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what is the jerusalem syndrome



Hospitals in Jerusalem have several beds reserved for people with a mental illness called the Jerusalem Syndrome. Newcomers find themselves in a strange state: some begin to preach, others imagine themselves as the Messiah, and still, others are hit by a car.

There are many professional explanations for this phenomenon, but none of them fully discloses the essence of the mental state. Displacement of times, mixing of eras, overlapping of archaeological layers. The syndrome has been described by psychiatrists as a form of religious mania among Christian pilgrims who, in their delirium, portend a second coming. However, the strange condition affects a wide variety of people in various forms.

It is impossible to understand Jerusalem from stories. You need to go there, it's better to live. The archaeological layer of the first Temple, Roman ruins, the Second Temple, the Western Wall, centuries-old layers of Arab settlements, the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, the combination of a subtropical climate with the remnants of marshes around Tel Aviv, in the Ayalon Valley, and above all this - stone gray-fawn Jerusalem on the hills ... This is an area of ​​the so-called Mediterranean highlands. In Jerusalem, all buildings are made of the same stone: grayish-yellow, hard, not shiny, with uneven, incised surfaces. In the city, it is forbidden to build buildings from any other type of stone, so all of it is sustained in one color.

Jerusalem stands on rocky hills, rocky outcrops of this stone, and it was built of them. It is organic, or rather, a historical and geological part of the relief of the ancient desert, creeping towards the Mediterranean Sea, but stopped, thinking, and perched a bastion of layered rocks.

The concept: "strip of land" is clear only here. The whole land is stripped, striped. This is especially noticeable around Jerusalem, with its crumbling mosaic of Arab villages with rather high, 2-3-4 stories high houses with flat roofs, cattle grazing in the streets, and nearby - white new Israeli settlements with broken flower beds and electronic surveillance around the perimeter.

A person born and living in a large "imperial" country (Russia or the United States) can't understand the constant friction between civilization and civilization. The Israelis had to take the American representative for the settlement of the Middle East problem on an excursion in a military helicopter over the site of the recent military clash. He was shown a small patch of a grove that sparked an international conflict discussed at the UN. It was a strip of uninhabited land overgrown with dry trees, surrounded by a rocky hilly desert.

People quickly learned the meaning of a piece of land during the hostilities: 1948, the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War. This is the feeling that we, natives of Russia, know mainly from the stories of our parents about the battle for Berlin, Stalingrad, Warsaw during the Second World War.


I remember the faces in black and white photographs - young Ashkenazi children, young men who were recently released from displaced person camps in Europe and thrown into battle in the Ayalon Valley in 1948. They say that the vast majority of them died, they did not even understand the military commands in Hebrew ... Many people say: “Parents died in a concentration camp, there was no one to intercede, to intercede with the command, and so they disappeared. What was to be done? Do not lose the war! "


Group front-line photographs of 1948: young girls from privileged families of British Jews who dropped out of universities and came to fight in 1948 - as nurses, and some inactive military units. Most died in the surrender of Jerusalem to the Arab Legion. The same faces that can be seen in photographs of pre-war times in Parisian cafes on the boulevards: narrowed eyes, a smile, the obligatory cigarette in the mouth, the overhead shoulders of an elegant dress.
How to live with such a patchwork?

I have an Arab friend named Abdullah, a friend of my Jerusalem friend, a Muscovite. By education - a lawyer graduated from the Patrice Lumumba Institute, lived in Moscow for several years, speaks fluent Russian. In the early seventies, as it turned out, he and I sat in the same cafes in Moscow - on Gorky and Kropotkinskaya: "Lyra", "Adriatica" ... A pleasant, courteous and friendly person of the Middle Eastern, not sharply expressed, outward appearance. He serves as a caretaker and, if necessary, a tour guide in a famous Lutheran church in the Old Town.

