Jerusalem Syndrome 2012

There is a Mosque, Church and Synagogue all under the same roof. It sounds like the opening line of a politically incorrect joke. In fact, it is a description of the building, where the tomb of the biblical prophet, Samuel, is located.

The site, known locally as Nebi Samuel, can be found just outside north Jerusalem. Nearby are a few homes belonging to people of the three faiths. The tourist kiosk is run by a moslem under supervised by a well-known rabbi from Bnei Barak. The Israeli army used to have a small base on the premises – the highest point in the Jerusalem area – but it was removed some time back.

Down the road in Givon, so to speak, archeologists believe that the “Ark” was rested by the Children of Israel, as they approached from Jericho. More recently, the building of the tomb,  has witnessed battles in 1948 and 1967. When I visted there last month, a large busload of pilgrims pulled up.

Welcome to Jerusalem 2012.

For thousands of years, Jerusalem has attracted them all. It was the crusaders who first made Nebi Samuel a holy place. Simon Sebag’s Montefiore, a biography of Jerusalem, eloquently describes how Roman princesses, wandering Jews, and more recently refugees from Sudan, all have seen Jerusalem as a haven, a place they must be.

Look up the Jerusalem Syndrome on the internet, and there are those who try to explain it as a medical phenomenon. Something mystical seems to enter the soul and draws people forth. There are even a few rabbis, who insist that their followers must ask for permission before leaving the holy city.

As for me, Jerusalem Syndrome is also the name of a cultural festival taking place this week in the heart of the city. Music, raconteurs, farmers’ fair, arts and crafts – it was a great atmosphere wandering around the back streets late last night. Carefree and open to all.

This coming Sunday, Israel officially commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem during the 1967 war. Be it in Nebi Samuel or in the heart of the city centre, the city will be packed with all-comers. That is a something to be proud of and to celebrate. This is a syndrome that can be a role model for others to copy around the world.

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