British Man Lost in Israeli Desert May Be Suffering From ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’

January 16, 2018 Updated: January 16, 2018

A tourist who went missing in the Israeli desert may be suffering from the so-called “Jerusalem Syndrome.”

Oliver McAfee, a 29-year-old Christian from Ireland, disappeared on November 21 while biking through the Negev desert in Israel.

Friends noted on a Facebook page they created in the effort to locate him that McAfee intended to take a trip of five weeks concluding in December but he missed his return date.

Now officials say it’s possible McAfee has developed the syndrome.

The “Jerusalem Syndrome” is when a person develops religious delusions such as believing they are the next Messiah.

“The temporary psychiatric condition—characterized 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,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

“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.”

Police in Israel initially believed McAfee got lost but then they found a strange trail of torn-out Bible pages, leading them to suspect him of developing the syndrome.

Other pieces of paper on the trail, weighed down by rocks, featured handwritten notes quoting Bible verses, reported the Telegraph. Police were accompanied by volunteers during the discovery.

Raz Arbel, the leader of the volunteer search team, told the Telegraph, “He seems to have been doing all kinds of ceremonies that we don’t really understand.”

Dr. Moshe Kalian, the former district psychiatrist for Jerusalem, told the Times of Israel that although he’s never met McAfee, the details of the case leads him to believe that the biker has the syndrome.



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