British man lost in Israeli desert may suffer from 'Jerusalem Syndrome,' authorities say

A British tourist who went missing in an Israeli desert in November may be suffering from “Jerusalem Syndrome,” authorities said after discovering a makeshift “chapel” and a trail of Bible pages left behind.

Oliver McAfee, a 29-year-old pious Christian from Northern Ireland, vanished on November 21 while cycling through the Negev desert in southern Israel.

“At the end of October, Ollie went on a cycling trip to Israel to explore and visit the Holy Land,” read a Facebook page created by the man’s friends aimed at finding him. “He intended to stay for five weeks and return at the beginning of December, but missed his return date.”

The so-called “Jerusalem Syndrome” manifests in having religious delusions, including believing one is the next Messiah or a Biblical figure, or merely heading to holy places while leaving everyone behind.   

The condition is often triggered by a visit to Jerusalem and can affect anyone, including those who have not shown any signs of mental illness before, according to The Times of Israel. It normally ends once a person leaves Israel.

Oliver McAfee 1

Oliver McAfee  (Facebook)

Authorities initially presumed McAfee simply got lost on the trail as most of his items, including bike and laptop, were found near the trail by his friends.

But following the search and rescue operation that found a trail of pages taken from the Bible weighed with stones, authorities now believe the British man may be suffering from the so-called “Jerusalem Syndrome” and went into the desert intentionally, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported.

As well as pages of the Bible, handwritten scriptures and references to Biblical stories like Jesus’ fasting in the desert were found.

The search teams also discovered what they believe was as an improvised “chapel” allegedly made by McAfee, featuring a circular clearing in the sand and flattened by a bicycle tool.

One of the leaders of the volunteer search team, told the paper: “He seems to have been doing all kinds of ceremonies that we don't really understand.”

A former psychiatrist and expert on Jerusalem Syndrome, Dr. Moshe Kalian, said that according to the news, it appears that McAfee is indeed involved in “some kind of religious experience in the desert” resembling the syndrome.

Lukas Mikelionis is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @LukasMikelionis.