Erick Stakelbeck filming at the City of David in Jerusalem (Photo/Zvi Landsman)
Evangelical Christian personality Erick Stakelbeck filming at the City of David in Jerusalem (Photo/Zvi Landsman)

So like… is Jerusalem Syndrome contagious?

This week, on the “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” podcast …

Larry Rosen: Here’s someone whose trip to Israel took a left turn.

Eric Goldbrener: Which is something that can happen.

LR: This is something I’m unfamiliar with. This guy is in trouble.

EG: What happened?

LR: This is a 29-year-old guy from England who takes a trip to Israel. A bicycle trip.

EG: (incredulous) He biked to Israel?

LR: He flew to Israel. Obtained a bicycle. I saw a picture. Kind of a hippie guy. Riding around Israel with his bike, all of a sudden he disappears.

EG: Disappears? Israel isn’t that big.

LR: Disappears into the desert. They’re saying it’s something, I’ve never heard of this, it’s something called “Jerusalem syndrome.”

EG: Oh, yeah. Jerusalem syndrome.

LR: You’re familiar with this?

EG: Sure. People get to the Holy Land and they get infected with the religious fervor and the spirit of the Holy Land.

LR: They think they’re the Messiah!

EG: Well, thinking you’re the Messiah is pretty heavy.

LR: That’s what they’re saying happened. They can’t find him.

EG: Maybe he was taken hostage by Hamas! Maybe he was pulled through one of those tunnels and they’re holding him hostage in Iran! You ever think of that?

LR: The theory is that he’s got Jerusalem syndrome. They found scattered Bible pages all over, and…

EG: That’s not unusual. It’s Israel. There’s scattered Bible pages just lying all over the place.

LR: So there’s Bible pages all over the place?

EG: Yes! Everywhere you walk, you’re stepping in religious biblical archaeology.

LR: You know, we were cleaning out our basement and I tossed a bunch of books, including a Bible. I took a Bible to the Salvation Army. Is that a bad thing?

EG: You’ve got to have a Bible in your house. But you can just use the Bible app on your phone.

LR: There’s a Bible app?

EG: I’ve got the Bible app, the Koran app, the Constitution app… you’ll never know when someone will be sounding off on something and you’ll have to call them out.

LR: Meanwhile, back in the desert, there’s this 29-year-old English guy who’s built his own private shrine. Now this is the weird thing about Jerusalem syndrome. Of course, we’re dealing with a different kind of Jerusalem syndrome politically right now, but in this case, you go there, you can be sober as a judge, completely sane, something happens, you get caught up, you have delusions. Got to be Jerusalem. The minute you leave, you’re fine!

EG: Yeah, man. That’s the thing. It’s real. Anyone who’s ever gone there understands that it’s real. And here’s the thing — if you’re there, and you’re in the city of Jerusalem, and you’re among them, you realize that the religiosity of the place and the historical antiquity of the place transcend the political situation by such great leaps and bounds that the politics become secondary to the magnitude of the religiosity of Jerusalem. That’s what people don’t understand. They expect to find Belfast, the IRA…

LR: People fighting over land.

EG: The Jerusalemites are just a unique breed. They supersede Jew, Muslim, Christian. There’s something about that place.

LR: So even you, an avowed atheist, when you go to Jerusalem you feel something, this religiosity?

EG: Oh, I feel it. I feel it. I remember when I was 16, the first time I went to the Wailing Wall, I’m 16, come on, but I touched it and was immediately reduced to tears.

LR: Really.

EG: Three years ago, I’m entering the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. They’ve got the slab where they laid Jesus after they took him off the cross. There are people kneeling, in tears. It’s so thick, there’s pilgrims, monks, people who’ve come there. People don’t understand until they get there.

LR: I’m thinking I need to go.

EG: I’d recommend it.

LR: The wife wants to go on a safari.

EG: Why would you do that? Just go to the zoo.

LR: Can’t get Jerusalem syndrome at the zoo.

EG: Also, great falafel.

Eric Goldbrener
Eric Goldbrener

Eric Goldbrener is a Libertarian, Zionist, atheist and autodidact technologist. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”

Larry Rosen
Larry Rosen

Larry Rosen is a writer, husband, father and author of “The Rabbi Has Left the Building,” a memoir about his son’s bar mitzvah. He co-hosts the podcast “(Is It) Good for the Jews?”