Some journalists and scholars have pointed to Koresh's 1983 trip to Jerusalem and the Holy Land as the turning point in his life, the place where he began to believe he was divine. During that trip, Koresh began to suffer the delusion that he was a prophet. Surprisingly, this delusion is not uncommon among tourists, visitors, and pilgrims to the Holy Land. Each year, a number of people become convinced that they themselves are Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, King David, God, or Satan. This psychological phenomenon has been studied extensively at the Beersheva Mental Health Center where it has been dubbed the "Jerusalem Syndrome." Eliezer Witztum, professor of psychiatry, explains that the onset is sudden. According to him, it has to do with being psychologically overloaded by the historical and religious significance of the city. This usually triggers a response in people who have had a deeply religious childhood, but who may have rebelled against the faith and fallen away. According to Witztum, it is not Jerusalem's religious atmosphere alone that induces psychiatric disturbances in vulnerable individuals. The unique atmosphere couples with deeply submerged beliefs, unresolved anxieties, utopian aspirations, or inner conflicts to cause the syndrome to emerge. In some cases, these may be true mystical experiences, which result in the betterment of humankind. For the most part, they are not.
The syndrome is a false mystical experience which simply reinforces the afflicted individual's delusions and grandiosity, whereas a genuine mystical experience should deflate ego-seeking, self-centered behavior and attitudes and replace them with new humility and a desire to serve others. The true mystical experience gives the individual clarity, lucidity, and a new way of thinking. The Jerusalem Syndrome adds another layer of self-delusion and narcissism -- all of which implies that those who suffer from the Jerusalem Syndrome are ego-ridden monsters, which is not the case. They are in many cases pathetic, self-destructive and frail -- their inner conflicts have driven them to desperate psychological convolutions in order to avoid fear, pain, uncertainty, and shame.
While all of the Holy Land is conducive to the Jerusalem Syndrome, the Holy Sepulchre is the primary location where susceptible travelers' psyches react and they feel prophetic, messianic urges within themselves. The wilderness around Jerusalem is the second most frequent breakdown point. In the desert, meditation, physical discomfort, and isolation subliminally suggest Christ's 40 days in the desert and the wanderings of God's chosen people. For Koresh, who considered his wanderings in the Texas "wilderness" evidence that he was God's chosen leader, the desert near Jerusalem provided him with his own "burning bush" experience. He returned to Waco with a mission to establish his own "promised land." In the case of the Jerusalem Syndrome, the malady is usually suffered by a person who is in isolation. Hallucinations can easily accompany dehydration, fatigue, lack of sleep, and a manically elevated mood.
Is this * & ^ % similar to the Stendhal/Florence syndrome? (rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when exposed to art - usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place) Stendhal described it during his 1817 visit to Florence in his book "Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio" Although there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in Florentine art, especially at the Uffizi, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence.