IJS: Israel-Jerusalem Syndrome

June 25, 2007

“There’s something in Jerusalem that makes some 150 tourists a year lose their minds. Some think they’re Messiah or the devil--or Samson trying to knock down walls near the Western Wall. [Some believe] they must destroy a mosque or church. Others know where the Ark of the Covenant is hiding.”


Broaden this phenomena and call it
IJS: Israel-Jerusalem Syndrome.


Three days ago Michael, an Israeli, said to me, “Whatever baggage people have, they bring it with them when they come here. Once in Israel all their quirks and problems are magnified 10 times. And when they arrive in Jerusalem it’s multiplied by another factor of 10. For many the breaking point is about a month when they simply have to leave.”

I am half-way through a month-long visit to Jerusalem; it is my second one this year. I know what Michael’s talking about. I see it in people I meet, especially non-Jewish tourists. And I feel its malice hunting me: confusion, distorted thoughts, and an extra-forceful pull from black-holes in my soul.

At the same time I have discovered Positive IJS: a passion to know and please the heart of G-d no matter what the cost. And mostly I have found it in the faces, words and conduct of Jewish people in their Promised Land: in citizens and visitors alike.


My first encounter with Positive IJS happens within 48 hours of arrival. While walking through the Old City I ask directions from two teenage girls. Turns out they are students at a Yeshiva for women near the Western Wall. And whoa, are they excited. Not about boys or parties or Paris Hilton. They’re bubbling with enthusiasm about Torah.

“We just graduated from high school,” they announce with Aussie accents. “We hated homework. Now here we are, studying for a year where we never have to take a test. But every day we can hardly wait to study Torah and how to live it!”

Two days later a friend and I are in the West Bank at a city called Bethel. Ramallah, capital city of the PLO and Yasser Arafat's metropolitan tomb, stands on a neighboring hill. In Bethel executives of an Israeli news organization warmly welcome us to the production heart of their English-division studios. “Everything we do,” they say, “is to please the heart of Hashem. And you are welcome to use anything we produce on your radio program.”


The director, Baruch, asks me to make a sample recording. Handing me a script, he turns on a mic. I read the copy cold. Later in the week it will be used on an Internet TV report: my voice interpreting a man speaking Hebrew. What fun, and what a hoot--because I don’t speak Hebrew. (Pictured here with Yishai Fleisher, Program Director of IsraelNationalRadio.com)

Another example of Positive IJS. It also happens in West Bank territory; this time in Hebron. For religiously observant Jews Hebron is the second-holiest city in the world. Because Hebron’s where Abraham paid cold cash for title to a plot of land where he buried his wife, Sarah. Later Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rebecca, and Leah were also laid to rest in The Cave of the Patriarchs.


80% of Hebron is “governed” by the PLO. Recently, like Gaza, it has become a killing zone for competing factions: Hamas versus Fatah, with countless innocents trapped in murderous crossfire. Call it Negative IJS with Extreme Prejudice.

Meanwhile in the 20% of Hebron governed by Israel there is a tiny minority of Jewish settlers raising their children under the din of gunfire and Islamic calls to worship 5 times every day. Their determination and success in making this place home is breathtaking. Call it Positive IJS with Extreme Chutzpah.

Where in the West are we hearing positive reports like these about Israel? Aren’t almost all mainstream voices condemning the entire nation? Repeatedly portraying her as an oppressive, genocidal, land-grabbing State? Even accusing her of committing a “holocaust” against duly elected terrorists who have publicly sworn to “wipe Israel off the map.”


But the nauseating lie that Israeli’s are today’s Nazis is winning the PR propaganda war. 21st century Thought Police have been so successful in their portrayal of Israel-The-Bully it has become an Orwellian thoughtcrime to say it isn't so. Call it Globally Negative IJS.


Western entities are declaring boycotts. The latest is a British academic lecturer's union that voted to boycott all Israeli universities and faculty members. Days later Britain's largest labor union voted to sanction all business dealings with Israeli companies. And so the novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, shakes hands with reality in 2007. Wherever his departed spirit lives George Orwell must be proud.


In a world where day is called night and dark is called light, will no one stand up in our public squares and tell the truth?


Greg and I would like to try with This Week In Jerusalem. We have the content and the skills. But we don’t yet have the structure or the means. Should we set up our own entity or work beneath an existing one? Is it best to be a non-profit or for-profit corporation?


These are huge issues; every path is peppered with land mines. Sitting in Jerusalem today there isn’t any visible way to get from here to there; the obstacles are simply insurmountable. IJS taunts me with despair.


But G-d is greater than every human insurmountable. And though it's worldwide, he also taunts every evil strain of deadly IJS. So be it.

10 comments:

Massey said...

it saddens me that Palestinians arent heard as much as Israelis are.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian:

Good to read your blog. I've been wondering how things are coming together. I don't have near the understanding of Israel that you do. However, you are helping to educate me.

I've been reading Phillip Yancey's new book Prayer Does It Make a Difference? It's a great read. In typical Yancey style, he does not have or pretend to have the answers. He walks the reader through many thought-provoking questions. Maybe you can pick it up if you get a chance.

May God have His hand firmly on your trip, and may He allow it to be safe and fruitful.

Lynne Piper

Plain Chap said...

Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help you G-d? Oft sited in USA court rooms it is not the intent of many (dare I say any) media outlets. Agenda nurturing is the intent of media formats. The best we can hope for among the world's citizenry is a balance of telling both sides of the story. Please continue to tell your stories.

Anonymous said...

Uncle Brian,
I enjoyed reading this a lot! I feel like I learned so much! I hope you continue to discover new things in Jerusalem and learn more and more. The passion those teenage girls regarding the Torah really inspired me. I want to be more that way about the Bible, I've gone through seasons like that, but unfortunately I'm not right now...but I'd like to put more effort in being that way! Well enjoy the rest of your trip, how long are you going to be there?

Love you!
Carly

michaelfrancohen said...

First a quick comment to Massey and quoting John Mcenroe "You CANNOT be serious!" Second a note to Brian - "Good blog!". Flattering to be quoted, and excited about the possibilities of the radio programme - I had a thought about it - Maybe the content could include some systematic teaching on the truthful history of the region - Massey,THAT is what's missing!

Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful to learn from you Brian. Thank you for posting this, I look forward to all that you have to tell us.

carol thomas said...

Great insights! The enemy will show his face in many forms, of curse he will try to build a wall of hate around or against G-d's heart! But G-d is bigger and sees ALL! Israel is still His child, Hosiah 11 "How can I give you up...". you will face walls but the Lord can remove them...stand back and see how the Lord will direct your steps!
Carol Thomas

plain chap said...

Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help you G-d? Oft sited in USA court rooms it is not the intent of many (dare I say any) media outlets. Agenda nurturing is the intent of media formats. The best we can hope for among the world's citizenry is a balance of telling both sides of the story. Please continue to tell your stories.

Massey said...

It saddens me that Palestinians arent heard as much as Israelis are.

Massey said...

It saddens me that Palestinians arent heard as much as Israelis are.