Jerusalem Syndrome

Jerusalem Syndrome ‘victim’ proclaims herself the only true voice of God. (Screen cap from the video “Jerusalem Syndrome”

May 27, 2008

UP UNTIL YESTERDAY, I had never heard of ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’, but a news article at has changed all that.  

According to the report, Jerusalem Syndrome afflicts tourists with no previously diagnosed or even observed psychosis, causing men and women alike to suddenly assume the identities of John the Baptist, Mary, or even Christ Himself. Generally, the hapless victim is taken to a local hospital and treated for a few days, after which he or she regains his or her former sanity and shuffles off to the next tourist destination — a bit embarrassed but with no real harm done. However, the victim in yesterday’s report suffered far more than embarrassment:


A 38-year old American tourist diagnosed as suffering from ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ jumped off a 13-feet walkway on Friday night at the Poria Hospital in Tiberias. He broke several ribs, one of which punctured a lung, and also smashed a vertebra in his back. The man was placed in the intensive care unit. 


The tourist was evacuated to the hospital along with his wife by the physician accompanying their tourist group. The couple told the medical staff they were devout Christians who had arrived in Israel 10 days earlier to tour various holy sites. Over the past few days the husband began feeling anxious and suffered from insomnia. He roamed the hills surrounding the guest house he was staying at, muttering about Jesus.

Take a few moments to Google ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’, and you’ll discover an underlying anti-Christian bias in most of the reports. A 21-minute video produced by Journeyman Pictures reveals strong bias against Christians, especially those who believe in a literal return of Jesus Christ. And therein lies the trouble.

This evening, pour yourself a nice glass of iced tea, put up your feet, and watch the video, and you’ll see what I mean. The polished British accent of the narrator underscores the sensible calm of ‘normality’. Christian pilgrims are shown as fanatics who intentionally seek to identify with Christ or other Biblical personalities. Apocalyptic beliefs equal dangerous beliefs in this documentary; a bias supported and enhanced by clips featuring an undercover member of Shin Bet, Israel’s security service. To him, those afflicted with Jerusalem Syndrome could easily be manipulated by terrorists. In fact, the video claims, Michael Rohan set fire to the Al-Aqsa mosque in 1969 after coming down with ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’. The film of the same name is based on the Rohan case.

What is really happening to tourists in Israel? As a Christian and a former medical researcher, I can’t ignore the hundreds of cases on file. Why would previously ‘sane’ individuals manifest a changed personality so quickly — and primarily in the land claimed by the Lord God Jehovah? Perhaps it is God’s claim on the land that lies at the very root of the problem.

When Jesus Christ walked the sands of Israel in the first century, He often encountered men and women who had lost sight of their own identities — these people had become possessed not with ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ (a so-called psychosis based on religious fervor) but with spirits — unclean spirits to be precise. The madman of Gadara is a prime example.

Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8 tell of a wild man who lived in the land of the Gadarenes (called Gergesenes in Matthew — in fact, there is a possibility that Matthew tells of a second encounter — for Matthew describes ‘two men’ not one). The man (or men in Matthew) wears no clothing, and he cuts himself with sharp stones (cutting was often done to appease ‘gods’, i.e. fallen angels or demons — a sobering realization in light of the ‘cutting’ rage now rampant among teens). This man of the tombs possesses unbelievable strength — for no chains could hold him. (‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ victims sometimes exhibit remarkable strength — one man who claimed he was ‘Samson’, the old testament judge, ripped apart the bars of his holding cell and escaped).

When confronted by the mad man, Jesus did not call in local priests or healers. Instead, He dealt with the problem head-on by addressing the real problem: the demonic presence.

Mark 5:9-15 tells it this way:

And he asked him, What [is] thy name? And he answered, saying, My name [is] Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.

And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

And they that fed the swine fled, and told [it] in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.

So — what if those afflicted with “Jerusalem Syndrome” aren’t suffering from a mental disorder but a spiritual one? Israel is a land claimed by God Himself for the descendants of Abraham through Isaac. The remainder of the nations of the world were long ago given over to seventy fallen angels (see Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s explanation of the ‘Table of Nations’ and how they relate to the Divine Council and the 70 ‘sons of God’ here). This area of the world has a long history of demonic worship — it sits very close to Mt. Hermon, seat of Baal worship. Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals the ancient presence of dark forces who demanded worship and sought to thwart God’s eternal plan at every turn. The twelve tribes of Israel split over religious differences, leaving the northern ten tribes to wallow in pagan indifference, while the south (Judah/Benjamin) suffered their own internal battle to remain pure.

