain he was Jesus Christ. He was so certain that he stripped naked, and stole a donkey, which he proceeded to attempt to ride into Bethlehem. Halfway there, the donkey died and he found himself in prison.

Jerusalem Syndrome is serious, and it is silly. People generally recover quickly and recall the experience fondly.

There are few cities that elicit this sort of reaction from people. Jerusalem is special. But why is that? What is it about this city that has been fought over for thousands of years?

In today’s episode of Supernatural Travel Tales we take a look at the city that turns ordinary tourists a little bit crazy. Whether it’s the history, the mystery or something more, there’s no denying the effect this city has on visitors.

My guest is Mordecai Holtz from iTravel Jerusalem and Blue Thread Marketing. Past, present and future –  Mordecai has the inside scoop on what makes this spectacular city of Jerusalem tick