A British tourist who disappeared in the Israeli desert may be suffering from a psychiatric condition called Jerusalem syndrome which causes people to have religious delusions, authorities have said.

, 29, vanished in November while cycling through the Negev desert in and has not been heard from or seen since.

Hikers found the devout Christian’s wallet, keys and computer tablet earlier this month.

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Police also discovered pages ripped out of the Bible weighed down with rocks, the reported.

Handwritten notes containing quotes from the text referencing the story of Jesus going into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights were also found.

Although it was initially believed Mr McAfee, a gardener originally from Northern Ireland, may have got lost along a cycle path, the findings suggest he may have chosen to vanish into the desert.

He had planned to return to the UK on 1 December.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Moshe Kalian, the former district psychiatrist for Jerusalem, suggested: “From the reports that he was involved in some kind of religious experience in the desert, it certainly sounds like it could be a case of Jerusalem syndrome.”

“Jerusalem syndrome is not a mental disease by itself but is usually superimposed on top of a background of mental distress or disease that a patient has,” Dr Kalian said.

In a paper published in 2000 in the , Israeli psychiatrist Yair Bar-El describes Jerusalem syndrome.

“Jerusalem, a city that conjures up a sense of the holy, the historical and the heavenly, it holds a unique attraction for people of several of the world’s faiths and religions,” he wrote.

“When people dream of Jerusalem, they do not see the modern, politically controversial , but rather the holy biblical and religious city.”

Dr Bar-El added Jerusalem’s psychiatrists had encountered an “ever-increasing number of tourists who, upon arriving in Jerusalem, suffer psychotic decompensation.”

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“In view of the consistently high incidence of this phenomenon, it was decided to channel all such cases to one central facility — the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre — for psychological counselling, psychiatric intervention and, if deemed necessary, admission to hospital,” he wrote.

“Over the course of 13 years (1980-1993), 1,200 tourists with severe, Jerusalem-generated mental problems have been referred to this facility. Of these, 470 were admitted to hospital. On average, 100 such tourists are seen annually, 40 of them requiring admission to hospital.”


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