Oliver McAfee, a devout Christian from Dromore, Northern Ireland, was reported missing in November of last year. It was said that the 29-year-old was last seen by a fellow tourist on November 21, 2017, in Israel.
On the Facebook page created by friends, they shared that in October, Oliver decided to go on a cycling trip to Israel so he can explore the Holy Land. People close to him added that the trip was also to help him deal with depression.
Oliver McAfee planned to stay in Israel for just five weeks and return home by the first week of December, however, he missed his return date. As days went by, without anyone being able to contact him, friends and relatives became extremely worried.
Since they did not hear from Oliver for a long time, his family started to reach out to people he had stayed with so they could get some information on his whereabouts. They also contacted his friends in Israel, but it was a fruitless effort, as they still failed to locate Oliver.
In December, together with a friend, Oliver’s brother reported the incident to the U.K. foreign office. They also went to the police, and Oliver was officially listed as a missing person.
Now, as the search for Oliver McAfee begins, many believe that he might have lost his way while cycling in the Negev desert. However, recent discoveries suggest that the 29-year-old may have intentionally retreated into the wilderness. The police also fear that he may be suffering from a mental disorder called “Jerusalem Syndrome.”
The Jerusalem Syndrome is a unique mental disorder that is mainly triggered by a trip to the Holy Land. When hit with the condition, visitors experience psychotic delusions and may believe that they are people from the Bible. Likewise, it is a name given to religious insanity that is activated after visiting Jerusalem.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, the condition affects tourists or visitors who have no mental illness prior to the trip. Typically, the disorder is solved once the affected person leaves Israel.
What led to the assumption that Oliver McAfee may be suffering from Jerusalem Syndrome was the trail that he had left behind. Along the path where he vanished, hikers found his wallet, laptop, and keys.
Searchers also found torn bible pages, handwritten scriptures, and references to anecdotes like Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights fasting in the desert. Additionally, the police also discovered an altar that seems to be a makeshift “chapel.”
Raz Arbel, one of the search volunteers who personally knows Oliver, was also quoted by the Telegraph as saying, “He seems to have been doing all kinds of ceremonies that we don’t really understand.”
Finally, an expert on Jerusalem Syndrome and a former Jerusalem district psychiatrist, Dr. Moshe Kalian, said that even if he had never met Oliver, the findings and his behavior strongly indicate that he might be suffering from the disorder.
Oliver McAfee is not alone. Every year, about 50 tourists experience this Jerusalem-themed mental health ailment.