As we approach the last days before Christ’s return, it’s only logical that these ancient demonic forces would ramp it up, so to speak. With this in mind, isn’t it conceivable that “Jerusalem Syndrome” is but a newly recognized manifestation of an old enemy’s tricks? If so, then ‘Legion’ and his buddies may have deeper plans — plans to place all true Christian believers in the ‘cross-hairs’ of world hatred. More on this next time….


  1. Hello Sharon!! Thanks for writing that article…it sounds like this is all part of the continuing deception…

  2. Watched the video.
    Ohh know! I think I have the Jerusalem Syndrome, even though I’m in Tennessee!!
    I woke up this morning and thanked God that I’ve been washed in the blood, forgiven of my sinful state and have been made a new creation. I must be crazy.

    I noticed how they went from filming Christians in the Holy land praising God to one very disturbed individual and explanations by a psychiatrist.

    I’m not sure the “syndrome” even exsist to be honest. Sounds more like an excuse to start catogorizing anyone who is caught worshiping God into the “mentally disturbed” slot. So they can be taken and given “treatment”.

    You dont have to go to Jerusalem to find people like that woman roaming the streets yelling at people. We had a guy come into our church that said he was John the baptist and the messiah.
    There have always been people like that.
    It’s only natural that there would be people like that in Jerusalem.


  3. I agree with your assessment of demonic possession. Interestingly enough he showed Catholics (on the Via Del Rosa) and Barbara Yoder’s group, not exactly a portrait of true believers. More aptly a depiction of those whose churches have Jesus standing at the door kocking to be let in.

    Catholics have the highest number of demonic possession cases, so for them to fall victim to “Jerusalem Syndrome” would not be a big surprise. Not a big suprise to me if many also hail from the seeker friendly realm or charismatic realm as they too embrace many eastern influences (i.e. an invitation to invite spirits in).

    One thing I have to admit that I agree with from the piece is the retired Shin Bet agent’s concern. I have been a loyal supporter of Israel for years, and truly what he states is true. Those who are possessed could be drawn to participate in some such scheme. But why not? Getting the demon possessed (esp an American)and the deceived to work in concert to give true believers and innocent Jews a black eye all in one event. Certainly I see that as extremely plausible. It would give the UN and the Arab Nations the perfect excuse for their “righteous” hatred of American Christians and Israeli Jews.

    What irony the great satan (the demon possessed American “christian” )and the little satan ( the satanically deceived Israeli Jew) working together….

    I guess we should take heart, “in the end times will come scoffers”…just another indication that every word in the Bible is true and therefore our redemption draweth nigh.

  4. That’s an interesting interpretation of the Syndrome, although I think it deals more with the media’s portrayal JS rather than JS itself. I found your page while searching for research material on an assignment… to do with… yup…JS.

    JS is not the only kind of ‘travel syndrome’ in existence – others of its kind have nothing to with religion, as a matter of fact. One (rather famed) exampled, is of an excitement that occurs when tourists view famous works of art. I’m not sure their incontinent emotions could be viewed as demonic. Unless one thinks that oil paintings are evil magical artefacts. 😉 (the Stendhal syndrome).

    And for mon Cherie above, whose response I found most interesting (though sadly I’ll not be able to include it in my bibliography) – according to a detailed article about the Jerusalem Syndrome, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, by a group of Israeli psychiatrists with direct experience of treating these people in Jerusalem’s hospitals (year 2000, issue 175, pages 86-90): There is only ONE variation of this disorder in which sufferers have NO prior psychotic history. They are in the minority. ALL others have previous disturbances that are exaggerated while on holiday. The Majority have prior mental health issues.

    More interestingly, that minority of previously unaffected people (‘variant III’, if anyone’s wondering) have been ‘catalogued’. From page 89 of the report: “of the 42 cases, 40 were Protestants, one was a Catholic, and one was a Jew who had lived as a Protestant while hiding during the Second World War. All 40 Protestants came what can be described as ‘ultra-religious families’. … such people possess an idealist subconscious image of Jerusalem and … are unable to deal with the concrete reality of Jerusalem today.” It sounds like a crisis to me, but not really a demonic one.

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