Jerusalem Syndrome

Arab merchants near the Arab and Armenian Quarters in the Old City of Jerusalem, selling freshly-made bread to tourists. It’s really good bread. 

There’s an odd psychiatric illness that some tourists get when they visit Jerusalem. An actual, medically known, psychosis. It’s called Jerusalem Syndrome and symptoms include:

  • Anxiety, agitation, nervousness. (NB That could be due to scary Jerusalemite driving and the fact that no matter which signpost you follow you will always end up driving in the direction of a sign saying RAMALLAH).
  • A desire to split away from the group and to tour Jerusalem alone. 
  • A need to be clean and pure: obsession with washing; compulsive fingernail and toenail cutting.
  • Preparation, often using hotel linen, of a long, ankle-length, toga-like gown, which is always white.
  • The need to recite the Bible, or to sing religious hymns or spirituals. 
  • A procession to one of Jerusalem’s innumerable holy places. 
  • Delivery of a sermon in said holy place, begging humanity to adopt a more moral, simple way of life.

    I stress: this is real.  There isn’t a Tel Aviv Syndrome (unless it’s the need to honk one’s car horn obsessively and park on the pavement) but there is a Paris Syndrome that affects Japanese tourists who are shocked that Paris bears no resemblance to its depiction in popular films and books.


    16 comments on “Jerusalem Syndrome”

    1. If I were to visit Jerusalem I think any syndrome I might fall into would include numerous visits to these bread stalls and to eat copious amounts of freshly baked bread. I like all the lines in this photo and the 3 figures with no relation to each other. The bleached B&W works beautifully here to add a sense of enduring time and place.

    2. If I were to visit, I think I would get in touch with Cat just to get to know which technique is used to age the images…
      They are very special.

    3. Lot of bread there they must do a good business. I have all those symptoms all ready so I would fit right in. :) I thought you were being funny and looked it up and it is real. Very interesting!

    4. When I visited old Jerusalem, I felt that it was a city with to faces : on one hand it’s a true holy place and on the other, it’s a great religion supermarket :-) Every religious community has something for you to buy either with your heart or with your money :-) I’m not supprised people can become a little crazy :-)

    5. Thanks for the comments :)

      daina – I think you might also have a glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice from the neighbouring stand – that would also be a “religious” experience!

      Geir – thanks a lot, I think it’s great that you like them.

      Terry – yes, I’m afraid it is true…I think no-one would notice if you walked around in a white robe in Old Jerusalem, either!

      pictalogue – yep, you’re right, it is a giant market. A few years ago I was in a shop in the Muslim quarter that sold tacky Christian tourist gifts. They had a clock with a different Christian religious figure for each number. The salesman was very insistent that this would make a great gift for any Christians I knew. I wonder if that’s true… :)

    6. hmmm, i’ll give jerusalem a miss methinks…don’t want to find myself wandering around in a robe. mind you, i do like bread. a lot!

    7. Too funny! Have never heard of this ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ before. Have been there many times…can’t say I’ve fallen ill with any of the symptoms – HA!
      This image looks like it was captured before Israel became a recognized state. Wonderful processing….would love to know your ‘secret’ recipe (if you care to share).

    8. Great shot Cat…love the processing as always…transforming a nice scene into a wonderful one!….interesting background as always. I’m with Trotsky I don’t want to be seen wandering around in a robe, I look pretty stupid for the large part anyway

    9. Great “real life” scene and the post shot processing is superb! True definition of genuine art. I can almost smell the bread…

    10. nevr heard of jerusalem syndrom..
      anyway I appreciate a lot your photograph..;)

    11. If it is me perhaps, it is likely to become a bread syndrome.

    12. this is the best, process works just perfect for it, and i’d hate to live somewhere where street sellers didn’t exist

    13. podoba mi się ta fotografia

    14. Dziekuje bardzo, sebostek :)

    15. Can anyone tell me the name of this bread? I had it recently in Jerusalem with zatar and it was delicious. I’d like to find a recipe for it.


    16. Shalom Freyda – the bread is called Baygeleh or Beigeleh or Baigeleh (בייגלה) and they are indeed delicious :)

      Here’s a recipe in Hebrew:

      And here’s one in English:

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