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Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 17:03:02 EST
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Subject: [Atheist] re: AANEWS for November 26, 1998
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subject: AANEWS for November 26, 1998

~~ A A N E W S ~~

Isrealis Tighten Security in Anticipation of Millennial Cult Madness, "Jerusalem Syndrom"

From American Athesists News,
26 November 1998

Authorities in Israel are beefing up security throughout the country and especially in Jerusalem in response to possible attacks by religious zealots, and the prospect of "Jerusalem Syndrome" and apocalyptic cult activity with the onset of the year 2000. British news sources including the London Times and Daily Telegraph report that nearly $12 million is being spent on security around the Temple Mount, a religious flash point for Jews, Muslims, Christians and various apocalyptics. With an influx of fervent religious pilgrims expected in celebration of the arrival of the new millennium, the government is deploying closed-circuit cameras, electronic sensors and a squad of over 450 police to control the area.

The Mount marks the site where King David established the first Temple of Israel in about 1000 b.c.e. The western wall of the structure, also known as the Wailing Wall, was constructed later by Herod the Great and is considered the holiest site of Judaism. Jews visiting the site offer prayers and messages written on pieces of paper which are inserted into cracks in the wall; one religious group has established a special service so that distant petitioners may fax their petitions. Muslims also consider the site holy, and believe that Muhammad flew off to heaven from there.

Some fundamentalist believe that the Temple must be reconstructed in order to prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ. That presents a problem, however, since the site includes the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, which are Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.

Another factor Israelis are taking into account is the "Jerusalem Syndrome," a psychological disorder where Christian pilgrims suddenly come to believe that they are biblical figures or divine agents on a mission from god. Most are successfully treated at a nearby clinic and sent back home. Often, victims of the Syndrome abandon friends, families and tour groups and give away their money and other possessions in favor of a peripatetic lifestyle of poverty and street corner evangelism. The Israelis have displayed a mixture of benign tolerance and concern in the past, but the prospect of thousands of such "lost souls" creating havoc and preaching Armageddon is worrying the tourist industry, and officials who see this as a drain on the public treasury. Tuesday's Daily telegraph noted, "Israeli police and public health officials are concerned that the phenomenon will get much worse as the Millennium approaches..."

One warning of this came earlier this week when police finally located members of an American doomsday sect which had disappeared last month from Colorado, and turned up in Jerusalem. Several dozen members of "Concerned Citizens" -- which ironically originated in the anti-cult movement -- vanished after their leader, Monte Miller, predicted that Denver would be destroyed by an earthquake. A number of sect members quietly sold their homes and belongings, and some headed to Israel. Rev. Miller has told his followers that will be die in Jerusalem in December, 1999 and rise from the dead after three days as the new messiah.

Many Christians, and even some Hebrew apocalyptics, are energized by the onset of the year 2000 and the advent of a new Millennium. Governments and most of the mainstream religious groups are using the occasion to celebrate, and plan lavish tourist attractions, such as Britain's Millennium Dome. The Roman Catholic Church is proclaiming a Jubilee year, and dragging out several questionable religious relics such as the Holy Coat, in hopes of attracting new converts. Both Israeli and Arab merchants are hoping to cash in on the madness as well, and over 2,000,000 tourists are expected. **

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