The world is afflicted by Jerusalem syndrome

The world is afflicted by Jerusalem syndrome

Everyone's dreams will only be realised with a healthy dose of clarity. Israel exists. The Palestinians exist. A solution must try to meet as many of the aspirations as can be achieved, for both people.

Photo: VanderWolfImages/
Photo: VanderWolfImages/

‘JERUSALEM syndrome’ is a diagnosis commonly applied to explain the behaviour of certain unique ‘characters’ who are sometimes seen roaming the streets of the city.

Donning biblical garb, experiencing delusions or hallucinations, taking on a different name, and refusing to leave the city or Israel itself are some of the symptoms that are considered evidence of this unusual affliction.

One of the triggers of the syndrome comes from unrealistic expectations before visiting holy sites.

When people arrive in Jerusalem, specifically on religious-based tours, they have very high expectations of spiritual significance that were built up prior to the trip; and when they get to these places and their expectations are not met, they become disappointed, and this triggers the symptoms of what is known as Jerusalem syndrome.

Or the expectations are built up so much that, upon reaching such places, especially around the Old City, they become delusional and lose themselves in the moment, triggering a psychotic or schizophrenic episode.

In the case of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it can be assumed that it was the Wentworth by-election rather than any messianic vision that set him on the path of recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The ill-advised and ill-prepared strategy failed to save Dave Sharma from a historic loss in an electorate that had been blue ribbon since Federation.

Strangely, it seemed so unnecessary, as Sharma’s Israel credentials were already at the highest end of the spectrum.

Once the genie was out of the bottle, the government was forced to deal with the tricky business of withdrawing to a safer position which presented the least amount of potential damage while standing by the commitment made.

The result is the recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the location of an office to deal with defence and commercial matters, and a long-term commitment to an embassy in Jerusalem.

The interesting thing about Jerusalem syndrome, and the delusions it presents, is that it would seem that far from being limited to a few unwell pilgrims, it is a symptom that afflicts the majority of the Middle East, and indeed the world.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Full stop. This should be an unassailable fact. It is not a negotiation point.

Certainly with all of its institutions of government from the Knesset to the ministries, West Jerusalem cannot be challenged as Israel’s capital.

Whether in the future it will be divided between East and West, parts shared, or otherwise, I will leave to others to resolve. But since the creation of the state, Jerusalem has been, and will always be Israel’s capital.

Why do I think this is important? Because like those affected by Jerusalem syndrome, I believe there are too many myths, lies and ignorance on all sides of the debate.

On the one side, rejecting Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and the right of Israel to choose its capital, is quite simply another ploy in the process of delegitimising Israel. It feeds the argument that the Jewish people have no right to the land. It provides fodder for Hamas, Hezbollah and all the other rejectionists who hold onto the myth of “throwing the Jews into the sea”. A myth that has seen them exploit the suffering of Palestinians everywhere instead of seeking a solution.

On the other hand, like the constant stream of anti-Israel resolutions out of the UN, the world is an accomplice in the perpetuation of the delegitimisation of Israel.
I found it particularly grating to listen to shadow treasurer Chris Bowen be interviewed by David Speers on Sky News following the announcement on the embassy. When asked directly by Speers, “Where is the capital of Israel?”, after a hesitation he stated “Tel Aviv!” The cheek of it. To think that the likely next government of Australia would perpetuate the lie and add fuel to our fight for legitimacy.

By the same token, there are plenty in the Jewish camp who seem afflicted by Jerusalem syndrome. The reality of the Palestinians, their plight, and their urgent need for a resolution to a conflict which has cost them dearly, cannot be ignored. Building settlements deep in the West Bank; suggesting that with time the Arab population will leave; messianic claims to the land, and so on, are as delusional as the myths that the Palestinians hold.

I am not engaging in any discussion of God-given rights. That is not the issue.

The issue is that all parties to a Middle East solution can only achieve peace by dealing in the realities of the situation.

Everyone’s dreams will only be realised with a healthy dose of clarity. Israel exists. The Palestinians exist.

A solution must try to meet as many of the aspirations as can be achieved, for both people.

Only by addressing the realities rather than hallucinating over the myths and lies can all of us avoid wandering in the desert in rags seeking messianic solutions to the realities of the Middle East.

DANNY HOCHBERG is a community stalwart with involvement in a number of communal organisations.

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