Jerusalem Syndrome

I love cults. There, I said it. I love to learn about lifestyles that tend to adhere to a certain kind of absolutism. Groups of people following strict rules or beliefs, living a rigid or more seemingly free flowing lifestyle, fascinate me. Not only do I want to understand what drives them. I also tend to think that life like that must bring a wonderful sense of simplicity. As long as  you live it according to a strict set of rules.

Maybe “cult” is not the correct way to describe the object of my fascination. Because I would also love to visit a country under dictatorship before it turns to democracy.

For someone who is hoping to wake up one day knowing what her calling is, this sounds like pure bliss. Inner peace and true serenity must come to those that do not have to figure out how to live life to the fullest or what direction their bliss went that “they should follow”.

Of course I realize I would find the opposite of inner peace. I would fight my way out. And that paradox might be the core of the fascination to begin with.

One of the wonderful aspects of living here. Hardly a day goes by without some kind of Religious Extremism. First of all our ultra orthodox Haredi neighbors. It took me a couple of months of learning to get to understand them . A couple of months of diving as deep as I could into their rites and traditions. Buying artifacts, reading books.

Judaism is quite an obvious part of every day life in Israel. So it was not just easy to learn more about it. It also felt as an necessity to understand more about the country I live in now. But here’s the fun part: Jerusalem tends to attract a wealth of religious fanatics.

Coming from a country where Free Will seems to be the religion, It almost feels like heavenly intervention to be here for a while.

I took my Hebrew classes in a place that is -very- closely related to Opus Dei .

During the walk over the old city walls we met “watchmen”. Dutch people who have dedicated their pro-Israel lives to reading the Bible on the old City Walls. Because they believe that that is what God calls them to do.

Or how about “God’s General” on Jaffa Street, who is saluted by several “soldiers of God”. The General knows for a fact that the war Israel is currently fighting is actually brought on by the sinful lifestyle of the Tel Avivians.

I want to believe every single one of them is right. Mostly because by nature I want to do everything as I should. I want to do everything right. But it’s hard. Having a book in my house that will protect our family from rockets sounds like superstition to me. Superstition that is forbidden by the same religion our Book Seller Aaron is faithful to.

Living life in celibacy with some other people from Opus Dei seems unnatural and unnecessary to me. Not to mention spending long and unpaid days on the City Wall to read the Bible out loud to whoever wants to hear it.

But then again, wearing a wig because you believe you should cover your hair, is that cheating or is it wise? And another favorite of mine: the mitzvah of wearing of TzitzitThe sole purpose of that Mitzvah is to not forget to fulfill all the other 612 mitzvahs.

The beauty of it all? Jerusalem Syndrome, the mental illness that hits some people visiting this city, has no preference for Jews, Christians or Muslims. Anyone can get it.

I wonder if the affected knows he is affected. Or she…


2 thoughts on “Jerusalem Syndrome

  1. Quite an interresting dilemma! Always good to reflect upon new insights. Do not get lost on the way 😉

    If I remember well you were born in a country under dictatorship.
    We did not notice though. Our parents did, at least I understood that between the lines.
    However it was not as gruesome as some of the other countries around us.

    Keep up the writing, you are picking my brain too.



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