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What about Jerusalem makes people go crazy?

In the British Journal of Psychiatry, Yair Bar-El and his colleagues describe Jerusalem syndrome, an acute “psychotic decompensation” that afflicted 1,200 tourists to the Holy Land from 1980 to 1993. “On average,” the authors write, “100 such tourists are seen annually, 40 of them requiring admission to hospital.” The paper divides the patients into three categories. The first is made up of people who have already been diagnosed with a psychotic illness before traveling to Jerusalem. “Their motivation in coming to Israel,” the authors write, “is directly related to their mental condition,” frequently involving delusions. A subset of these patients “strongly identify with characters” from the Bible “or are convinced that they themselves are one of these characters.”

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