There is a tall narrow bell tower, from which a view of all sides opens up: both the Mount of Olives and Kidron Valley, the site of the future Last Judgment, where the dead will rise and stand in line for the throne of the Lord, and the Palestinian settlements already in the autonomous zone. It is said that in former times the sacred horror of Valley of Dead was intensified by the fact that there was a city dump, and smoke and flames fluttered from there for centuries.


Abdullah lives with his family (three children) in Bethlehem, which was transferred to the Palestinian Authority and commutes to work every day on two buses. There are few jobs in Arab towns. Transfer at the checkpoint in Gilo (outskirts of Jerusalem), where you need to walk a section of the road on foot along the path between the barriers and the Israeli patrol. I don’t know where he is now.

Sharp shadows run along dry slopes, the sun is falling, but the sun is still beating down, near a two-thousand-year-old Bedouin camp, 3 kilometers from Jerusalem, on the way to the modern Israeli cream suburb of Maale Adumim, sheep graze, there is a brazier, pyramids of stones, but people from the highway are not visible ...


In the Old City, you finish your coffee or Coca-Cola, move away from the cafe table, step into the aisle, under the stone low vault - and it smells of millennial dampness, unimaginable, compacted. With a perceptible flavor of deep antiquity. A clay ravine or an abandoned pit does not smell like that. The dampness there is no archaeological, it is - from plants, foliage, recently died, but still living by their posthumous fermentation. In Jerusalem, you can absentmindedly throw a clay shard with the toe of your boot - and it turns out to be from Babylonian times. Three civilizations crunch underfoot. Everything is compressed, but not mixed. Emulsion of eternity.

The "Russians" are also pressed, pressed against each other. New "Olim" is visible, and most importantly audible, everywhere. The great exodus of the nineties, hundreds of thousands of people who flew away on the “flying carpet”.


"Russians" in Israel all know about each other - both what is in the kitchen and what is in bed. Novels and connections in the Russian image and likeness continue to bloom on a narrow patch of land. Not like in America. In the New World, work has twisted relentless lovers. Whoever wants betrayal, sin or love will not get anywhere for this. Space expands, rolls forward, and patrol cars with loose tentacles of radars doze ominously in the ditches under the rumbling bridges of intersecting highways.

We come to visit a familiar Russian writer. Her eyes are sharp, brown, fast, but deep, drinking the interlocutor to the bottom, and then pouring new stories into the vessels. He says that his son comes from the army on a visit to Shabbat, lies down in the living room, where his TV and bed are, but which is at the same time the writer's office, and sleepily watches an erotic film. Behind the writer's back, on the TV, there are moans on duty, wheezing and drawn-out screams. She says to him: “You understand, I'm writing Russian prose, but behind my back - this! How can you keep the style ?! " And he: “What can I do? I need a cultural break from the army. "


A horizontal moon hangs in the window, snakes rustle in the bushes on the slope outside the window, a loaded army truck roars dully on the rise in the distance. The writer with irony without bitterness (they say, this is Israeli life!) Says: “Here we have some famous writers in the evening sit on important committees, whom to give what prize, and during the day they clean the houses of wealthy Israelis. The money is good, so it is a shame when Israeli women, having accidentally learned that the floors are being washed by the beacon of Diaspora literature, refuse to work out of shame and embarrassment. It's a pity, - he says. "We had good earnings."

Native Israelis waited for new Olim naively and honestly. Elderly old-timers reproachfully recalled the post-war times: German professors came, swept the streets, wiped the sweat from their foreheads under the unfamiliar ruthless sun, smiled politely, and said to each other: "Good afternoon, Herr Professor!"


I spent Independence Day in the Psagot settlement, which is home to mainly religious Jews from outsiders. From several hundred families - many Russian Jews, university professors, artists, teachers. This is the most frontier Jewish settlement, built against the orders of the Israeli government, jutting into Palestinian territory. There are wealthy families in the area who could buy a house in the incredibly expensive Jerusalem but prefer to live here in small apartments and reclaim biblical land. Some of them live for 3-4 years in the so-called "caravans", that is, in trailer houses.

The settlement is surrounded by barbed wire, a submachine gunner stands at the entrance, all the settlers have weapons at home, mainly Uzi submachine guns, which they must carry with them on the territory of the settlement and during exits by car. The entire area around the settlement is electronically monitored. It feels like children are growing up in an armed fortified camp.


Across a small rocky valley from Psagot is the large Palestinian city of Ramallah, the richest in the autonomous region. The side windows of all cars are made of impenetrable translucent yellowish scratched plastic. Like the entire area of ​​Jerusalem, these places give a mystical impression. Above the neighboring valley, away from Ramallah, the solemn biblical smoke constantly stands. This is a landfill where garbage from several Arab settlements is dumped and burns slowly day and night.

In the dark, electrified, clear nights, which are only in these places, Amman is visible in the distance as a flock of shimmering fireflies, slowly floating along the edge of the rocky desert. In fact, Amman is quite far - 60-70 kilometers, however, due to the valleys and folds of the terrain, the real distance is much less, so the Jordanian capital is visible quite clearly. The Allenby border post on the Jordan River, which became famous during the British Mandate and the battles for Israeli independence, is relatively close.

My friend, artist Misha Morgenstern, painted in color almost all public buildings in Psagot: school, synagogue, meeting house. The striking wall paintings, which stand out against the grayish-yellow backdrop of the desert town, are an astonishing blend of vibrant Mediterranean colors, local mysticism, and respect for the modern design of public buildings. Misha, like other settlers, carries an Uzi machine gun with a loaded magazine around the village. It looks especially dangerous when they are in a pleasantly drunk state, in which many Russian Jews are traditionally found on holidays and Saturdays. They say that dropping the Uzi on the floor is dangerous. There were times when the machine gun itself began to fire, fanning out over the surface.

A khamsin found me in Psagot. Khamsin is wind, or rather a stream of air mixed with sand or stone dust that blows from the Arabian Desert. This word comes from the Arabic "fifty". The fact is that the khamsin blows about fifty times (days) a year. During this period, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases, and a kind of strange pressure of a stony-dusty stream arises. Many people feel unusual or sick, weak. Some, on the other hand, become strangely agitated. It is known that in several Middle Eastern countries there were laws mitigating punishment for crimes committed during the khamsin.

The road from Psagot to the center of Jerusalem takes about 20-30 minutes along the highway, winding among the rocky deposits. The hills are silent, these places elude the understanding of the aliens who came here as tourists. Here you have to be born, live, in extreme cases, come for a long time, at least for a while, go crazy, in which, as I said, the pressure of the khamsin helps.

In a sense, people here continue to live the same way as they did millennia ago: family closeness, tribal wars, bazaars, only vehicles, and weapons are changing. From time to time, strange events unknown to the world took place on the Israeli-Lebanese border, in a rocky valley. A small group of trained armed men emerged from the Palestinian refugee camp and silently made their way along the valley. Israeli anti-terrorist groups, either through informers or electronic surveillance, knew about this, and an interception team came out to meet them. After a while there was a skirmish or a desperate fight on the silent and red-hot biblical stones, leaving the wounded and killed.

As a rule, the world is unaware of these private incidents. These are limited, local operations that only local lizards and the special department of the Israeli Ministry of Defense are aware of.

The maintenance of order among the Israelis is happening strangely. There is practically no mafia that controls small businesses, restaurants, shops, and firms. The population, at all levels, has quite a few weapons. Young people (boys and girls) all serve or have recently served in the army.

We were sitting in a popular local Georgian restaurant in the Tahana Merkazit area (central bus station). I asked the owner, a handsome Georgian, a long-bearded prophet in a wide khaki jacket, who sat down next to us and with a regal gesture indicated to the waiter - two bottles of vodka from their bounty to our table - how do they treat the racketeers?


The owner, without a word, reached into the left pocket of his canvas jacket, pulled out a neat shiny pistol and held it to my chin. With a pleasant but strong Georgian accent, he said, “This is my answer to racketeering. This is when they first come. If they come a second time, I will have a submachine gunner in every window. - Then he nodded his head at the common friends sitting at the table, mainly representatives of the intelligentsia, living in the settlements around Jerusalem (everyone, of course, has weapons). “I can turn this restaurant into an armed camp in an hour. Let's see who wants to come up. And if there are still problems, we will inform our sons who are in the army, then, in general, the army jeeps will come with our young generation. This is not the wild West of the 19th century, but Jerusalem of the 21st. "

Jerusalem is filled with an incredible mixture of people with strange long-range fates intertwining, converging, scattering.

There are many Russian-language newspapers and magazines in Jerusalem, on the pages of which warring factions are fighting. A well-known broadcast on the Russian radio of Jerusalem is hosted by Igor Guberman. The popular newspaper "Vesti" was published by Yuri Kuznetsov, the hero of the "aircraft business" in Leningrad. There Sharansky, several first-class Russian-speaking poets.

In the Old City, groups of American Christian pilgrims roam with name plaques on their shirts. On the maps and guidebooks that are issued in the Dominican and Franciscan monasteries for visitors, Israel is not designated as a state, is not recognized.

In Israel, everyone lives closely, in every layer and circle - writers and artists, doctors and people from Romania, people from Chernivtsi, and physicists. They say one wrong step - and you are left alone in the rocky desert, alone with your grievances, and water your ego from an old watering can.

In America, everyone is scattered. There are many non-overlapping circles in New York City alone. It is still easier to calm down and resurrect again. But making friends in Israel is easier. You can live in two “distant” cities, Jerusalem and Haifa, and see each other regularly. Everyone knows everything about everyone. Southern life, mountainous, Levant. It smells of heated stone, the sea is felt in the air. It's not scary to grow old there. Elderly Mediterranean men hold dry, scorched masculinity for a long time.

This has the virtue of being part of the ancient history of the Mediterranean and the proud rocky soil. There is no edematous, drunken, chipped old age of northerners or a wiry-flabby, energetically tanned Florida deserved old age of overseas investors, tinted with a synthetic hormonal blush.
Despite the habitability of America for us, aliens, it still breathes with something remotely alien. Despite the acquired comfortable homeliness of the places where our children grew up. A somewhat unusual north-south landscape (pines, spruces, and lianas along the Indian hunting rivers), the southern forests and hills are covered with a thin three-hundred-year-old crust of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic Puritan cultures, and on both coasts shimmering colored fragments and fragments of other civilizations: the Mediterranean, Latin American. But in New York there is a feeling that you are in place - at home, everything is open - and access to the Atlantic, and then to the Mediterranean. New York is a city of displaced persons, a port city, a transfer, a large train station, from which for some reason we did not go further, but stayed, got fried chicken, lined up for boiling water and a buffet, and this became home.


In Israel, there is a sense of the reality of life and reality, the relevance, the immediacy of ancient history. The spiritual history of our civilization is not only associated with the landscape, it is also the landscape of this land. Recognizable faces around Eastern Europe, Russia, Americans. In Safed (an ancient religious kabbalistic center), during a night walk, I saw my young father reading a book in the illuminated window of the yeshiva, and during the day on a Jerusalem street in a corner cafe my grandmother, from Lodz, was sitting with her friends. New York and Israel - A universe of displaced persons, where miracles happen and a familiar face sometimes flickers in the crowd.

A year or two have passed since I started writing these notes. Sleepy Jerusalem morning exploded in furious midday, glass flashed with unearthly fire and scattered hundreds of shrapnel fragments and buttons torn from the meat. These are the moments when the earth stops burning metaphorically underfoot and melts into the physical decay of loved ones. There is nowhere to hide from this. That is, you can somewhere (for life, or even two or three), but not in yourself.

Summit meetings carry newspaper fumes blown down, lying on the corners of foreign cities until the next morning, or a century, depending on the degree of the incompetence of the city government, which, in any case, is inundated with more important and urgent petitions and petitions: about sewers, sales tax pork sausages in corner stores, etc.





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